Supporting Your Transgender Child
As your child faces the uncertain nature of coming out as transgender, your support for them can be invaluable. You don’t want them to go through it alone, and there are strategies to ensure you are there for them in every way you can be. While there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to raising your transgender child, here are some ways to show your support as your child explores their gender identity.
Know the Basics
You can only know how to help your child when you attempt to understand what they are going through. Being transgender means that a person’s personal identity and gender do not correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth, which is why gender and sex carry different meanings entirely. Being transgender is unrelated to sexuality or sexual preferences, rather it has more to do with how a person sees themselves at their core. This is why it’s so challenging to cope with — a central part of who they feel they are is not recognized by the rest of the world.
Accept Their New Identity
Coming out as transgender in today’s society takes immense courage, and it’s important to show your support without labeling it as a phase. Validate their feelings that what they feel about themselves is real. Though your child may be going through a physical change, who they are as a person is not changing. It has just been hidden inside them, waiting to come out. Put yourself in their shoes — their life up to this point has been a constant struggle between who they are and who others see them as.
Listen and Follow
Sometimes children who come out as transgender want to begin hormone therapy, and some don’t. Some may want to look into surgery as an option, and some don’t. It’s important not to assume how they want their transition to go. It can be helpful to seek help from a mental health professional if your child is finding it hard to communicate their feelings with you. It is very important to call them by their newly selected name and use their preferred pronouns.
Don’t Out Them
Follow their lead in what they are comfortable sharing with others, especially on social media. What you think may be supportive may not come across that way. For example, what you feel is proudly proclaiming to the world that you support your transgender child may feel like an invasion of privacy that can dismantle trust. Protecting your child’s privacy as they transition helps them see you as an ally in the process, instead of an onlooker.
Evaluate Your Own Feelings
Transitions affect family members in different ways, and it’s important to be a resource for your child as they navigate communicating their gender identity to others. Check any preconceived judgement at the door, and recognize the mature decision that your child has made in coming out. Be honest with yourself if you’re having trouble coping with their transition, and seek professional support to be the best parent you can be.
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