Today is the annual event of International Transgender Day of Visibility. Its purpose is to celebrate transgender people and raise awareness of worldwide discrimination faced by transgender people. Prior to 2009, the only well-known transgender-centered holiday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance which mourned the murders of transgender people. It was a sad day, and not one that celebrated and acknowledged the living transgender community members.
What Does Trans Mean?
A lot of people know what it means for a person to be gay, lesbian or bisexual, but there is still confusion and misinformation out there about what it means to be trans. These misconceptions can result in misunderstanding, disrespect or disbelief.
It is not unusual for straight parents to be baffled when their children come out as transgender, someone who feels that their gender identity is at odds with their physical gender. The “condition” is called gender dysphoria, in which a person feels that their biological gender is at odds with their emotional and psychological gender identity.
Steps Parents Can Take if Child Comes Out as Transgender
If your child comes out as transgender to you, feel complimented that your child feels trusted and loved to share this important news with you. If they felt that coming out jeopardized their safety, health or living situation, they wouldn’t be divulging their heartfelt truth about their sexual identity.
As a parent, you may need time to accept this new information. It can be a shock when your child tells you that they’re not who you thought they were. Give yourself time to think about and try to understand what your child is going through.
To make it easier on you and your child,
· Listen to your child and talk to them about their feelings. Be open and communicative. Ask questions.
· They may want to dress or behave differently. Allow these changes.
· See how happy your child has become once they’ve started living as the gender they feel they actually are.
· Show your support and unconditional love. Ask your child which gender pronouns they prefer and which name they want to use. Binary pronouns like she and he will not work anymore. Once someone has decided to start transitioning to the other gender, they are referred to with their new gender identity, regardless of whether you’ve speaking about them before they transitioned. For a transgender person, they are simply being themselves and who they’ve always felt that they were.
· You may struggle at first with new pronouns, but keep practicing and correcting yourself.
· Make sure the school and doctor uses the correct pronouns to honor your child’s identity.
Help your child tackle gender dysphoria so they can become the gender they want to be.
· Children who are not accepted become depressed and self-harm or attempt suicide. You don’t want your child to be one of the 40% who tried to attempt suicide. Suicide is real. For my book, file://localhost/When Your Child Is Gay/ What You Need to Know, I interviewed a female who transitioned to male starting with hormones in college. He told me that if he had to stay cis-gender, he would have killed himself.
· See your GP and ask for a referral to an expert on gender dysphoria to arrange initial assessments.
These organizations can be of help for you and your child:
A useful book: Gender: Your Guide. A Gender-friendly primer on What to Know, What to Say, What to Do in the New Gender Culture. By Lee Airton, Ph.D. (Adams Media: 2018)
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.