Our kids are THE BEST!!
Still, trans-kids bring unique challenges and joys to the world of parenting. Here are a few tales and tips from other parents to help encourage you and bring a bit of joy into your day.
"Mom, Dad, we need to talk."
My exposure to the concept of transgender in graduate school probably consisted of a paragraph in my human sexuality book. In 2001, the topic was not really discussed in the news as frequently as it is today. Although my college experience was not super helpful on the subject, I have had the privilege to learn from a handful of courageous teens that remain very close to my heart. Witnessing their struggles has compelled me to write a blog to give them a voice in an environment where they feel they have none.
In case you have been living under a rock, let’s get down to the basics – “What does Transgender actually mean?” Merriam-webster.com defines Transgender as: “relating to, or being a person whose gender identity differs from the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth; especially : of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity is opposite the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.” In easy terms, when internal feelings about gender do not match the gender documented on the birth certificate. The brain says one thing and the body shows something different.
For the purpose of this blog, I am using the genders non-conforming and non-binary under the transgender umbrella. This is not completely accurate but I did this to keep the writing clear and to the point.
If you recently learned that your child is transgender, you may feel a mixture of emotions and confusion. Please allow me make it worse for you for a moment to highlight a very important point. According to a study conducted at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, “30 percent of transgender youth report a history of at least one suicide attempt, and nearly 42 percent report a history of self-injury, such as cutting.” That statistic is fairly consistent with one quoted in a 2015 USA Today article: “41 percent try to kill themselves at some point in their lives, compared to 4.6 percent of the general public.”
The high suicide rate has left many to wonder why an individual would consider transitioning. The research I have read has suggested that the emotional pain does not come from the feeling of being trapped in a body that does not match their gender. It stems from the discrimination, violence, bullying, harassment, and rejection by family and friends. If you would like to read about this in more detail check out any of the articles hyperlinked in this article.
Ready for the positive side? You play an integral part in protecting your child from some of the risk factors. A Canadian study documented a 57 percent drop in the suicide rate when transgender individuals have supportive parents. That is powerful!
Now let’s talk about what teens want…
The 6 things Transgender Teens
wish parents knew
It’s not about you. After hearing your child announce they are transgender, you may feel confused, angry, or concerned, or you may not know how to react. Many parents go through a process of grieving the loss of the gender of the child they thought they had. This is all okay and perfectly normal. However, it is important to deal with your emotions separately from your child. They are experiencing a flood of feelings and are likely scared. Adding guilt about your feelings may be overwhelming to them. That is not to say you can’t share your feelings and thoughts. Just don’t dwell on those feelings with your child. Seek counseling or a local or online support group. The Gay And Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) website has a plethora of resources listed.
“I am still the same person.” Your child didn’t automatically change upon announcing their transgender status. They are the same person on the inside. Many people tell me they never felt like they belonged in their body or that they felt uncomfortable with the pronouns people used with them but didn’t understand why. As they matured and developed they started to understand more clearly and were better able to articulate this.
“It hurts when you don’t use my preferred pronoun/name.” Dale Carnegie says it best when he says, “A person’s name is the sweetest sound.” This is one of the easiest ways to support your child. It takes time to get used to using the preferred pronouns and name. You will stumble on your words and correct yourself often but when the effort is there, the person will feel supported and loved. This is a good time for me to remind you- again – it is not about you. Your child isn’t rejecting the name you gave them at birth, they are finding a name that fits their gender.
“I hate it when you infer, ‘it is just a phase’.” The therapist in me says, “Even if it is, who cares?” A former 18 year old client expressed this beautifully in saying, “[e]ven if it is a phase, it’s still who they are for the time being and it’s a small thing you can do to make your child feel good when a lot of the time it feels the world is against them.” If it is a phase and you support your child, they will get through it, your relationship will be preserved, and they will feel empowered to express themselves throughout their life. What a wonderful experience!
There is a lot of information on the internet. Read about it. Learn and grow with your child. Did you know that neuroscience is beginning to look at the idea of gender existing on a spectrum? What about the concept that gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things? Darlene Tanto explains the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation well in the hyperlinked blog above. Taking the time to read and learn is another way to show love and support for your child.
