Culture / Kids

Girls will be girls, unless they are not

photoDana Delgardo is a Family Nurse Practitioner, and a gender variant who has lived life as a gender non-conformist; identifying her birth sex as female and gender variant. Dana is a parent of two, a nurse practitioner, a Captain in flight medicine in the US Air Force Reserve for over 22 years, and a resident of the community of South Orange/Maplewood in New Jersey.  Dana takes great pride in helping establish awareness and education on the topic of gender nonconforming in our youth (GNCY). Dana founded OutSpoken, a group that provides a place for parents, family, and friends of gender nonconforming LGTBQIA youth and their allies to meet and support each other.  Dana is currently developing a mentorship program for GNCY and families.


It always amazes me that gender nonconforming children are  the hot topic of the year. Why do you think that is? Is there more exposure because of the media’s focus on stories like  Coy Mathis’ family battle to use the restroom at school? DADT? DOMA? Maybe all the above?

Whatever it is, it is about time.

As one who was a gender nonconforming child, then an adolescent then known as a”tomboy”, and finally one who realized later in adulthood that I am a trans man, watching the paradigm shift regarding gender issues over the last three years has been exhilarating and scary at the same time. Are we really at a place right now in our society where binary ideologies of what is male and female are moving towards fluidity? Or are we just taking a peak around the corner and experiencing what changes may come but only if we continue the fight for equality for all LGTBQIA individuals. What do you think?



I think more of the focus has been on our little gender bender birth-sex boys, because they have to fight the centuries of stereotypical ideas and biases around how a boy should act, and I understand how difficult it is for them. The name calling, the bullying, and the fear that parents have for their safety. But we cannot forget our gender nonconforming girls. I think we as parents think they have it easier, but wrongly so.

As a gender nonconforming girl who later realized I was a boy, it was not easy. Unless your definition of easy is being told in grammar school while playing football “You can’t play that sport, it’s a boy’s game,” getting physically blindsided and then drawn into a physical altercation because of the blindsiding. Or wearing jeans and being told, “You can’t wear that, that is for boys!” Or, when you cut your hair short, being told, “You can’t cut your hair that way, only boys wear their hair like that!” And, “Hey what are you, a boy or a girl? Are you gay or something?”

Geez! I can honestly tell you I didn’t know what gay was when a female classmate asked me that question in 7th grade when I gently touched her shoulder at the donut shop one cold school morning in autumn. I can only tell you that being accused of that made me feel ashamed and lesser. It is funny how an innocent friendly touch could become so dirty in seconds. I think if I knew then what I know now I would have answered, “No I am not gay. I am a boy trapped in a girls body, can’t you see that?!”

My point is that all gender nonconforming children suffer, whether they identify as boy, girl, boy/girl, or other … it’s just that the suffering comes with different shameful words, sometimes from strangers and sometimes from people whom we love and trust. We as parents cannot segregate or rank their plight. Yes, gender nonconforming birth-sex boys have it tough, but so do girls. And statistically, according to a study  by Andrea Roberts, a research associate at Harvard School of Public Health (2012), 85% of  children who are gender nonconforming will grow up to be cisgender adults. So, yes we need to educate and advocate, but it is one fight for all LGTBQIA issues … and we must make sure we stand together as one. As Roberts states, the message we need to convey  is one of tolerance, protection, and support.


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One Comment

  1. As a married straight female, I have many wonderful Gay and Lesbian family members. One of my dear friends is the author of this article. This is a magnificently written article. Most people who live for the “benefit” of other persons perspecives on how men and women should be in life, this article gives the opportunity for transgenders to come forward and be themselves, for themselves, and not for the benefit of others.

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