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date: 25 February 2024

Gender and Gender Identity Development Among Young Trans People in North Americalocked

Gender and Gender Identity Development Among Young Trans People in North Americalocked

  • Julia Sinclair-PalmJulia Sinclair-PalmCarleton University

Summary

When children are born, they are typically assigned a sex, male or female, based on the appearance of external genitalia. The gender of the newborn is assumed based on the assigned sex. Researchers debate the origins of gender and whether gender is largely biologically based or socially constructed. Sociologists tend to argue that children learn about their gender from their parents and experiences at school through a process known as gender role socialization, whereas medical discourses argue that one’s gender should be aligned with one’s assigned sex. Schools are one of the first sites outside the home where researchers have studied the way gender nonconforming and trans children and youth face discrimination and harassment. Education research about trans youth documents the need for trans youth to have a voice in school policies and practices.

Trans adults offer a wide range of theories about gender and critique traditional models of gender for their failure to capture the complexity, fluidity, and diversity of gender experiences and identities. Trans youth have yet to enter these conversations and their gender, access to treatment and services, and rights are often determined by medical discourses about gender and gender identity development. In the 21st century, the parents and families of trans youth are beginning to play an important role in advocating for and supporting the needs of their trans child.

Trans identity development models are shaped by theories about gender and are often designed as a stage model. In 2004, Aaron Devor created the first trans identity development model based on the CASS model that Viviane Cass developed in 1979. Scholars have critiqued these models for their rigid conceptualization of gender, the linear structure of stages in these models, and the lack of recognition of the role race, class, disability, and sexuality have in the complexity of gender. Scholars have also remarked on the way these models were developed for trans adults and fail to conceptualize trans youth. Theories about gender and gender identity development have shaped gender models used in the treatment of gender nonconforming children. The gender affirmative model takes a progressive approach to this treatment, allowing children and youth to be experts on their gender and to be supported in socially transitioning at any age. Research about gender and gender identity development among trans youth in North America is increasingly recognizing the need to center the voices and needs of young trans people.

Subjects

  • Education, Health, and Social Services
  • Education and Society
  • Education, Gender, and Sexualities

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