On Jan. 27 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. the Thrive Talks Series will present a talk titled, “All About Gender: What Every Parent Should Know.” This talk, however, isn’t just for parents. It’s for all of us. The shifting perception of gender has become more complex than any past generation could have ever imagined. 

Gender identity is no longer solely thought to be determined by one’s sex at birth. A definition I recently read described gender identity as one’s own internal sense of self and their gender, whether that is man, woman, neither or both. This idea is so very different from the ways most of us were brought up to believe. 

We are in the midst of a major shift in societal thinking and understanding of gender. In my work as a family therapist, I have seen a significant rise in the number of families and individuals who are directly dealing with this. What I have learned is that gender identity is an area of great confusion and misunderstanding. Expanding our thinking of gender identity will lead to greater understanding and with that, greater acceptance.  

What has become so clear to me, not only as a practitioner, but as a father, friend, and community member, is how important it is for me to be clear about what I believe and think. 

As parents, we have the responsibility to be aware that we are always influencing our children. The question is how are we influencing them? 

In order to bring clearer understanding about gender identity to the people of our community, Thrive, the community mental health center serving Oak Park, River Forest, and surrounding communities, is presenting this talk. Our presenter, Rick Smith, is a family therapist and proud father of a transgender son and a cisgender daughter. Rick will present an informed examination of today’s fast-changing gender landscape. His talk will offer us a better understanding about the transgender and gender non-conforming experience so that we will be more prepared to help our children, family members, and friends navigate this complex maze of identity formation. 

Ideally this presentation would be live with a large gathering at the library. This topic generates lively discussion and much interaction among the participants. Because of the pandemic, this presentation will be in a webinar format. 

So how do we generate discussion among people given this format? Consider gathering with those with whom you feel safe and participate in this talk together. Gathering with other families, groups of friends, book groups, etc. will guarantee lively discussion after the talk. Importantly, invite your kids to participate. Most likely if you have pre-teens or teenagers, you have something to learn from them as they are already facing these issues.

Because of the Zoom webinar format, people from anywhere in the world can join, so please feel free to pass this information on to anyone you feel would be interested. 

There is no cost and no need to pre-register. If you are interested and want to have the link emailed to you, please contact Sarah Finnegan at Thrive (sfinnegan@thrivecc.org)

Steve Parker, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Oak Park. He is a board member of Thrive Counseling Center and chairperson of the Program Development Committee.

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