Coming Out as Transgender: How Should A Parent React?

 The world seems to be exploding with gender choices.  It’s hard to keep up with all the terms, but as a parent, you may want to know the basics such as:

  • Cisgender: sense of a personal identity and gender corresponds to sex assigned at birth.
  • Gender identity: personal sense of one’s own gender – who you are. It can correlate with your assigned sex or can differ from it.
  • Sexual orientation: Whom you’re attracted to.
  • Non-binary: Don’t think of yourself as either male or female.  You are therefore gender queer, sexually fluid.
  • Transgender: one who has gender dysphoria, a disconnect between their gender and the sex they were born with.

Number of Non-Binary People in the United States

How many people in the broad spectrum of genders are there in the United States?  Less than seven days ago, the Washington newspaper and media company, the hill.com estimated that 20 million U.S. adults identify as LGBT or lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  However, The Human Resource Campaign that analyzed the government data believes that the 20 million is a low figure.  The HRC, using data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, reports that the U.S. adult LGBTQ+ ( Q= questioning) population is nearly two times larger than previously believed.  And according to the Williams Institute, a UCLA think tank focused on sexual orientation and gender identity issues, there are two million transgender adults this year, up from an estimated 1.4 million transgenders in the United States in 2016.

In a survey done by Out Magazine this year, Generation Z (born 1997 or later) stated that 1 in 6 adults don’t identify as gender binary, but instead as sexually fluid, bisexual or trans.  The interviewees are more than four times to identify as trans and non-binary.

“The times they are a changin’!”  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children at age 4 have a stable sense of their gender identity, they may not come out as LGBT until later, particularly if they feel uncomfortable about their gender dysphoria.  The average age of self-realization that they are transgender or non-binary is 7.9 years old, but the average age when they disclosed their understanding was 15.5 years old.

If your child comes out as transgender, how can you support them?  As many transgenders experience depression and anxiety as the result of harassment, discrimination, bullying, and stigmatization, they need you as an ally at home and to navigate the school systems.

Expert Advice

  • Samantha Busa, a psychologist and clinical Director of Gender and Sexuality Service at NYU Langone in New York City, says “you don’t have to know all the answers. “
  • Joshua Safer, an endocrinologist and Executive Director of Mt. Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery advises “we have no blood test or scan and can only learn if people are transgender when they tell us.”
  • Follow your child’s lead. What do they wish for:  Whom do they tell?  Do they want hormone therapy if they are majority age?
  • Do they want to be called by certain neutral pronouns?

Pronouns

Here’s a basic pronoun primer:  There are certain neutral pronouns.  For example, instead of she (binary pronoun), you use ze for her, hir for his and him.  They/them is grammatically correct and has been added to the dictionary and can refer to you as a single person if you don’t think of yourself as binary.

It takes practice.  You may at first start “misgendering,” reverting to the old pronouns.  Acknowledge this mistake and move on.  Pronouns are important as they reflect how other perceive us, particularly if you are transgender. Many schools don’t know how or refuse to use the new neutral pronouns.

The number one consideration in comparing transgender profiles with cisgender profiles is the level of parental support in their genders. For additional support, consult the following:

Human Rights Campaign

Family Equality Council

Family Acceptance Project

Healthy Children.org site operated by the American Academy of Pediatrics

When Your Child is Gay

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.

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting as well as gay and lesbian content. For the past two years, Wesley has concentrated almost exclusively on the lesbian and gay community, specifically on advising straight parents of gay children on how to be better parents and raise happy, well-adjusted adults

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