The Importance of Gender Affirmation

The Importance of Gender Affirmation

5 February 2024

When the world’s first openly trans cover girl Laverne Cox appeared on the cover of Time Magazine, Time called it the “transgender tipping point.” Being represented on a huge stage – not as a freak or a victim – but as an icon, was groundbreaking.

Laverne is the world’s most vocal trans poster girl and an activist for gender affirmation and the humanity of trans and nonbinary people.

Gender affirmation is an umbrella term for the range of actions and possibilities involved in living, surviving, and thriving as our authentic selves. Gender affirmation is unique to each person and is based on what is personally affirming, what feels safe to do, and what is accessible.

Gender affirmation greatly improves the mental health and overall wellbeing of gender diverse, transgender, and nonbinary individuals. Social affirmation includes starting to use a chosen name and pronouns, wearing new clothing, modifying the shape of your body, cutting or shaving your hair, or playing around with how you use your voice.

Medical affirmation includes the help of doctors or health professionals with the taking of certain hormones or puberty blockers, or having affirmative surgeries such as chest surgery, genital surgery, or facial surgery. Legal affirmation on the other hand describes your gender when working with legal and legislative systems including updating your name or gender marker at work, school, or on forms of ID, and being affirmed while working with systems like the police or immigration.

Coming out as transgender or any variation thereof is terrifying, and it’s often met with criticism, resistance and invalidation. So, when someone takes the brave step to come out, it’s essential to respect their journey. Trust their experience, listen intently, and celebrate their identity.

The simplest and most important way to show respect for someone’s identity is by using the correct pronoun. Common pronouns include she/her/hers, he/him/his, and they/them/theirs. There are of course other nonbinary pronouns.

However, never assume someone’s pronouns. ASK! It’s perfectly acceptable to ask someone what pronouns they use, or use their name until you learn their pronouns. Gender neutral pronouns can be useful when someone’s identity is unknown (“The pizza delivery person is at the door, give them a good tip!”)

To live in a world of equality and dignity for all, we’ll have to change hearts and minds. So mom and dad, have the conversation. Let’s teach our kids to be gender respectful. Make sure that your child knows that gender norms are optional, and that transgender and nonbinary people exist and are valid and valuable in the world.

Children should know from the start that everyone is deserving of love and respect, regardless of how they identify. Ultimately, it’s not our differences that divide us. It’s our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.

So, be an ally and an advocate. Whether you’re a family member, friend, or coworker; you can improve the life of a transgender or gender nonconforming individual by being open about your support of gender diversity. Speak up when you hear someone saying something offensive.

“We all deserve to experience love fully, without shame and without compromise” – Elliot Page.


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

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