The Gender Creative Child:
Pathways for Nurturing and Supporting Children Who Live Outside Gender Boxes
Diane Ehrensaft, PhD
The Experiment, NYC © copyright 2016
When the obituary for the gender binary is written (being perhaps more optimistic than realistic) this book will surely be listed as a major contribution to its passing. Not just because of the scientific/medical information that it contains. Dr. Ehrensaft’s writing style makes the information easily available to pretty much any reader. That is, this book provides other professional or volunteer service providers a solid approach to working with gender creative clients and gives parents of gender creative children (and those children) information and support.
Her work with younger clients has honed her ability to clearly explain complex, or at least untraditional, concepts. From the term “gender creative” (coined in her previous book Gender Born, Gender Made) to “gender effervescence versus gender despair“(page 53) to “gender is the cure, not the disease“(page 249) this book is about affirming our reality, not enforcing modern society’s fundamentalist gender binary.
There is a great deal of material crammed into 250 pages; stories from her practice illustrate the incredible creativity that can be unleashed (or perhaps ‘never leashed in the first place’) if we can let people be their best selves. Recognizing the potential danger of ‘more labels’ being just more ways to restrict/constrict expression, but appreciating that self-identification is part of how we find our place in society, the book lists some 15 terms on which gender creative folks can start building their unique identity; Gender Minotaur or perhaps a Gender Tootsie Pop Roll? Much easier to say “Male, Female- Pick One” – and hope we repress whatever parts of ourselves don’t match that paradigm. We are starting to appreciate how limiting that is for the individual, and the greater long-term damage inflicted on people and society.
Science is discovering that “gender lies in our brains and minds rather than in the formation of our genitalia“(page 248) and that statement can be exciting or terrifying; it certainly challenges old concepts. Clearly Dr. Ehrensaft is excited by the possibilities- and so ends the book by asking “where are our gender creative children taking us?“(page 257) and answering with “to infinity and beyond.”
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