“Expressing myself through my clothes and hair style is important.”It may be hard to get used to the child you knew as your daughter shopping in the men’s section or wanting to get “her” hair cut super short. Or the child you knew as your son wanting to wear makeup. In the end, these are just external things. If it makes them feel more secure, let them do it. Hair can grow back. Your child may not always want to wear makeup. Supporting these desires will help your teen adjust much easier.
This is a scary and confusing time for you and your teen. Don’t panic. Seek support, education, and maybe even a therapist who is knowledgeable in this area. A good counselor can be useful in helping family members individually or help the family unit as a whole. You have the power to decrease at least some of the risk factors for suicide.
Read the full story here: Counseling Kids
Advice to Parents & Friends of Transgender People
Our son is transgender. We welcomed him into the world 26 years ago as a daughter, but he is now our son. What does that mean? Three years ago he had surgery to give himself a more masculine body. Two years ago he began hormone treatment, which led to male puberty. He changed his name from Emily to Jeremy and asked that we use male pronouns. We are proud of him and love him.
As the parent of a transgender man, I am sometimes asked for advice. I offer the following as a way to help others who have someone trans in their lives.
Know that your transgender friend or family member is an individual, not just a representative of the transgender community. e or she is the same person as before transitioning. Whatever you talked about before will still interest him or her afterwards. They may or may not be politically active in the LGBT community. They may be open about being transgender or they may want to simply live their life as the gender as which they identify. Take your lead from your friend or loved one.
Listen with an open mind and heart. You won’t know how to best support your child or friend or brother or sister or parent if you don’t listen, and do so in a non-judgmental manner. Someone transitioning is on a journey that requires tremendous courage. Respect that and believe that your friend or loved one is trying their best to guide you as to what they need from you. Know that this will get easier over time.
Use whatever name and pronoun is requested. A transgender individual will have spent a lot of time and emotional energy deciding on a new name and the pronouns to use. Don’t worry if the pronouns aren’t familiar to you or if they don’t sound grammatically correct. Don’t worry if you make mistakes; my son only gets annoyed when someone calls him by his old name if he feels as if that person isn’t trying.
Recognize that everyone’s journey is different. Many articles have been written about children who have known from the time they were toddlers that they were a different gender from how the one identified for them at birth. Some people don’t figure things out until much later and their journeys don’t follow a straight line. There is no one right way to be transgender.
Educate yourself. Watch videos. Read books. Explore articles on the Internet. More resources appear every day and they can be a tremendous help. Ask your transgender friend or family member what websites they found to be most helpful and then visit those yourself. Likely you will find stories similar to your own.
Become a part of an LGBTQ/ally community. You are not alone. There are some wonderful groups of people who have been fighting for LGBTQ rights for a long time and are extraordinarily welcoming of friends and family of transgender individuals. Not only will you find that they help you through what could be a difficult journey, you will also find that you make some new friends.
Express support – strongly and frequently. Transgender children are among the most bullied in our schools. Trans teenagers often suffer from depression and over 40 percent have attempted suicide. Transgender adults are all too often the targets of hatred and violence. This is a difficult path. Nobody follows it lightly; they do so because it is who they are. Expressing your love and support can go a long way toward making things easier. And, if your trans friend or loved one has gone public, speak up openly to show your acceptance. Every time we share our stories about the transgender people we care about, we build awareness. Hopefully, with that awareness will come greater acceptance.
Be joyful. The journey, although hard in some ways, will also be filled with joy. I will not pretend that there aren’t difficult moments, that in some ways, I grieved for the loss of my daughter. But the joyous times are many. The realization that I’d had a son all along. The pride when I recognized the courage my son demonstrates every single day. The love that I feel for him. The incredible happiness that my son’s transition has brought to him. When he looked over this article for me, his response was, “I’m glad that you ended with ‘Be joyful.’ Transitioning is the most affirming thing a person can do. While scary, allowing yourself to be one hundred percent yourself is joyful indeed.”
