As most of you know, obtaining gender affirming care is a… process. From the visit with your general practitioner to the phycological evaluations and meetings with social workers to the consultations with endocrinologists and/or surgeons, it’s an effort! SO - We asked Kristian Gambardella, MSW, Camp Indigo veteran, Caterpillar Club co-founder, and associate social worker who previously provided gender support with Kaiser’s Child and Family Psychiatry Clinic in the East Bay, to chat about what to expect as you and your child(ren) navigate this element of the healthcare system. Camp Indigo: Hi Kristian! So - let’s start easy, what do kids and families come to you for? Kristian: In my experience, I’ve seen folks for a fairly wide range of things across a wide range of ages - sometimes well before puberty. In those cases families want to establish care early because it can be a lengthy process. It’s also fairly common to get calls from parents of much younger children who are starting to send some messages around gender diversity. In these cases, I would provide support for caregivers and connect them with social supports (ie. community resources, support groups for both parent and child, etc). These meetings aren’t always about medical transition. It’s common for folks to seek support for social transition or simply to gather more information. Not all gender diverse youth are interested in medical intervention - and sometimes they know that from the start, and sometimes there’s an evolution in that decision as time goes on and their body develops. Camp Indigo: Okay, so say it feels right to bring the child into the clinic and/or to see a therapist. Do you have any recommendations on how that should go? Kristian: A healthy transition is one that is child led. Some kids are super shy and in their shell and hold big worries about what the world holds/ how it will react. That might make them hesitant… even in those cases it’s really best for the child to lead. They need to feel like they’re in charge, because it’s their body. As caretakers and adults in these kids' lives, we really have to prioritize these opportunities to truly convey that the child has that autonomy. Anxious parents who are fixers and doers - even though it comes from a well intentioned place, your kid has to be ready for it. Parents are running defense for their kids, but there will be countless times in life where the child has to advocate for themselves. We all have to remember that their gender comes from no one but them. Approaching this conversation might depend on your child’s temperament or comfort level when discussing gender. It might benefit both the caregiver and the child to determine what form of communication feels most comfortable. Should you converse via text/email? Would it feel better to talk to a mentor or a friend? I mean, what pubescent child wants to talk about their body with their parents? Either way, this isn’t a one-off conversation. Expect that this will be a marathon, not a sprint - and there is no end to one’s transition (in the same way that there is no finite end to our personal growth).
Looking for resources on puberty, sex, and medical supports?
Check out the links and book recommendations below: Getting Expert Support and Care for Transgender Children - HRC Gender Youth Providers Sex Positive Families - Geared towards adult caregivers