Categories
Children's Mental Health

8 Ways To Raise Kids To Be Allies

Being an ally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community is not just about knowing LGBTQ+-related vocabulary by heart or lobbying for trans-inclusive bathrooms. Even young children can be considered allies when they treat all people — regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex charactertistics (SOGIESC) —  with compassion, acceptance, and respect. 

“Raising kids to be kind and accepting benefits not just the recipients of those kind acts but also the children themselves,” says Dr. Kathryn Braganza, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician practicing in Manila and mother of two children aged 18 and 6. “Being kind will make them feel good about themselves, ease their anxieties, make them happier, and boost their self-esteem.” 

While it is easier to teach children to be allies when a relative is queer, even families without homosexual, bisexual, or transgender loved ones can raise children to be open and loving. Dr. Braganza, who also has a gay older brother living in the United States,  shares some tips from her personal experience on how parents can create a culture of kindness and inclusivity at home:

“When my husband makes inappropriate jokes, for example, I call him out in front of the kids in a nice way. In other instances when it’s okay to do so, I politely share science-backed data to counter other people’s stereotypes and misconceptions.”

Kathryn Braganza, Neurodevelopmental pediatrician
  1. Embrace diversity. From a young age, expose your children to people, shows, music, or literature that positively represent a variety of SOGIESC. “In the building where I live, we have a transgender neighbor who dotes on my six-year-old daughter, hugging and kissing her all the time,” relates Dr. Braganza. “And because my husband and I did not make an issue out of it, my daughter thinks of her as just a loving neighbor and not ‘that transgender neighbor.’” 

Many television shows now also have diverse casts and roles, so Dr. Braganza suggests that parents co-watch with children to better explain to them what they are watching. 

Finally, let your sons wear pink, your daughters wear blue, and let them play with whatever toys they want. “In developmental pediatrics, we encourage parents to let kids engage in pretend-play, such as playing with dolls, to boost socio-emotional skills,” Dr. Braganza says. “Some parents have told me they are hesitant to let their sons play with dolls because they worry it would make him more feminine, but I just explain to them that research has shown that toys do not determine or influence gender identity.”

  1. Emphasize WE, not ME. Encourage your child to look for what they have in common with others instead of how they are different. Any time your child points out how someone is unlike them, Dr. Braganza suggests that you say, “There are lots of ways people are different from each other. Now let’s try to think of ways you are the same.” 
  1. Encourage open and accepting minds. “You can model this in everything you do, even in situations that are not related to gender,” says Dr. Braganza. “When your kids see you treating everyone the same regardless of their social status or their appearance, they will also do it on their own.”
  2.  Openly speak with pride and love about family members, friends, and colleagues who are LGBTQ+ (as long as they are out and are comfortable with you discussing them with others).  “My brother came out to me and my parents just before I got married and we supported him whole-heartedly,” Dr. Braganza recounts. “So when my children were growing up, his sexual orientation was never an issue because they saw that their grandparents and I did not treat him any differently than other people. Before the pandemic, we would all even frequently visit him and his husband in the US and my children treated their relationship as something normal.” 
  1. Be mindful of hurtful or derogatory comments or behavior. Children are always watching, so they will notice kindness, respect, and when you speak up on behalf of someone receiving unfair treatment. “Of course, choose your battles,” Dr. Braganza clarifies. “When my husband makes inappropriate jokes, for example, I call him out in front of the kids in a nice way. In other instances when it’s okay to do so, I politely share science-backed data to counter other people’s stereotypes and misconceptions. But when the hurtful remarks come from an elederly relative, for example, I just say quiet to show respect, but once we are at home I explain to the kids that what they heard was not right.” 

“I also frequently tell my children that everyone is raised differently, so if other people give a different point of view, just be polite but at the same time they should be firm in their belief that they know what is right,” she adds. 

  1. Answer children’s questions simply and honestly. How you respond can either create stereotypes or prevent them from forming. For very young kids, usually a one- or two-sentence answer is enough. Dr. Braganza gives some examples:
  • “Mommy, he’s a man but why is he wearing makeup/dressing like a woman?” 

Answer: “That’s what he likes to do, it looks nice anyway, right?”