Jo Ivester is the author of the recently published, award-winning memoir, The Outskirts of Hope, the story of her family’s time living in an all-black town in Mississippi during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. She has recently completed a national book tour and was featured on NPR’s show, Author’s Corner. She is now working on a new book, focusing on her transgender son.
Source story: Huffington Post
3 Tips for Parents of Transgender Kids
As if parenting wasn’t enough of a challenge,
sometimes our kids throw us curve-balls that we just didn’t see coming. Working through gender identity with our child isn’t just a curve ball — it’s all kinds of crazy pitches all at once!
There’s a lot to deal with for both a transgender child and their parents. Here are 3 simple tips to encourage you as the wonderful mom or dad you are.
1. It’s Okay to Cry!!
ANY life-changing event is worthy of letting those emotions flow! It’s healthy to release the tension in your body, mind, and spirit. Having a child with gender dysphoria isn’t as world-shattering as someone who has a seriously ill child or loses a son or daughter to death, but darn it …IT IS A BIG DEAL!! There are changes in family dynamics, friendships, school protocols, and social acceptance that now need to be considered. And that’s just the practical stuff. :-0
The more “Mom’s Heart” issue is a sense of losing the little boy or girl that you birthed or adopted. This is very true …but … it’s not so different from how we feel anytime our children grow up. All of our babies and toddlers and kindergarten-kids grow up to become someone new and more mature (well — we won’t talk about middle-school, just yet).
So is it okay to cry? ABSOLUTELY!!! Let all those fears and memories wash down your cheeks and give room in your heart for new and exciting experiences that you’ll have with your child as you discover their amazing new identity.
2. Find the Purple Swirl
Many people think there are only two genders, male and female. If someone they know is transgender, they assume it means that person is either 100% boy wrapped in a girl package or vice versa. That’s seldom the case.
If gender were two scoops of sherbet, with a scoop of blue for boys and a scoop of pink for girls, there are a lot of shades and swirls in-between the two scoops. The other thing is: those swirls aren’t usually static — they move around.
Because our language and society doesn’t really have good words for “in-between” genders, it’s very difficult to describe the experience to ourselves, much less others. As a child, it can be even more challenging since there isn’t a life-experience of examples from which to analogize or explain to others.
What’s a parent to do? Help your child discover what shade of female/male/in-between they are; in other words: “find their purple swirl.”
Explore with gentle questions like, “When did you first begin to feel different than other boys (girls) around you?” or “How have your feelings changed about ___(favorite activity with other kids)___,” or “If you could wave a wand and change your body, would you prefer it was a one-time-only spell to become a girl (boy), or something you could change back and forth?”
Exploring with your child will help both of you bring a better personal context to their gender identity, help build safe-place for future discussions, and demonstrates your love and care for them.
A word of caution though — be careful not to become an interrogator shooting one question after another, or a manipulator pushing the child toward a specific answer. This brings me to point three…
3. Don’t Clutch the Steering Wheel
Okay — some of you moms and dads are completely laid back and chill with whatever comes your way. God bless you.
That isn’t me, and (I suspect) it isn’t a whole lot of the rest of us, either! :-D
I want to grab the wheel when my daughter is heading down a road I knowisn’t going to work out well for her. Well — “strongly suspect” isn’t going to go well, anyway.
Working through gender dysphoria is just another dynamic in finding our personal identity. Most of us don’t have a clear vision of who we are or who we want to be before we reach the magic adult age of 18. Frankly, I know a lot of people still searching at 48.
Like all other “growing up” issues, give your child room to explore safely but set safe boundaries. What I mean is this: things like hair styles, make-up, and clothes aren’t worth the battle. All of that stuff is “outside” the brain, body, and soul. It can and will change, just like any kid growing into an adult. However, ground-rules on how to handle transphobic adults in authority and places you agree are safe for authentic gender expression and restroom use, as well as unsafe places and people that are “off-limits” should be very clear.
So there are your three tips! Above all, remember that if you’re doing your best, you’re a TRANSTATIC parent!! Doing our best with what we know is all any of us as parents can expect of ourselves.
