By Jane Lai
Jean Malpas, a psychotherapist who works with transgender kids and their families. He says parents are bumping into novel challenges as their kids explore “gender expansiveness.” As society is becoming more welcoming of diverse gender identities, kids are becoming more vocal about gender expression.
As director of the Gender Family Project and international training at Ackerman Institute, Jean Malpas aims to open up the binary so kids feel welcome discussing their authentic selves and genders. The Gender Family Project empowers youth, families and communities with gender affirming services, training and research.
Jean started out in New York 17 years ago after training as a clinical psychologist in Belgium. His first job was at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center where he worked with couples where one or two partners were in the process of transitioning, as well as transgender adolescents coming out to their families. Jean provided support to families and couples, helping to smooth out the struggles and misconceptions that came with identity and sexuality.
“There was an identifiable gap in services for younger gender expansive children and their families who needed professional and community support,” said Jean. “Kids and parents alike needed a community of peers, a place to feel one among many.”
He recalls a moment where a mom doubted that her a 7-year-old socially alienated and anxious transgender daughter would ever be willing to participate in the transgender kids’ playgroup that Jean organized. Jean had suggested she introduce her to the facilitators, and see how things turn out.
“When the girl saw the group of other transgender kids, she immediately pushed her mom out of the room and ran towards the group and didn’t come out for two hours!” said Jean. “It was fantastic to see this kid who had never had this space where she felt safe, like ‘I’m not the odd one out. I am just like everyone else, and everyone else understands my story,’” he said.
In another recollection, a mother Jean worked with and who had been initially very rejecting of her kid joined the NYC Pride March.
“As we stopped for a minute, she grabbed my hand and I just looked at her and she was crying and I thought she was having a little crisis. She had a big smile on her face and she said to me ‘How did I get here?’" Jean said.
Her and her child were both happy. That is the rewarding outcome that Jean aspires to achieve with the families he works with. Jean hopes that the TEDx talk he will give will inspire others to “move from shock and grief, hardship and fear to a place of celebration, transformation, discovering their authentic child and authentic gender.”
Jean has been featured in National Geographic, MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes,” VOGUE, and The Psychotherapy Networker.
Hear Jean and other dynamic speakers share ideas worth spreading at the fifth annual TEDxAsburyPark (formerly TEDxNavesink). Get your tickets today and join us on the Asbury Park Boardwalk.