There is a growing awareness in our society that gender is more than the sex that is assigned at birth. In the popular media, we have been introduced to Caitlin Jenner and followed the challenges as portrayed in the Netflix TV series, Transparent. The issues of gender identity and children have been well chronicled on the Public Broadcasting NewsHour and its cousin, Frontline. Increasingly, schools are struggling in the courts to fully address the rights of transgender youth: how to address the needs to access restrooms and locker rooms that are based on gender and engage in activities in alignment with a youth’s affirmed gender.
While gender identity is complicated, leaders of youth programs are invited to better understand these issues. They are especially important to ensure that youth programs provide a safe place for all youth. We know from research that a sense of physical and emotional safety is a core component of any quality youth program. It is also the first program characteristic cited in California’s Quality Standards for Expanded Learning Programs.
Social emotional learning and other frameworks that list important skills for success cite self-awareness, social awareness, interpersonal skills, self-efficacy, and growth mindset It is important to note that many of the solutions involve efforts to reduce gender bias and stereotyping – something that is good for all youth. Below, we offer a brief overview of gender identity issues.