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I just found out my child is transgender

child is transgenderWhat do I need to know?

When I first found out my child is transgender, I panicked. I had heard about transgender people but, like most of you, I didn’t get it. It didn’t affect me.

I am an accepting and inclusive person, but this threw me for a loop.  I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.

It seemed the reality I had been living for the past 16 years was a lie. What was I supposed to do with all those memories of my daughter? I worried what our family and friends would think and how they would react.

Here are the top 10 things I’d like other parents whose child is transgender to know:

1. There are more transgender people than you think

Transgender people have existed across all cultures since time immemorial. Gender norms and expectations are different now than when we were growing up, and will continue to change. You probably didn’t even know half of these options even existed while you were growing up. I know I didn’t.

There are no solid statistics, although researchers estimate approximately 0.6% of adults in the United States, or 1.4 million individuals, identify a gender identity that is different from the sex they were assigned when they were born. This number does not include children. At the time of this writing, there are 4,127 members of one Facebook group for parents of transgender children alone.

2. It’s not your fault

Current research supports the theory that gender is hard-wired in the brain from before birth. Even though we have great influence over our children, parents can’t change their child’s expression of their gender or true gender identity.

It’s imperative you understand that you did nothing wrong and there is nothing wrong with your child. What we can do is help our children to have a healthy, positive sense of themselves in relation to their gender.

3. Don’t panic

We all have hopes and dreams for our children and this can seem like the death of those hopes and dreams. Although your child is transgender, remember that their dreams are still possible, including finding someone to love and having a family. The journey just might look a little different than initially expected.

Try to change your perspective. Always remember that anything is possible.

4. Your struggle is real

You may need to grieve the loss of the son or daughter you’ve raised and loved as such before coming to accept your new child. This is normal. If your child is more ambiguous and does not clearly identify as female or male, or as neither, it’s natural to feel confused and disoriented. Let yourself process those feelings.

Be honest and reassure your child. Tell them that you are overwhelmed now, but that you love them no matter what. Try to be positive with your child. Share any negative feelings you may have (hurt, fear, or disappointment) with other adults, not with your child. Find support with others who are going through similar experiences, either locally or online.

5. Life goes on

While it may seem like your world is ending because your child is transgender, this can also be the beginning of another.  You and your child may find that life continues mostly the same and not as much changes as you initially feared.

Most of all, remember that this is still your child, just in different packaging.

6. Listen to your child

Your transgender child is, naturally, afraid of rejection and how their lives might change. Listen to what your child says about their own needs. They know what they want to be called, how they want to look, and other things that make them more comfortable. There are no rules.

To better understand what your child is experiencing, ask them these Questions to ask your transgender child. Listen carefully to their responses

7. It’s your child’s life

Life is much more difficult and stressful when you’re pretending to be someone you’re not. The acute distress many transgender children feel about their bodies will start to resolve during transition.

Your child will likely become more at ease, more comfortable with themselves, and overall happier with their lives with your support and acceptance. This could be an illuminating, positive and even inspiring experience for both you and your child. You may learn more about your child, about gender, and about our constantly changing world.

Try not to make assumptions or decisions about who your child will become or how they will get there. It’s their life. They get to decide.

8. Let your child guide you

Your child has likely known they were in the wrong body for a long time and waited to tell you for a multitude of reasons. They may be telling you now because the stress they feel and the need to live their authentic self has become too difficult to hide.

As much as possible, let your child set the pace to come out publicly (or not).

9. It’s important to affirm your transgender child’s identity

Being trans is neither a choice, nor a lifestyle. As a parent of transgender boy, I have learned that the most important thing you can do is to accept, support and encourage your child to express who they know themselves to be.

If transgender children are forced to deny their true gender and are unsupported, suicide is a significant risk. A survey of over 6,000 transgender people revealed that 41 percent reported having attempted suicide at some time in their lives. Providing a sanctuary of security and support for your child is the single most important factor in promoting lifelong health and well- being for your child.

10. Information and support are available

While some people may be judgmental and supportive, there is also extensive support in unexpected places. I didn’t know what to expect when I told people my child is transgender. Despite my fears, my family and friends accepted my trans child with open arms. They respect and validate his identity.

Transgender people are much more prevalent than previously thought and there is more acceptance in the world than you know. It’s likely you have already met a transgender person. You just didn’t know it.

There are numerous local resources and online. You may meet other families struggling with these same issues and create strong friendships.

What other questions came to your mind when your child told you about their authentic self? Leave a message in the comments and maybe myself or another parent could help you out.

It’s time for Testosterone

I have a syringe in my purse and it feels criminal. I’ve always believed syringes were for medical professionals, diabetics and junkies. I am none of those. I am, however, the mother of transgender son.

My son came out a year and a half ago. His father and I were in shock. We had no idea. We attended a couple of PFLAG meetings in an attempt to better understand our son’s dilemma. But it was too far to travel and we stopped.

I also conducted online research (I tend to get a little obsessed) and joined a few of the many Facebook support groups for parents of transgender children. I was pleasantly surprised to find a HUGE community of people out there who support their transgender children and each other. I am very grateful for them.

Unfortunately, my son’s father became overwhelmed and stopped trying to understand and support our son. He feels it is a ‘phase’ and refuses to discuss the matter anymore. He continues to use our son’s dead name and female pronouns. They don’t have a very close relationship. They bond over Lego.

Because my ex had joint legal custody for medical decisions and would not agree to medical intervention to facilitate our son’s transition, we couldn’t proceed with that process. So, I bought a few binders, some boys clothes and accessories, and took my son to a barber to shear his long blonde locks in favor of a crew cut, which I now maintain with our very own hair clippers. My son was happy with these changes as they help him pass as a boy most of the time.

Last month my son turned 18. His first adult decision was to make an appointment to start Testosterone. We walked out of that appointment with a prescription for Testosterone, information on all the potential side-effects, and a blood requisition form. The next appointment is in two weeks. The doctor will teach me how to do the injections.

And that’s why I am now in possession of a syringe which I will soon use to inject my son with testosterone. And I am terrified.

Questions you may want to ask your transgender child

 

questions understand transgenderThese questions may help you better understand your transgender child and why they feel the way they do.

  1. How long have you been feeling this way?
  2. What started you thinking about it? Did something happen?
  3. What made you tell me now? Did something change?
  4. Have you been talking to anyone else about these feelings?
  5. How did you learn about transgender people?
  6. Are you thinking of changing your name and/or the pronouns people use to refer to you?
  7. Where do you see yourself on the gender spectrum?
  8. What do you want to change now to express your preferred gender? What would you like to change in the future?
  9. What do you think I need to get more information about?
  10. How can I help you in this process?

I don’t suggest you ask all these questions at once. Be sure to carefully listen to the answers provided. This will demonstrate to your child that you are genuinely interested in what they think, how they see themselves and what they are experiencing. This will also assure them that you are there for them.

Take plenty of time to think about the answers you receive to these questions. As you absorb the information, you may realize you need more clarification. Write these questions down and ask them at your next opportunity. As you continue to ask follow-up questions, you may notice that you are beginning to better understand your child and why they feel the way they do.

Over time, this open communication will also help you evaluate your child’s level of stress or distress, and determine whether they may need additional outside support or intervention.

If there are any other questions you wanted to ask your child, or if you want to share other information they offered, please leave a note in the comments.