Transgender and gender diverse tamariki and rangatahi

Learn about gender expression, when to see a healthcare professional, puberty blockers, and how to support your transgender, gender diverse or gender expansive child or young person.

Gender expression

All tamariki (children) and rangatahi (young people) explore different ways of expressing their gender. Many of them do not fit into their culture's expectations for boys or girls, such as:

  • the clothes they wear
  • the toys they play with
  • how they behave. 

Tamariki and rangatahi should not feel limited by expectations around their gender. They should be able to wear the clothes they want, or choose the kinds of toys they play with. 

Most tamariki and rangatahi are comfortable with their sex assigned at birth. But some are not. 

For some tamariki and rangatahi, their clothing and play are important ways to express their gender to those around them. Allow them to work out what feels right for them, and understand everyone's gender is unique. For some people, gender can be fluid. Be open to wherever your child or teen's gender journey leads.

When a child or young person asserts their gender as different from their sex assigned at birth, it is important to listen. They may show distress or discomfort with their physical body.

Some tamariki are aware of their gender diversity from an early age. They can often be insistent, persistent, and consistent with their assertions about their gender. Others may take some time to figure out their gender, for instance during puberty or later on. 

Tamariki and rangatahi can be very aware of the disapproval of those around them. They may try and hide their feelings about their gender if met with negative responses.

When to see a healthcare provider

Gender diverse tamariki and rangatahi, including those who might identify as transgender, cannot get gender-related medical treatments before puberty. 

But if you are their parent, you may want to talk to a parent support group, peer support worker, or doctor, about how best to support your child or young person. 

Sometimes you might need a referral to a specialist doctor or mental health professional. This is particularly important if the child or young person has distress related to their gender.

Puberty blockers

If a transgender or gender diverse young person is distressed from puberty changes starting, or the potential for them to start, it is important for them to see a healthcare provider. The healthcare provider should have knowledge and experience in gender affirming care. 

Puberty blockers are a reversible medicine that can be used to pause physical puberty changes. They still allow for social, emotional and brain (cognitive) development. They also allow time for a young person to explore their gender and understand future gender care options. 

The decision to use a puberty blocker is usually done in the context of a multidisciplinary healthcare team working to support the young person and the whānau. 

Your usual doctor or healthcare provider should be able to refer you to your local multidisciplinary gender healthcare pathway. 

Supporting your tamariki and rangatahi

There are lots of things you can do to support your transgender, gender diverse, or gender expansive tamariki or rangatahi. 

Give your unconditional love and support

Let your child or teen know that they have your unconditional love and support wherever their gender journey leads them. Having whānau support is very important for their mental health and wellbeing. 

It is important that children and young people do not feel that being transgender is something they should have to hide or feel any shame in. Continue to let them know just how awesome and brave they are. 

Encourage their exploration of their gender 

Encourage your child or teen's exploration of the way they express themselves. Allow them to present in the way they feel most comfortable — through their clothes, hairstyle and creativity. It is important that they have a safe space to explore their gender. 

Use their gender pronouns and the name they wish to be known by 

Use the gender pronouns and name that your child or teen wants to be used. For example, their pronouns might be:

  • he/him
  • she/her
  • they/them
  • ia.

When your child or teen is ready, support family and friends to do the same, if it is safe to do so. 

It is not uncommon to slip up and make mistakes when learning to use your child's pronouns and new name. When this happens, simply acknowledge the error, apologise, and move on. You could also look at any things you can do to minimise the chance of it happening in the future.

Support them if they want to affirm their gender outside home 

Some children and young people will want to have their gender affirmed at school or outside of their home. 

There are good resources to support schools and parents around this. 

InsideOut (external link)

Hauora Tāhine and KidzFirst Centre for Youth Health Family Support (Word 52KB) (external link) 

Help them connect with other transgender young people

Help your child or teen connect with other transgender, gender diverse, or gender expansive tamariki and rangatahi, and the rainbow community.This will let them know they are not alone. 

They can learn about diversity of gender both in Aotearoa New Zealand, and around the world. They can find out about the fantastic role models out there. 

Get in touch with your local rainbow organisation and see what is available for them in your area. 

KidsHealth has up to date information that includes family support, support in schools, and supporting younger tamariki. 

Gender diversity in children and young people — KidsHealth (external link)