Article is featured here: Medium - Salina Brett
Dads Write Powerful Affirmations for Their Daughters
Inspired by this viral video of a father reciting positive affirmations to his daughter in the mirror before her school day, we asked seven dads to write their own words of encouragement for their girls. Here, the daughters repeat the phrases back to their dads, declaring themselves loved, smart, and strong. Make sure you have an industrial-sized box of tissues within reach.
Watch it here: The Scene
WHY TRANSGENDER KIDS SHOULD WAIT TO TRANSITION
Most gender dysphoric children outgrow their dysphoria, and do so by adolescence.
Popular opinion suggests that early intervention is the necessary approach in order to remedy a child’s gender dysphoria. This consists of early social transitioning followed by hormone blockers to prevent the otherwise irreversible changes of puberty, contra-sex hormones, and, if desired, eventual sex re-assignment surgery. Denying a child these interventions is viewed as antiquated and cruel.
But research has shown that most gender dysphoric children outgrow their dysphoria, and do so by adolescence: Most will grow up to be happy, gay adults, and some, like myself, to be happy, straight adults. There is a small proportion of trans kids whose dysphoria will persist and who would benefit from medical intervention, but the tricky part remains predicting whom these ideal candidates will be.
For a young child whose gender dysphoria would have desisted without intervention, these procedures amount to a needlessly challenging process to undergo—and that’s without considering the implications of choosing to transition back. Even a social transition back to one’s original gender role can be an emotionally difficult experience for children.
Waiting until a child has reached cognitive maturity before making these sorts of decisions would make the most sense.
Read more of the article here: Pacific Standard
While there are some things in this article I would challenge, I do think special caution needs to be taken with children as they explore their identity in ALL aspects of who they are. Hence, why I felt moved to post it. My opinion: In the end, the parent makes the best decision they can for their child - as it has always been.
The partner of a transgender woman talks about stepping into the role of mother.
Coming to terms with your truth and making the decision to live life as your authentic self is tough. When a person makes the decision to physically transition, hormone replacement therapy is usually one of the top five things on the to do list. When my wife started HRT, I had no idea what to expect and the unknown is always a little frightening. I had done some reading about the effects of hormone replacement therapy on a transgender discussion website. The one thing that was echoed over and over again was that no matter what the age of the transgender person, a second puberty was in the horizon.
It got me thinking back to when I went through puberty. What my experiences were, how the introduction of hormones changed me physically, and what kinds of interactions I had with my family and friends. Then, I thought about going through puberty with each of our daughters. I really don't know which one was harder on me. Going through it myself or going through it with my kids, but I did know that it was all a little nutty. Now, I was preparing to go through puberty one more time with my wife, and the both of us were in our 40's.
"HANDS DOWN, THE BEST PART OF HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY WAS WATCHING MY WIFE COME TO LIFE."
Hands down, the best part of hormone replacement therapy was watching my wife come to life. It was as if she had gone away for a spa retreat and come home rejuvenated. Everything we did in those first few months she was doing for the first time. From her first trip to the salon to shopping and everything in between. I enjoyed teaching her lots of new things, like different ways to do her hair, and how to paint her fingernails. After years of battling depression, it was amazing to watch her rebirth. I was secretly hoping that I could keep up with her newfound energy and vigor for life.
She was definitely on hormones for several months before I saw what reminded me of a temper tantrum. We were out shopping at a craft store for accessories that we needed for a costume party. She got frustrated with me in the store and instead of talking it through, she told me to forget about it, she didn't want to go to the party anymore, and that she wanted to go home. Shock hit me first. I had never seen her act like that before, but I was not willing to let it stop me from getting what we needed and going to this party. As much as I wanted to go back at her with some swear words, and scold her like a child, I kept my head. I reminded myself that I was dealing with the 13 year old inside her.
"THIS IS THE REASON I AM THANKFUL FOR THE ONLINE AND IN PERSON SUPPORT GROUPS FOR PARTNERS THAT I ATTEND."