  • “Daddy, he is a boy, how can he be a girl?” (when referring to transgenders)

Answer: “He likes to be one, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

  • “Why does she look like that/talk that way?” (when referring to someone with a different gender expression)

Answer: “That’s how she likes to look or talk, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

In any situation, always tell your child that everyone has the right to choose how they want to express themselves,” she says. 

  1. Ask yourself one critical question every day: “If my child had only my behavior to copy, would they be witnessing an example of what I want them to emulate?” “So always model kindness and optimism,” explains Dr. Braganza. In doing so, your children will learn to be allies and treat everyone with compassion and kindness. 
  1. Update yourself on the latest facts about the LGBTQ+ community. There are many myths and misconceptions about sexual orientation and gender identity, so it is important that we educate ourselves to avoid inadvertently  projecting obsolete ideas onto our children and tainting their views. “Update yourself with what science tells us about SOGIESC,” she suggests. “The internet has a wide array of information to get you started.” 

MindNation also gives talks on SOGIESC in partnership with Balur Kanlungan, an online wellness community for LGBTQI youth in the Philippines; just email us at [email protected] to set a schedule. 

If you need help on improving your communication skills or forming a closer relationship with your child, our psychologists and WellBeing Coaches are available 24/7 for teletherapy sessions. Rest assured that all conversations will be kept secure and confidential. Book a slot now through FB Messenger http://m.me/themindnation or email [email protected].

Categories
Get Inspired

10 Trailblazing Trans Women You Should Know Right Now

A transgender person is one who cannot identify with the gender they were given at birth. For example, one may be born as a male but somehow feels more inclined to identify as female and behave in a feminine manner. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but due to society’s expectations, transpeople have to live with constant prejudice, stigma, discrimination, and — in some cases — even physical violence. They also tend to experience higher rates of mental health issues than the general population, including low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

In honor of National Women’s Month, MindNation pays tribute to 10 amazing trans women from all over the world who are breaking free from stereotypes and the limitations placed on them and making their marks in various fields:

  1. Mela Habijan, Filipina actress, writer, content creator, beauty queen
    When Mela first came out to her parents in 2002, her father said, “So what if you’re gay? Why would I be embarrassed by you? You are a smart person. I raised you to be a good person. Most importantly, you are my child.” After coming out to her parents and with their blessing, Mela came out publicly when she turned 30 in 2017. She’s since openly spoken about her relationship with her parents, and has paid tribute to them several times on her social media pages. Last September 2020, Mela became the winner of the first ever Miss Trans Global. She is now organization’s spokesperson for its activities, including work with groups such as  TransValid and TransBeauty Magazine to “raise money, educate, and inspire transgender people globally.”
  1. Gislenne Zamayoa, Mexican architect
    Gislenne knew she was a woman at the age of four, but her transition did not begin until she was 36 and already working as an architect for a multinational soft drink company. During business trips, she would take a suitcase full of women’s clothes, makeup, and high heels. Whenever she finished her work, she would call a taxi from the hotel to take her to another hotel; there, she would change her clothes, put on makeup, and go to bars.

    When she announced to the company that she was transitioning, they offered her an administrative job, which she accepted at the beginning. But sheI had so much repression and worked so hard that her body did not stand it anymore, and she ended up in the hospital.

    Her big break started in 2016, when Apple Inc. hired her to build eight Mac stores in Mexico. The money and renown that the projects bought allowed her to create her own architectural company, Arquia, which now specializes in green design. 

    Today, Gislenne champions labor inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community. She works with the Mexican Federation of LGBT Entrepreneurs (FME-LGBT), and as a result, has been able to boost the projects of 13 transgender entrepreneurs.
  1. Mianne Bagger, Danish golfer
    In 2004, Mianne competed in the Australian Open professional golf tournament, becoming the first openly transitioned woman to play in a sport infamously known for its conservatism. She did not win, but she spent the next few years advocating for the rights of post-transition athletes and arguing that they do not have any clear physical advantage over their female-at-birth counterparts. Through her efforts, many professional golf organizations have amended their practices, paving the way for more inclusion in the sport. 
  1. Jin Xing, Chinese dancer
    Before becoming China’s first openly transgender celebrity and one of the first few transwomen officially recognized by the Chinese government, Jin Xing was a colonel in the People Liberation Army’s, which she joined as a child to receive dance training from a dance company affiliated with her military district. 

