I’ve thought a lot about what I would do if my child was transgender. Not because it’s something I want to prevent, or something I’m worried might happen. No, I’ve thought about it because I want to be prepared with ways to support a transgender child if they tell me that they think they’re trans (and especially if they tell me they know they’re trans). Maybe they won’t use the word "transgender," but if they express a dysphoria with their body or a feeling that they’re not the gender they were assigned at birth, I want to be able to help guide them through the process of claiming their true gender.
Supporting your transgender child is crucial to helping them develop self-worth and a sense of love for who they are. Unfortunately, growing up trans can still be very difficult. It shouldn't be this way anymore, but even in 2016, they’ll likely face judgement and scrutiny from the outside world. They shouldn’t have to face it at home, too. Their home and their family should be their safe haven, one that builds them up and validates their whole self, that accepts them for who they are and loves them for exactly that. So if you find yourself raising a transgender child, or know someone who is, here are few things should and shouldn't do to support a trans kid and make them feel totally, completely loved.
1. Do Let Them Know You Accept Them
It can be scary for a child to tell their parents that they feel different. But letting your kid know that you accept them for who they are is really important. Even if you feel unsure or confused, supporting your child’s identity should come first and foremost. Feeling accepted at home can help them feel more secure in being who they are outside of their home.
2. Don’t Tell Them It’s Just A Phase
Your child gets to be the expert on their own self. Even if their gender identity ends up being fluid over the course of their life, invalidating their identity by suggesting it’s a phase or that they’ll “grow out of it” can create shame and insecurity in a kid.
3. Do Follow Their Lead
Take your cues from your child when it comes to how you refer to them, what pronoun they use, and how they present themselves. Give them the space to make the decisions that feel true to them. Challenge the gender binary in your own home so that they feel free to think outside of gender norms.
4. Don’t Forget To Find Your Own Support
Supporting your child requires that you be in a strong place yourself. Finding support for yourself can be incredibly helpful as you process the confusing emotions that may come about when you have a child who is trans.
5. Do Seek Out Other Trans Children
Finding other transgender kids that your child can relate to can be super helpful. Showing them stories of trans kids online lets them know that they’re not abnormal or broken or alone in this. People like Jazz Jennings are also great examples of trans kids doing awesome things.
6. Don’t Sugarcoat Things
Be honest with your child about the way the world may respond to them. If you’re not, you’re failing to prepare your child to navigate the world, which is part of our job as parents. Let them know what to expect and help prepare them to cope with it.