This is the reason I am thankful for the online and in person support groups for partners that I attend. It always makes me feel better to hear that I am not the only one having these experiences, and that I am not alone feeling the way I do. Being able to share with one another is amazing, and the support that I get from these people is priceless. It seems that the occasional shift into mothering is true for the partners of transgender men as well. I have heard partners of trans men tell a similar tale. Having to deal with bursts of anger and rage. Slamming things and punching holes in walls to express their frustration. This might not be the best way to communicate how you are feeling. Not to mention how frightening it can be to the partner.
I do sometimes feel that I am thrust into the roll of mother, but it is not the fault of my wife or I. This is just an unavoidable byproduct of years of suppressed feelings and denying her inner self. Through it all, I try to remind myself that she was not socialized as a girl. She missed out on her mother doing her hair, playing with dolls, and having girlfriends. Subsequently there are things that she never learned and holes of information missing. I love my wife with all my heart and soul. I am elated that I am the person who gets to fill those holes.
Read the full story here: The Maven
Is the Transgender Brain Unique?
Some children insist, from the moment they can speak, that they are not the gender indicated by their biological sex. So where does this knowledge reside? And is it possible to discern a genetic or anatomical basis for transgender identity? Exploration of these questions is relatively new, but there is a bit of evidence for a genetic basis. Identical twins are somewhat more likely than fraternal twins to both be trans.
Male and female brains are, on average, slightly different in structure, although there is tremendous individual variability. Several studies have looked for signs that transgender people have brains more similar to their experienced gender. Spanish investigators—led by psychobiologist Antonio Guillamon of the National Distance Education University in Madrid and neuropsychologist Carme Junqu Plaja of the University of Barcelona—used MRI to examine the brains of 24 female-to-males and 18 male-to-females—both before and after treatment with cross-sex hormones. Their results, published in 2013, showed that even before treatment the brain structures of the trans people were more similar in some respects to the brains of their experienced gender than those of their natal gender. For example, the female-to-male subjects had relatively thin subcortical areas (these areas tend to be thinner in men than in women). Male-to-female subjects tended to have thinner cortical regions in the right hemisphere, which is characteristic of a female brain. (Such differences became more pronounced after treatment.)
“Trans people have brains that are different from males and females, a unique kind of brain,” Guillamon says. “It is simplistic to say that a female-to-male transgender person is a female trapped in a male body. It's not because they have a male brain but a transsexual brain.” Of course, behavior and experience shape brain anatomy, so it is impossible to say if these subtle differences are inborn.
Read the full article here: Scientific American
Transgender people are born that way, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of São Paulo’s Medical School have compared the brains of trans and cisgender adults, and discovered that they are significantly different.
In the study, it was found that the insula – a region of the brain – had a distinct volume depending on whether it was in the brain of a trans or cis subject.
The insula plays an important role in people’s body image, self-awareness and empathy.
Giancarlo Spizzirri, first author of the study – which was published in Scientific Reports – said that the result led them to believe that people are trans in the womb.
“We found that trans people have characteristics that bring them closer to the gender with which they identify and their brains have particularities, suggesting that the differences begin to occur during gestation,” he said in a statement.
Carmita Abdo, coordinator of the Sexuality Research Programme at the university and the study’s principal investigator, emphasised that the study showed being trans was not a product of society.
It found that the term ‘transgender’ “doesn’t just refer to different kinds of behaviour that people develop,” said Abdo.
“We observed specificities in the brains of trans individuals, an important finding in light of the idea of gender ideology, ” she added.
“The evidence is building that it’s not a matter of ideology. Our own research based on MRI scans points to a detectable structural basis.”
Professor Geraldo Busatto, who heads the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Laboratory at the university’s hospital, said it would be “simplistic to make a direct link with transgender, but the detection of a difference in the insula is relevant”.
Busatto, an associate researcher, said this was because “trans people have many issues relating to their perception of their own body, because they don’t identify with the sex assigned at birth, and in addition, they unfortunately suffer discrimination and persecution.”