    At the age of 20, she traveled the United States and Europe to study and perform, returning to China six years later for a very specific purpose — to become the woman she’d realized she was meant to be. She insisted on having sex reassignment surgery in China, even though doctors there didn’t have much experience in the procedure at the time. The operation left one of her legs partially paralyzed and it took three months before she could dance again.

    Today, Jin Xing is the artistic director of her very own contemporary dance company in Shanghai, an in-demand choreographer, actress, talk show host, and an infamously hard-to-please judge on China’s “So You Think You Can Dance.” And while she says she never aspired to be an LGBT+ activist, she is now eyeing politics, saying she has the power and presence to help society.
  1. Breanna Sinclaire, American soprano
    As a child, Breanna sustained intense physical abuse at the hands of her father, who was deeply uncomfortable that he had an expressive, non-conforming child. When she was 13, her parents got divorced and the abuse eased up. She went on to study at the Baltimore School for the Arts where she found her niche, and then moved on to the California Institute of the Arts. In her final year at CalArts, she began her transition which included a transition in voice type from tenor to soprano. She faced heavy discrimination throughout the rest of her studies, but ultimately succeeded in finishing her studies and would go on to become the first transwomen in the opera program of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Today, she is widely known for her impressive four-octave vocal range.

    In 2015, she also became the first trans woman to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at a professional sporting event.
  1. Padmini Prakash, Indian news anchor
    In 2014, 31-year-old Padmini made history by becoming the first Indian transgender television news anchor. Before this big break, however, she experienced a troubled childhood — her family disowned her when she was 13 years old because they would not accept her gender identity, and she even attempted suicide but was saved by some people. She enrolled in an undergraduate programme in commerce through distance education, but had to drop out after two years due to financial problems and bullying. Undeterred, she went on to find work as a dancer, then as an actress, and even went on to compete in the trans beauty pageants.

    In 2014, after the Indian Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling recognizing the right of every human being to choose their gender” and ordering the government to provide equal protection and opportunity for transgenders, Lotus TV, a Tamil news satellite channel, hired Padmini. Today, she is also quite active in conducting awareness campaigns, even once working with the local police force to conduct transgender sensitivity workshops.
  1. Sasha Elijah (Lebanese model)
    In 2012,When Sasha’s devoutly Christian family opposed her desire to undergo hormone therapy when she was 15 years old, she pushed through with it anyway. It was a decision she says she does not regret, even though it took years to mend the relationship with her parents.

    She began modelling and, at the age of 17, became the first openly trans woman of the MENA region to walk the catwalk on an international TV channel. This attracted both local and international media, and she saw a way for her to raise awareness of the transgender community in her own country.

    In 2018, a district court of appeal in Lebanon issued a groundbreaking ruling that consensual sex between people of the same sex was not unlawful. Despite this positive development, Lebanese society still remains deeply rooted in religious and political conservatism.  Sasha hopes her outspokenness will encourage transgender people in the Middle East to be who they want to be, and help improve society’s understanding of the issues they face.
  1. Lynn Conway, American computer scientist
    Born in 1938, Lynn was a shy child and experienced gender dysphoria — the distress a person feels due to a mismatch between their gender identity and their sex assigned at birth. Upon completing her transition in 1968, she took a new name and identity, and restarted her career in what she called “stealth mode,” or passing as a cisgender woman instead of a transgender. In the course of her work, she became known for various pioneering achievements — much of today’s silicon chip design is based on her work — and won many awards and high honors, including election as a Member of the National Academy of Engineering, the highest professional recognition an engineer can receive.

    But it was only in 1999 (31 years after her gender transition) that she began to emerge from stealth mode and come out as a transwoman to friends and colleagues. She began work in transgender activism, intending to “illuminate and normalize the issues of gender identity and the processes of gender transition.” Today, she continues to work to protect and expand the rights of transgender people. She has provided direct and indirect assistance to numerous other transgender women going through transition and maintains a well-known website (https://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/conway.html) providing medical resources and emotional advice. Parts have been translated into most of the world’s major languages.
  1. Titica, Angolan singer and dancer
    Born in Luanda as Teca Miguel Garcia, singer and dancer Titica adopted her female persona four years ago following a breast enhancement operation in Brazil. Her stage name means “worthless” or “useless” in Portuguese, as a way to reclaim the hateful words that people have thrown at her as a transwoman.

