Part Two – What to do, what to do…
As stated in part one of this blog, after you make your peace with reality, a solid beginning towards supporting your transgender offspring is just acknowledging to yourself and to THEM that you still love them. Hugs and kisses may accompany these declarations of affection, and those are encouraged, even if your kid is old enough to be embarrassed.
Did we mention to continue breathing? You aren’t alone, obviously. Brad and Angelina may have gone their separate ways, but they have both been the loving, supportive parents of a transgender child. “Oh, that’s liberal Hollywood!” you may say to yourselves. But I guarantee you that this is something that has been happening and continues to happen in every community everywhere. The only difference is how each community chooses to treat the transgendered
If you have noticed people in your community that identify as trans, or if there are any children in your son or daughter’s class that also seem to be experiencing the same thing, consider reaching out– in a respectful, polite way. Remember they may be further along in their journey than you or they may be struggling with their own concerns, but either way it is a deeply personal experience that should be handled with sensitivity and candor. In the end, this can help your family, as well as the family you reach out to, since you will no longer seem so alone in these circumstances. Additionally, they can perhaps recommend a local therapist, support group, parenting forum, or even play group with other transgender kids. As humans, we never outgrow the desire to connect with others like us, so just as your children may be looking to play or interact with other trans youth, you will also benefit from socializing with other adults who, like you, have chosen to be loving and supportive of your child’s gender identity.
Definitely see a licensed clinician. In addition to providing much needed professional guidance based on accepted research, this step can set your mind at ease that “yes, this is actually happening”. Knowledgeable gender specialists can recognize specific markers of gender variance, confirming whether your child exhibits transgender traits as opposed to a phase they are going through. Clinical diagnosis is often something adults require before taking a course of action. These professionals should provide families with the resources towards allowing your trans youth to set goals towards how they ultimately want to live, and all the avenues they can take towards living their truth.
Another way your new therapist can help is to provide you and your family with a list of resources designed for your support. There are online support groups and list-servs, some monthly drop-in groups in certain cities and towns.
There are a growing number or organizations set up to support the families of transgender youth and adults, some in NY, and some national. These are just a few of those resources available online.
PFLAG– envisions a world where diversity is celebrated, and all people are respected, valued, and affirmed inclusive of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Their mission is to build on a foundation of loving families united with LGBTQ people and allies who support one another, and to educate ourselves and our communities to speak up as advocates until all hearts and minds respect, value and affirm LGBTQ people.
Rochester University Counseling Center- keeps an updated list of websites and events with Resources for Parents of Transgender Children
Gender Spectrum– They provide an array of services designed to help families, schools, professionals, and organizations understand and address concepts of Gender identity and expression. They can provide you with the tools to create gender inclusive environments in your homes, offices, and communities, from how-to guides to sample training materials.
TransYouth Family Allies-TYFA empowers children and families by partnering with educators, service providers and communities, to develop supportive environments in which gender may be expressed and respected. They work to create a society free of suicide and violence in which ALL children are respected and celebrated, goals any loving parent can certainly get on board with.
By visiting these sites, others like them, and by talking to other parents, you can begin the process of educating yourself. One way to avoid hurting your child emotionally is by avoiding ignorance, and that means being proactive with your education. Read the books, listen to the therapists, pay attention to those other parents’ stories, but most of all, LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD! Follow their lead when it comes to how they choose to express their gender identity. This can mean simply choosing a more gender appropriate name-like allowing Billy to be called Wendy. Wendy may want to wear her hair long and play with toys considered to be more “female”. This is called “Social Transitioning”. No need to necessarily discuss scary surgery options until they are older, but social transitioning allows a child to feel accepted, and to adjust to this reality as normal from the beginning.
This all must be coordinated with your child’s school, teachers, play groups, etc. Now you must prepare yourself. People, kids and adults included, can be mean. Your kid will have some negative experiences with the ignorant. This is where the important aspect of your role as supportive, effective parent takes center stage. This is the role of advocate. It is your job, as with all parents, to make sure your child has the respect, care, and opportunities that everyone needs to become healthy, well adjusted, successful adult. Just the act of you going to bat for your child, whether is it by confronting narrow-minded school officials, or assisting your son or daughter in dealing with bullies, shows how much you love and accept them. Ultimately, it is a solid home and family that will enable your transgender child to avoid many of the tragic outcomes that are often suffered by kids that don’t have family behind them.