Read the full article here: PINK News
My Child Is Transgender: This Is How I Know
I thought I had a girl. Then I thought I had a tomboy. But now I know: I have a son.
By Alex Bliss*
We were in bed, my arm around her shoulder, her body warm and soft. I gave my 4-year-old a squeeze. "Night-night, buttercup." So tired, as always, I slid one calf from the Spider-Man comforter, my foot onto the floor.
"What happens when we die?"
There was anxiety. I'm not ready for this. Not now. Then a deep breath. A sigh. "Well, honey..." A long pause.
Then, finally, "No one knows for sure. Some people believe that nothing happens. Others say you go to heaven and are reunited with your loved ones, and then there's reincarnation -- that you are born again as a baby and you start over."
I expected questions that I wouldn't be able to answer: What is heaven like? How does reincarnation work? Isn't nothing scary?
"I believe in reincarnation," my 4-year-old announced, confidently. "And when I come back, I'm going to be a boy, and my name will be Shane."
My breath caught in my throat. What did she just say?
Until that moment, I'd seen my rough-and-tumble girl as a tomboy who loved mud puddles, forts, superheroes, zombies, and Hot Wheels. Brave and true, she was 35 pounds of adorable awesomeness.
Or was it more than that? Didn't she always choose the boy pieces in Chutes and Ladders? Weren't her closest friends boys? Did she ever once play with the My Little Pony she got for Christmas? Hadn't every pink or purple outfit ended up in the Goodwill bag, unworn? Didn't she enjoy it when other people mistook her for a boy?
Read the full story here: Parenting Magazine
"Is My Child REALLY Transgender?"
4 Sly (but loving) 'Mom Tests'
So here you are, completely blown away by your kid’s latest revelation. You’ve surfed the internet, asked others what they know, fretted about your parenting skills, and maybe you’ve even seen a counselor for advice. The burning question lingers. It’s the last thing in your mind before going to sleep and it’s the first one when you wake up:
“Is my child REALLY transgender?”
Drumroll, please … And the answer is:
“YES! ‘dot dot dot’ for now.”
Yeah, I know. Lots of eyerolls, but let me elaborate a bit and then offer a few helpful, sly-mom tests to give you clues about whether your child is long-term transgender or “just going through a phase.”
We all go through convolutions of identity as we grow up. Sometimes we even have middle-of-life contortions that wreak havoc in what we thought was a well-established self-identity. A child working through a transgender identity is no different than any other identity struggle — it just brings some unique social and family challenges with it.
Why “Yes … for now?”
Let’s run through a couple of illustrations: puppy love and a dream job.
When we’re young and we crash-crush on that boy or girl with the dreamiest big eyes and smile, the feeling is as real and big as any love can be. Even a 10-year-old hates being told “It’s just puppy love. It will pass.” For the person experiencing the feeling -it is very REAL!! Doesn’t matter whether or not it will pass. It’s real ‘dot dot dot’ for now.
Or how about this one: You spent years working toward what you thought would be a perfect job. It finally comes your way and you’re star-struck excited about the opportunity. You settle in, and for a while, it’s all honeymoon and roses. Even the rough spots seem easy to deal with. You ARE the job position, and you have business cards, salary, and an org chart to prove it.
But after some time, your perspective begins to change. You don’t want to believe it at first, because you’ve invested WAY too much of your life and dreams for it to be wrong. But — the day finally comes. You wake up. You look in a mirror. You say to yourself: “Self. This isn’t me. I wasn’t made to do this.”
Both illustrations are very real from the point of view of the person experiencing their life, regardless if it passes quickly or takes a while. Heck, it might even work out — you happily marry your childhood sweetheart or completely love the career you always knew was you. It’s from here that we start.
Why might my child’s transgender experience be “just a phase?”
Several reasons, actually.
Curiosity. I think most of us are curious about what the “other gender” says and does when they’re all alone in the ladies restroom or working in the garage. Being transgender is a unique way of exploring what the “other gender” does and who they are.
