Episode 98: Navigating Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation With Your Kids: In Conversation with Dr. Cyndi Gilbert, ND

In this episode, Dr. Toni talks with Dr. Cyndi Gilbert about how to navigate conversations around gender identity and sexual orientation with our kids, so that we can have open conversations and support our kids in a safe and loving way. We cover the difference between sex and gender, the assumptions we often make around sexual orientation, gender and pronouns, resources available for parent and kids, and how parental support is crucial for reducing the higher rates of mental health issues in LGBTQ+ kids. 

“No matter what our hopes and fears are for our children, our biggest job is to support them to become the wonderful human they are going to be” 

Dr. Cyndi joined Dr. Toni for a previous episode discussing the benefits of Forest Bathing and getting outside – for more info, see Episode 30

Dr. Cyndi Gilbert is a licensed and registered naturopathic doctor with prescribing rights in Ontario, as well as a teacher and author. She has a clinical focus in mental health, trauma, substance use, sexual and reproductive health and LBGTQ2SIA+ health. She has always been an activist in some way or another and is committed to a harm reduction and anti-oppression model of care. She has previously taught at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in botanical medicine and naturopathic philosophy and now most of her teaching is focused on cultural safety and competency, anti-oppression, and trauma-informed care. 

In today’s episode, we cover:

  • The assumption you make by seeing external genitalia at birth or by ultrasound before your kids are born
  • The difference between biological sex and gender 
    • Biological sex includes:
      • External genitalia
      • Internal reproductive organs
      • X and Y chromosomes eg. XX, XY, XXY
      • Primary and secondary sexual characteristics eg. hair growth patterns, bone structure changes around puberty
    • Gender is a social category including:
      • Identity – how you see yourself as feminine, masculine, androgenous, non-binary, queer, etc.
      • Expression – how you relate to societal and cultural norms and expectations eg. clothing, toys
  • How societal norms can change, eg. in the Victorian era girls were dressed in blue and boys were dressed in pink!
  • How gender has not always been binary in many cultures, eg. Two Spirit in American Indigenous culture
  • The often mind-blowing concept of gender as a galaxy instead of a linear spectrum
  • The importance of normalizing conversations around gender and sexual orientation to support your kids health
    • Kids who are more gender diverse and/or identify as LGBTQ+ are more likely to use substances, to suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, and to think about suicide and/or act on suicidal thoughts
    • Research shows that parental support drastically reduces all of the above risks
    • LGBTQ+ kids have high self esteem, excellent mental and physical health and are satisfied with life when they have very supportive parents compared to those kids who lack parental support
    • Depression and suicide risk in trans youth decreases from 60-70% to 4% with parental support
  • What you can do to normalize and model gender and sexual orientation diversity if you’re cis gender and in a heterosexual relationship 
  • How neutral words and pronouns can be used to prevent making assumptions around gender identity
  • Like sexual orientation, gender identity in your kids is not impacted by your parenting style and will develop in your kids no matter what you do or say
  • The importance of finding resources for yourself so you’re not imposing your fears and concerns on your kids
  • Examples of questions and ways to respond to your kids when they express different gender identities and sexual orientations
    • Thanks for sharing with me
    • Tell me more about that
    • What does that mean to you
    • What else should I know about that
  • The importance of not attaching labels or jumping to conclusions in general and with your kids

Dr. Cyndi’s Favourite Resources:

https://www.corysilverberg.com/ – age appropriate books like What Makes A Baby, Sex is a Funny Word

https://www.nadinethornhill.com/ – age appropriate sexual education videos for kids and parents

https://www.flamingorampant.com/ – diverse books for young kids

https://arsenalpulp.com/Books/F/From-the-Stars-in-the-Sky-to-the-Fish-in-the-Sea – book on gender diversity for young kids

https://www.scarleteen.com/ – sex positive, evidence informed website for teens

Connect with Dr. Cyndi at https://cyndigilbert.ca and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter @drcyndind

Today’s Mama Must Have:

Dr. Toni is a big fan of using herbs like astragalus (like in the herbal combination Deep Immune by St. Francis Herbs) for immune support and modulation in the fall and winter. 

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Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this presentation is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed health care practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed health care professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.