Supporting Your Transgender Child

Hearing from you child that they identify as transgender can be a difficult moment for any parent. While some parents may have contemplated or even expected the news, it can be a shock to others. Many parents find themselves grieving the loss of the gender of their child and worrying what the future will entail for their child. They want what is best for their child and understand it can be difficult to accept the future life of their transgender child. Regardless of your beliefs, adapting to your child’s transition is far from easy, but it is important to realize a parent’s support plays a critical role in their child’s mental health and well-being. This article highlights ways you can support your transgender child and provides helpful resources for parents and children.

Practice Acceptance: Nothing hurts more to a child than their parents not accepting them for who they are. Avoid having your child “prove” their identity or say to them this is a life phase that will pass over time. Questioning your child about their gender invalidates their emotions and self-identity. Such family acceptance can help protect your child from depression, suicidal behavior, and substance use.

Let Them Take the Lead: Allow your child to lead the way in determining what being transgender means to them. Many parents believe showing support means transitioning their child to wear certain types of clothes, change their hobbies, etc. Being transgender means different things to different people and your child knows what is best for them.

Use Preferred Pronouns and Avoid Misgendering: Ask your child their preferred pronoun. This is a simple question, but it often means the world to our youth. Referring to your child by their preferred pronoun communicates respect for their gender. It is not uncommon to misgender at first out of habit so give a quick apology if you do. They will most likely understand you are trying your best and we all make errors at times. Your child might also want to change their name, which can ignite another sort of grieving process for you. Please keep in mind calling your child by their new name promotes their healthy development and using their former name can be detrimental, especially if it was said deliberately.

Do Not Out Your Child: It may seem appropriate to explain your child’s gender identity to family members or friends, but it is their choice with who they want to share information. Open conversations with your child about: who to tell, what to say, when to do it, and who will share that information are great ways to show support for your child, communicate acceptance, and help them with their transition.

Advocate for Your Child: Ask your child about how you can best support them. Some conversations can be about how to inform their school system, summer camp, basketball coach, etc. so others involved with your child can best support them in those environments.

Do not Confuse Gender Identity with Sexual Orientation: Another common mistake by parents is confusing gender identity and sexual identity. Gender identity is someone’s perception of being a particular gender whereas sexual orientation is someone’s sexual attraction to other people.

National Resources:
The Trevor Project (www.thetrevorproject.org)
GLAAD (www.glaad.org)
PFLAG (https://pflag.org)
The Family Acceptance Project (https://familyproject.sfsu.edu)
Human Rights Campaign: Transgender Children and Youth
(https://www.hrc.org/resources/transgender-children-and-youth-understanding-the-basics)

Local Resources:
LGBT Center of Raleigh (https://www.lgbtcenterofraleigh.com)
LGBTQ Center of Durham (https://www.lgbtqcenterofdurham.org)
Duke Child and Adolescent Gender Care (https://www.dukehealth.org/locations/duke-child-and-adolescent-gender-care)

Books for Parents:
The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie Brill
The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents ante Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens by Stephanie Brill
The Gender Creative Child: Pathways for Nurturing and Supporting Children Who Live Outside Gender Boxes by Diane Ehrensaft
Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt
Raising the Transgender Child: A Complete Guide for Parents, Families, and Caregivers by Ali Bowman and Michele Angello

Books for Adolescents:
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
The Gender Question Workbook by Rylan Jay Testa and Deborah Coolhart
Some Assembly Required: The Not-So Secret Life of Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews

Books for Children:
Meet Polkadot by Talcott Broadhead
Jacob’s New Dress by Ian Hoffman and Sarah Hoffman
My Princes Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel
It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall1