Understanding Gender

Tess“Congratulations on your pregnancy! What are you having?” is a common question pregnant women are asked, yet one whose answer may not ultimately be correct. Ultrasounds can show the physical markers of a certain sex, yet some children grow up identifying differently from the sex they are labeled as at birth. It is important right from the start that gender non-conforming individuals receive proper care, information, and support from their family, peers and health care team. The GeMS (gender management service) program, at Boston Children’s Hospital, works to provide their patients with all of these services. I recently sat down with Francie Mandel, a social worker and the Director of Mental Health Services in the GeMS program, to gain an understanding of their work.

It might be helpful to start with a few definitions. Sex refers to the biological label (male/female) assigned to a child at birth. Gender identity refers to one’s sense of self as male, female or other gender, and some people see their gender identity as fluid. Sexual orientation refers to the gender(s) of the people one is attracted to. It is important to recognize that sexual orientation and gender identity are different, as they are commonly confused.

GeMS specializes in providing care to gender non-conforming youth and teens, and develops a plan with the patient and their family to fulfill medical, emotional, informational, and general support needs. Ms. Mandel explained that they employ a model of treatment that combines mental health and medical treatment to best accommodate their patients. GeMS also provides an overwhelming amount of resources to patients, and helps connect them with therapists, support groups, and even colleges that are gender nonconforming and LGBTQ youth friendly.

For more information on sexual orientation and gender identity:

For more information on GeMS:

– Tess