Dear Parents of Transgender Children
To those of you who are struggling to understand what is going on, who feel that you’ve received the news that your child is trans like it came out of left field, to those of you who are searching for answers, I want to give you some advice.
You may feel like your kid has just sprung this on you out of nowhere, you may feel upset or hurt because they’re saying (in your eyes) that they are not the child you have been raising. You may be asking what you’ve done wrong or what you’ve done to deserve a trans child. You may be feeling embarrassed because your own child is now telling you that you’ve been referring to them in the wrong way for however long it’s taken for them to come out. If your child has come out to you at a young (pre-puberty) age you may find yourself questioning if they even understand what gender is.
If they come out during puberty you may wind up wondering if it’s just the stress of puberty and social stigmas that are causing them to feel this way. If your child is one like myself who came out much later (I came out at 32 even though I’d figured it out before I was 10), you may find yourself wondering why they waited so long if they actually are transgender. I want you to know that all of these feelings and questions are completely valid! Please don’t think that because you’re confused or uncertain as to what’s going on that you’re a bad person. Your feelings and emotions are valid!
But I need you to know something important.
Your child coming out to you is a sign of trust. They have made the decision to tell you something they have discovered about themselves and realized over time to be true for who they are. It is highly likely that they’ve figured themselves out a while back but have wanted to make sure it would be safe to tell you the truth about who they are. They believe that your love for them as your child will be unconditional regardless of their gender. They are coming to you from a place of extreme vulnerability, as they are laying bare who they are before you and hoping with all their heart that you will still accept them. While it might be a shock to you, or you might have previous ideas about what it means to be trans in your head that you struggle with, when your child comes out to you…it’s not about you. It is about showing your child that you love them no matter what.
Yes, you will struggle with it. Your child is also struggling to deal with the world around them and what they are constantly being shown/told by media and groups that try to label them as horrible things.
The key is that you have your child’s back in their struggle.
If you feel that you just can’t deal with it, or that it’s “wrong” then that is on you to deal with. Do not force your views on a child who has come to you in confidence. If you need help dealing with overcoming previous views or ideas, I am willing to help offer resources.
If you feel you just cannot support your child in their transition, then what you are doing is showing your child that your love is only for them so long as they conform to what YOU want. Their transition and being who they are isn’t about you & you need to remember that. Even if it’s as little as using their chosen name, or the two of you coming up with a nickname that you can use while you adjust, they will appreciate the attempt and realize that even though you’re struggling, your love for them is more powerful.
No one is expecting you to be full on gung ho and super excited about your child coming out to you. All anyone wants from you, as the parent of a trans child, is to love them regardless of their gender. If you are interested in resources or finding local support groups for trans kids/youth and their families, I’ll be glad to send you what I have found during my research. I can also recommend several good books for all ages.
I want you to know that you’re not alone in your confusion/stress/struggles.
But I want you above all to remember that your child is looking to you for support, no matter how small you might feel that support is, and they need to know that no matter what, you love them. Please don’t buy into the anti-trans bigotry and pseudocience of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, especially if your child comes out as a trans boy/man.
Please, listen to your children when they come out to you.
But above all, please show your child that your love is unconditional.