The concept of finding your tribe to accomplish great things in our professional lives is nothing new. Seth Godin wrote an entire book about it in 2008.
A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate. — Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin
As a writer, I’ve heard “find your tribe” more times than I can count. It’s all about surrounding yourself with people who are trying to accomplish the same thing as you — a novel, short stories, an entire book series, poetry, a memoir, freelance writing, whatever — regardless if they’re new to writing or a multiple-published author.
The idea behind finding your tribe is that people who are on similar paths can learn from each other as well as find the support to continue and complete whatever it is they’ve set out to do. These folks will understand when you tell them how frustrated you feel with your current work-in-progress. These are the people who will encourage you when you lack the motivation to finally finish the damn book.
But tribes go beyond writing groups. Many of us have several different tribes we interact with that influence different areas of our lives. We just don’t call them tribes. Typically we simply call them friends.
Those women you work out with at the gym, or the friends you always meet up with for coffee and an hour of catching up every couple of weeks, or the book club you love discussing the latest thriller with — each of these is a different tribe usually consisting of different people with little crossover. This is because each tribe is created based on something specific we want or need.
As parents, we deserve the same type of support. We deserve a group of people who will stick by us, help us make good decisions, and encourage us after every failure rather than ridicule us.
Why do you need a tribe?
Raising a trans child usually requires a parent to learn more details about the social, emotional, physical, and mental well-being of their kid. There’s more medical jargon to understand, more legal issues, more social ignorance to navigate.
Connecting with a tribe of other parents who are also raising transgender kids, allows you to realize you’re not the first or only parent to be coping with the things you’re trying to deal with. It’s a relief to not be on this journey alone.
Trying to discuss puberty issues your transgender teenager may be experiencing with parents of cisgender kids can be awkward, frustrating, and even embarrassing due to your own lack of knowledge to be able to express what it is you want feedback on.
Talking with other parents of trans kids can help encourage you to share it all and ask anything because you know they understand where you’re coming from. They understand why you’re asking and sharing. They understand what it’s like to want to be supportive and accepting while feeling ignorant, confused, sad, and overwhelmed.
When you know that the person you’re speaking with has felt the exact same way you do, it sort of gives you permission to share all those thoughts you dare not speak aloud in front of your trans child or anyone else. Sharing all your doubts, fears, and worries becomes possible without feeling guilty for stating them, and without worrying you’ll sound unaccepting or unloving toward your own kid.
You may even find yourself sharing things within your tribe that you simply need to speak aloud in order to understand your own feelings connected to them.
It’s not required to have the precise vocabulary to express your feelings in order to still have those feelings. Other parents with transgender kids understand this.
Where do you find your tribe?
I’ve used face-to-face therapy groups as well as online Facebook groups to connect with other parents who are also raising transgender kids. Both have pros and cons about them.
Group therapy is priceless.
Having discussions within a therapy group was especially helpful to me early on in my son’s transition and coming out. Hearing other parents share similar thoughts and worries as well as ask the same questions that were floating around in your own head is illuminative.
The group was guided by a mental healthcare professional and included some guest speakers on occasion. These guests were all transgender individuals who volunteered their time to help answer any questions any of us had regardless of how specific in nature they were or ignorant they sounded. These speakers were compassionate as well as informative. I’m very grateful for their transparency regarding their own journeys and transitions.
The time I spent in this therapy group has been invaluable to me. More than a decade later, some of us parents still reach out to each other for support and an empathetic ear.
Facebook groups can help.
There are a few Facebook groups out there where you can type all your troubles into your post and receive honest, compassionate feedback from other parents who have been-there-and-done-that. When it comes to our kids, most parents are eager to save another parent some heartache or financial burden if their experiences can help prevent it.
It’s commonly a place where folks can share resources and medical recommendations too. Many transgender kids pursue hormone treatment and/or surgeries. And many others require mental health professionals to help them navigate gender dysmorphia, anxiety, and depression. So, an online group is a great place to get feedback from other parents regarding procedures and doctors.
Online groups are also a great place to share those moments worth celebrating because parents of trans kids grasp why they mean so much to you and your child. Like when your kid chooses their proper name and gets it legally changed, or when you bake a cake to celebrate a year’s worth of hormone therapy, or when you’re emotionally crying because your grandmother finally referred to your trans kid by his correct pronouns and proper name.
Thanks to the internet we can now connect with so many other people from around the globe that it makes it exceedingly easy to find a tribe to call your own.
Finding your tribe can be crucial in learning how to best support your transgender child. There are many options and avenues to explore in finding that tribe too.
I was introduced to the therapy group that helped me so much by my son’s mental health provider. So Googling therapy offices near you and contacting them is always an option. Simply ask if they have experience with transgender patients. If they say yes, then ask if they can connect you with any support groups for parents.
If Googling isn’t your style, here is a list of sites that can help you connect with other parents — some in person, others completely online.
- CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
- Gender Spectrum
- Trans Lifeline
- LGBT Ireland
- Rainbow Families
- The Spaces Inbetween
- Family Equality
- Parents of Transgender Children (FB group)
- AlliesOfTransYouth (FB group)