Your child worked up the courage and shared with you their authenticity. How incredible!
Are you overwhelmed? That’s okay. Pause, take a deep breath in, and let it all go.
It’s okay if you are unsure what to do, and it’s okay if you are unsure how you feel. My biggest piece of advice is this: put yourself aside and make it be known, above all else, that your child is safe. Wrap them up in love. Continue to affirm your love for them, with no conditions and no bounds. The world is a scary place, they need you to be safe.
I would encourage you to take a moment to reflect on what your child might have shared with you. In a world that attempts to shame us from our authenticity, how strong to be so vulnerable. It can be nerve-wracking to allow others to truly see you, your child has grit and wants/needs to be seen. They are asking you to see them for who they are, not what you want them to be. If we can take a moment to think about compassion versus comprehension, you shouldn’t have to ‘understand’ to love your child and want what’s best.
1. Love them
I cannot encourage this enough. We are seeing unprecedented attacks on trans youth, the messaging behind the numerous legislative bills is heinous and the impact is beyond devastating. Supporting and affirming your child is life saving, please do not forget this. Your child is going through so much. Allowing them to be authentic, seen, loved, and held is your number one priority.
2. Take your opinion to your own support group – not to your child.
If it is possible for you to connect yourself to a support group or therapist within the LGBTQIA+ community, please do so. Please take a look at the list of resources below. Many parents have lots of feelings to process, and that is okay and so normal. You might be faced with challenging your own beliefs around gender, gender expression, and societal norms. It is not your child’s responsibility to help you unpack your internalized beliefs. If you are experiencing conflicting emotions, or negative opinions, please do this work on your own. Your child likely already asked themselves these questions, and may also face invasive questioning from the world around them. Think about how you can keep your home safe for your child.
3. Be respectful of wishes and boundaries
If your child has requested to use different pronouns or a new name, use them. Period. Affirming your child in this way is a life-saving intervention. You do not need to be perfect, you do, however, need to try. If you are having conflicting feelings surrounding your child’s wishes, ask yourself to put your feelings or opinions aside for the benefit of your child.
4. This might feel confusing
It can be very overwhelming and rather complex to put words to feelings behind gender. I know that I, as a grown adult, sometimes struggle to fully express my own experience. It is normal that your child might not have all the answers right now. That doesn’t take away from the validity of what they are sharing with you. Gender is so complex, sexuality is so complex. If someone were to ask you to describe your gender to them, without referencing body parts or gendered terms, could you? Consider the privilege of not having to answer questions like this.
5. Be your child’s advocate
Trans activism must include action. We can see clear trends in legislation attempting to restrict, punish and bluntly erase the trans population. Currently, there are over 200+ anti-LGBTQIA+ pieces of legislation in 34 states. The majority of those bills are anti-trans legislation, in most cases specifically targeting trans youth. As it stands, suicide rates for trans youth are already disturbingly high. Again, I want to stress how life saving your support can be for your child. Your child needs and deserves a fierce advocate. We have to consider the whole picture, are they being supported at school? Is their primary care provider affirming and educated? Does your child have access to resources to support their mental health?
6. This is something to celebrate!
Trans adc – There is absolutely nothing to grieve or mourn. This rhetoric is, at its root, transphobic. This essentially tells your child you care more about your prescribed notion of them than who they truly are. It may take time to adapt your personal expectations of your child’s life or what you may have thought “was best”, and that’s okay. Allow yourself the time and space to process your experience separate from your child – this is important for you to have too! – it is not your child’s responsibility to support you through their experience.
If you take anything away from this, please let it be that your child needs your love and support. This will get easier, I know it might now seem that way right now. Just remember to breathe. Put your feelings aside and be a safe haven for your beautiful kid, they deserve to bloom.
Here are some additional resources I would highly recommend
Looking for a support space with other parents of queer and trans youth? Check out our upcoming parents workshops and groups, coming in 2023!
LGBTQIA+ Sexuality Advice and Tips
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