    At age 25, she became the new face of Angola’s unique urban rap-techno fusion music style known as “kuduro”. By day her songs boom from minibus taxis, by night they fill Luanda’s dance floors, and at the weekends she has become the essential soundtrack for children’s parties. Named “Best Kuduro Artist of 2011”, she is a regular on television and radio, and has even performed at a Divas Angola concert attended by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

    In 2013, she was named a goodwill ambassador for UNAIDS. Through this role and her international popularity, Titica has increased awareness of HIV risks and treatment, sexual health, and issues regarding the LGBTQ community. Her success in the industry combats the homophobic and transphobic sentiments that exist in Angola and globally.
  1. Geraldine Roman, Filipina congresswoman
    In 2016, Gerladine became the first transgender person elected to the Congress of the Philippines. She, along with other elected lawmakers (collectively known as “equality champs”), launched the passage of the anti-discrimination bill on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (now known as the SOGIE Equality Bill) through a speech in the House of Representatives that garnered international support for LGBT rights in the Philippines.

    She was also named as one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2016 by US-based Foreign Policy magazine, as well as one of the “13 Inspiring Women of 2016” list by Time magazine.

Way to go, ladies!

Know any more amazing trans-women we should feature? Tag us in on Instagram and follow us at @themindnation!

Categories
Mental Health 101

Empathy vs. Sympathy: Why empathy matters more

Empathy is one of the most important aspects of creating harmonious relationships, reducing stress, and enhancing emotional awareness.

Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their perspective, and imagine yourself in their place. It is putting yourself in someone else’s position and feeling what they must be feeling.

Empathy vs. sympathy

Empathy is often interchanged with sympathy, but while the two are related, they do not mean the same thing.

Sympathy is a shared feeling, usually of sorrow, pity, or compassion for another person. You show concern for another person when you feel sympathy for them.

For example, when someone experiences the death of a loved one, you feel sympathy towards that person. You may feel sad for them, but if you have not experienced a death in your own family, you might not have empathy for their situation.

On the other hand, empathy is stronger and deeper than sympathy. It is the ability to put yourself in the place of another and understand their feelings by identifying with them.

Why empathy is important

Without empathy, people will go about life without considering how other people feel or what they may be thinking. It becomes easy to make assumptions and jump to conclusions about others, and this often leads to misunderstandings, miscommunication, divisiveness, conflict, and fractured relationships.

Empathy encourages us to work out our differences more productively and maintain harmonious ties with people who may think and act differently from us, thereby reducing stress.

Empathizing with others also helps us regulate our own emotions. Emotional regulation is important because it allows us to manage what we are feeling, even in situations that are very upsetting, without becoming overwhelmed.

Lastly, empathy promotes helping behaviors. Not only are we more likely to engage in helpful behaviors when we feel empathy for other people, but other people are also more likely to help us when they experience empathy.

Tips for Practicing Empathy

If you would like to build your empathy skills, there are a few things that you can do:

  • Pay attention. Listen to people without interrupting. Pay attention to non-verbal cues like body language, as these can reveal what a person is really feeling.
  • Be curious. Instead of attacking someone for having a belief that is different from yours, engage in a calm, rational discussion and ask questions to find out why they think the way they do. More often than not, the answer lies in their life experience, which, while different from yours, is not wrong. Then examine your own biases and find out why you think differently from them.
  • Imagine yourself in another person’s shoes. Get out of your usual environment. Travel to new places or new environments, and mingle with the locals. Doing this will give you a new perspective of the world, and a better appreciation for others.
  • Be open to feedback. This is especially true in the workplace; don’t be afraid to receive constructive criticism from others. Humility is an important part of being an empathetic individual.

If you’re up for a challenge, try this: have a conversation with a stranger every week. It can be the security guard at your office building or the owner of the food stall where you get your lunch on weekdays. Doing this expands your worldview and improves your ability to empathize.

When we become sincere in developing understanding of others, we improve relationships and promote harmony in the community.

Written by Jacq of MindNation