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“My dad just got a 3D TV, this is pretty amazing for a guy who thinks HDTV means "Heavy Duty TV". - Anonymous ”—IdioTech
A Piece for Parents of Trans* People
Some of our followers are parents of trans* kids that are wanting more information, others are trans* people that would like a good way to explain their gender identity to their parents or something to give to their parents as they come out. We thought we’d throw together a little something for both sets of people, just a little bit of information that we think would be useful to parents whose children just came out to them. Here it is:
So….Your Kid Just Came Out as Transgender
Your child has just told you that they don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth to some degree. Maybe they told you that they are questioning their gender, or that they see themselves as neither completely male or completely female. Or perhaps they told you that they identify as male or female and hope to go on hormones or have surgery as part of their transition. Regardless of what your child just told you, you might be have some questions. Here are some common questions that you might be wondering to yourself as well as some answers provided by a transgender person himself in consultation with his mother:
Is this something I did? Is it because X happened in my kid’s childhood?
Wedon’t know for sure what causes some people to identify as the gender they are assigned at birth and others to identify differently. However, it is incredibly unlikely that your child is transgender because of anything that you did. There are transgender people that are raised in strict religious homes and those raised in homes with no religion at all, those raised in households with married parents and those in households with divorced parents, those raised in perfectly happy families and those raised in abusive families. There really doesn’t seem to be any common thread in the childhoods of transgender people, other than the fact that many (though not all) displayed signs of not identifying with the gender they were assigned from a young age. It is also unlikely that it is due to any one event in your kid’s childhood.
Isn’t my chid too young to know that they are transgender?
Think back to when you realized that you were male or female. Is your child older than that? If so, your child is probably old enough to know. Many people realize that they are transgender when they are very young, it is not uncommon to hear of small children expressing feelings that they are being raised as the “wrong gender.” The preteen and teenage years are also common times for children to come out to their parents as transgender or begin to express their gender identity because those are times in which people in general really begin to figure out who they are and explore their identity.
My child is in their 20s or 30s (or even older), aren’t they too old to just now be realizing this?
While many transgender people realize that they are transgender when they are very young, some people don’t realize until they are older or don’t say anything to anyone about it until they are older. Keep in mind that your adult child may have known for a long time but only now have allowed themselves to explore their identity or tell anyone. It also might be the case that your adult child has only just recently found words to put to their feelings. Just as there are people that are late bloomers in other aspects of their lives, there are people that take a little bit longer to figure everything out about their gender.
How do I know if this is a phase?
It may be that your child has gone through a lot of phases, just as you probably did growing up. Gender identity, however, is bigger and more important than musical taste or personal fashion. It is entirely possible that this is a phase for your child, but for many people it is not at all a phase and to treat it as such can be damaging to your child. If possible, allow your child to explore their gender identity in non-permanent ways (for instance, allowing them to choose their hairstyle and dress differently) if you are concerned that this is a phase. Therapy can also be very beneficial for your child and, if in many cases, you and other members of your family as well.
My child wants to take hormones and have surgery, aren’t these things dangerous and bad for their health?
There are risks to taking hormones and having surgery just as there are risks to taking any prescription medications and having any surgery. The best way to fully understand these risks is to discuss them with a trained medical professional that has experience prescribing these medications or carrying out these surgeries. Many transgender people would point out that for them the risk of not taking hormones or having surgery is greater than the health risks of doing so due to emotional stress. It might also be helpful for you or your child to talk to older transgender people that have been on hormones for 20 or more years about their experiences and health.
What are some resources out there for parents like me?
Many parents find it extremely helpful to talk to other that have been in their situation, in which case Trans Youth Family Allies is an excellent resource. They have blogs written by other parents, listings of support groups for parents in different cities, and private online forums for parents of transgender kids ages 3-18 (that forum can be found here). TransKidsFamily also has a private yahoo group for parents with children of all age groups that can be found here. PFLAG may stand for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays but it also provides information and support for family and friends of transgender people.