[Guest Post] When Your Child Comes Out As Transgender

Guest Post by Susan Berland

Having your child come out as lesbian, gay or bisexual brings up a lot of issues for parents. We worry about their lives and their happiness. We worry about their safety. Some of us worry about what people will say or think – even think of us as parents.

LGBT, LGBT parenting, gay and lesbian kids, parenting, , parenting skills, parenting, parent coach, parent coach los angeles, parent coach orange county, parent skills, mercedes samudio lcswWhen a child comes out as transgender or gender queer parents have all the same worries and concerns and many more those of us who parent a LGB child do not.

First let’s talk about the terms transgender and gender queer. When a child is born, they are assigned a gender based on their outward appearance. The first thing the doctor announces (if you don’t already know) is “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl!” We bring that baby home and raise it according to what we perceive as gender norms. We put out baby girls in dresses and our baby boys in pants. We buy age appropriate toys and often they are gender appropriate. Let’s face it, when we go into a toy store the “boy” toys are a different aisle than the “girl” toys.

There are a lot of definitions of the word transgender. According to GLAAD 1, transgender is “An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.” They define Gender Identity as “One’s internal, deeply held sense of one’s gender. For transgender people, their own internal gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Most people have a gender identity of man or woman (or boy or girl). For some people, their gender identity does not fit neatly into one of those two choices. Unlike gender expression gender identity is not visible to others.” And gender expression is defined as “External manifestations of gender, expressed through one’s name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice, or body characteristics. Society identifies these cues as masculine and feminine, although what is considered masculine and feminine changes over time and varies by culture. Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression align with their gender identity, rather than the sex they were assigned at birth.”

A lot to take in, right? For a parent, this can all be very confusing and scary. Some kids begin expressing their gender identity as soon as they can talk. “I’m not a girl, I’m a boy!!” they might declare. Others don’t come out until they are pre-teen and others not until they are in high school or college.

When a child comes out as transgender, it’s important for a parent to recognize and experience all their emotions about it. The first thing a parent may wonder is what this means for their child. The concern about bullying is heightened with a transgender child. What about their safety? How will the school handle their transition? Will they be able to play sports on the team that aligns with their gender identity? Will they be allowed to use the bathrooms that align with their gender identity? What are the long term effects of taking hormones if they choose that? What about surgery? The thoughts and feelings can feel like a storm inside.

It’s equally important to get educated and get help for yourself and your child. Gender Spectrum 2 is a non-profit working with families and educators on just these issues. They have a wealth of information and resources available. You don’t have to navigate this alone, nor should you. You are not alone. There are parents who have already traveled this journey you are just beginning. PFLAG 3 is a great resource and a place where you will find parents just like you. Supporting your child and being their advocate is probably the most important thing you will ever do!


This guest blog post was written by Susan Berland, parenting coach for parents of LGBT youth. If you would like some help navigating your feelings and reactions, set up a time for a complimentary conversation at http://bit.ly/talktoSusan

Notes:

  1. http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender
  2. http://genderspectrum.org
  3. http://pflag.org

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