You’ve likely seen stories in the news, heard about it from friends and family members, and seen more representation in the media of transgender individuals. You may wonder why so many people are identifying as transgender, or trans, today and why there weren’t this many when you were younger.
The truth is, though, that there have been people who do not identify with the gender they were born with forever. There have been transgender people in all cultures, continents, and eras. The reason why it seems like there are more today is that there is more visibility and acceptance in the modern world. There is a term now to describe how so many people have felt for years and years — yes, even people your age and before.
So, what can you do to ensure that your child feels supported and loved if they come out to you as transgender? Today we’ll dive into a few ways that you can do just this.
What Can You Do to Show Support for Your Child When They Come Out?
Without further ado, here are a few ways that you can show your child the support and love they are looking for when they come out as transgender.
Avoid Reacting Emotionally
We get it. When your child does something as impactful as coming out as transgender, it can be challenging not to react emotionally. You may be feeling overwhelmed, confused, or even angry. These are all natural reactions to unexpected news (especially news that involves our children). But, it is crucial to understand that it takes a lot of courage for your child to come out. They are likely terrified that they won’t be accepted for who they are because it might not be the same as who you thought they were.
When you react emotionally to this type of announcement, you could really harm your child. So, instead of letting your emotions take over, focus on acknowledging the situation at first. Don’t question them, tell them you disagree, or anything like that. You do not want to accidentally undermine your child’s sense of self and identity in this first reaction. A good first response would be something along the lines of “That is really big news!” or “Thank you for telling me!”
This does not mean that you cannot ask these questions or discuss with your child later on about their feelings and what this means to them. But your first reaction is not the time for this conversation.
Let Your Child Know You Love Them
Coming out is terrifying — especially to the people who you love most. When your child is coming out to you, they are likely scared that you will not accept them or their wishes. That you will continue dead-naming or misgendering them because you don’t agree with them. They may fear that you may not even want anything to do with them anymore. These actions are incredibly harmful to your child, and they may fear that they will lose you forever.
This is why ensuring your child knows you love them unconditionally is essential. We are not saying that you cannot take time to process this information. That is totally valid! It can be surprising news, after all. But, before you walk away to process the new information, tell your child that you are their parent and you love them no matter what. This can help ease your child’s mind and help them understand that you aren’t going to leave them, but you need time to process.
Respect Your Child’s Feelings and Wishes
We’ve touched on this briefly before, but one of the absolute best ways you can show support for your child is to respect their desires. This means using their desired pronouns and name (if it has changed as they have transitioned). This also means understanding what transgender means to your child and their feelings about their identity. To do this, you’ll likely have to do a little bit of research — which we’ll get into in our next point.
Take Time to Educate Yourself
When you are processing your child’s coming out to you, you’ll likely have questions. For example:
- What does trans mean?
- How does my child know they are transgender?
- What does transgender mean for sexual orientation?
- What is non-binary?
- Why does my child not feel like the gender they were born as?
Now, we’re not saying that you’ll be able to find the answers to all of these simply by looking online. But, you can better understand what being transgender is and have a better knowledge base for when you do have a conversation with your child. The fact remains that the only way to really understand what being trans means for your child is to talk to them about it. But jumping right into that conversation without any form of basis of knowledge can do more harm than good. This is because you may end up asking questions that devalue your child or make them feel wrong for what they feel.
Realize that Transitioning Can Happen at Any Age
There is no “right” age for your child to discover their identity — whatever it may be. As you may well remember, you likely spent years of your childhood and young-adult life figuring out who you were and what you wanted to be in your life. You may still be figuring all of these things out as a full-grown adult who has lived your life for decades.
Your child is no different. Expecting them to know everything about their identity — especially something so nebulous as gender identity — by a certain age is unrealistic.
Let Them Take the Lead
Let your child lead you. This can be hard for parents, after all, as an adult, you have a much more linear manner of thinking. But, children are typically less linear in how they approach their decisions. Because of this, they may not approach their transition the same way that you might think. So, let them take the lead on the type of support they are looking for, who they come out to when they come out to people, and how involved they want you to be in their transition.
This lets your child know that you trust them and their decisions and you are here to support them but not direct them. This allows them to experience autonomy and make decisions on their own (with the knowledge that you will be there if they need you, of course).
Advocate for Them
If you see someone deadnaming or misgendering your child, call them out on it! Always use your child’s preferred pronouns and name. If you slip up, don’t worry! Simply correct yourself (even if it is embarrassing mid-sentence). This shows the people you are talking to that you value your child’s feelings and that you respect them and their wishes, which is one of the best ways to get others around you to do the same thing.
Find Support for Yourself Too
You may experience a number of emotions, feelings, and thoughts when your child comes out to you as trans. You may fear for their safety in a world that may not accept them. You may feel overwhelmed by your child not being the same as they were to you yesterday. You may fear that you do not know how to support them in the best way and ensure that they feel loved and valued. You may even experience a challenge of your personal, religious, or other beliefs.
You want to be there for your child in any way they need you, but you must also realize that to do this, you must take care of yourself. If you are struggling with your child’s coming out, it may be time to consider reaching out to a therapist to discuss how to best process this.
So, if your child has recently come out to you as transgender or if you are struggling with how you can best support them in their transition, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow to talk to one of our experienced therapists.