Kids whose gender identity is different from the norm are far more likely to suffer depression, anxiety and bullying if they don’t have a supportive family and a safe school setting. Expat families are uniquely positioned to make a positive difference in these children’s lives.
Aligned with your identity
Child psychologist Laura S. Anderson argues that in an ideal world kids should be allowed to live aligned with their gender identity. “The truth is that rigid gender expectations impact us all,” she says. As a group, lesbian, gay, bisexual, gender-expansive, non-binary and transgender kids are more likely to struggle with mental health and low self-esteem than cisgender kids (kids whose gender identity matches the sex on their birth certificates) and heterosexual kids. “When the teasing is because of a core part of who you are, it’s a different kind of painful,” Anderson emphasises. With parent and community support, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender kids can absolutely lead healthy, happy lives.
The expat community has some specific challenges when it comes to supporting these kids. Frequent moving implies that one’s support system changes often, and the child and family have to deal with new peers and communities discovering their gender expansive behaviours. Furthermore, some countries have cultural norms and laws that make it difficult to be yourself openly. There is also a ‘fishbowl’ effect in some expat locations that may be uncomfortable at first. But Anderson also thinks the globally mobile have many strengths to draw on when it comes to acceptance of gender-expansive gay and transgender kids.
We can get this right!
Expats are well positioned to pinpoint what we have in common and create tight-knit groups. They know from experience how hard it can be to feel out of place, with no sense of belonging. Usually, expats are also committed to learning and very aware of social justice issues. For these reasons, Anderson feels “the expat community is a special group of people who can get this right,” accepting these kids as they are, including them in activities and making specialised support readily available. “In the end, we all benefit from broadening our mindset,” concludes Anderson.