Exploring sexuality. This is mainly for adolescents. Clothing has powerful sexual connotations. Women’s clothing has many fetish and erotic attractions for a male; men’s clothing has the ability to give a female a sense of power. Being transgender is a way to not just be aroused by the clothing of the other gender, but be aroused by being the other gender.
Relief. Gender roles bring gender expectations. Boys and men are socially expected to be one way; girls and women are expected to be another way. For people who struggle to meet these social expectations, or just do not want to meet social expectations, living as their birth gender is exhausting. Being transgender affords a break from being what others expect. This is especially true for mtf cross-dressers.
“I’m going to push your d*mn button!!” Yeah — that’s a reason. Two-year-olds exert personal authority to free their identity from being a baby constantly tied to mom. Teens do it to free themselves from being “the child.” Being transgender affords SO MANY wonderful ways to snub authority in religious, school, social, and home settings.
So — what about those sly mom tests?
Whether or not your child is going through a “transgender phase” or is legitimately expressing a transgender identity, there are some things a mom can do that BOTH support the child AND help provide clues to the depth of their “YES-for-now” transgender identity.
Mom Test #1: One for Two wardrobe change. A child (at least mine did) tends to want “everything now.” In an effort to be the supportive mom, we are tempted to do a whole wardrobe redo. (Plus -for some us, clothes shopping is fun.) Rather than buy out Old Navy or Apostrophe, work with the child to pick out two tops or bottoms to discard for every new one gained. (Be sure to thin out outgrown items, first.) Here’s the test: Does the child pick their “favorite” clothes to discard, or the items that don’t usually get worn? If they’re willing to ditch that favorite pair of jeans — it’s more serious than if they ditch the shirt Aunt Sally sent them for Christmas. It’s a good idea to just set the clothes aside for donation. If the child really is just “in a phase,” having the old, familiar clothes will be a relief … and it’s cheaper. If it’s long-term, the child will likely be very happy to go with you to Goodwill or the church rummage sale.
Mom Test #2: Picture-for-Picture replacement. Some of us want to remove all the old-gender pictures as an immediate show of support for our child’s new gender. Don’t rush on that — there’s a tell that can be discovered by sly, but loving moms. Here’s the test: Ask the child to walk through the house and decide if the picture stays or goes. Agree to their decisions (shows support) but add two provisos: First — at least one or two get to stay in your personal “mom space” in the house. Two — at least one or two NEW gender pictures will replace the prominent location the old-gender photos once held. If the child is totally cool with that — especially if a replacement includes a group, family photo as their new gender — it’s more serious than if they’re reluctant to have new photos replace the old.
Mom Test #3: Write a letter to Grandma. Yeah — so a lot of us parents just take the initiative to tell our parents about what’s up with their beloved grandchild who isn’t who we all thought they were. It’s juicy news, and we also don’t want that weird interaction when the holiday get-together happens. Not so fast — let your child do that. Here’s the test: Have your child write a letter (or email) to a couple of your key family relatives. Make an agreement that you can see the letter since this IS a “family support issue,” and reassure them that you’re backing them up 100%. Ensure the letter contains when they first felt transgender, why they are coming out now, how they want to be addressed (name and pronouns), and what they hope the future will hold. This does a LOT of things. It forces the child to think through their identity and own it. It also helps you, as mom, understand where they are coming from. It informs close family members of a significant change. If your child doesn’t have a problem writing this letter — it’s more serious than if they balk. (PS: Don’t give in to “I don’t write letters.” Fine — call Nanna and tell her over the phone or Skype. I’ll dial the number.)
Mom Test #4: Trial runs away from friends. Friendship in childhood and adolescence are extremely protective and insular shells. That’s why we call them cliques. When your “in” you’re 100% in. When your “out,” you’re 100% out. It’s much easier to be “trans” when your friendship pack is with you. It’s a whole different experience when they are not. Here’s the test: Have your child present theirself authentically to run an errand with you, or attend a function for another child or family member where their friends won’t be around. If they are cool with hanging out with mom, in public, no friends in sight — it’s more serious than if they say “no way.” (Hint: you can bundle the new clothes shopping with this one. Bonus if you can share the changing room. Double points if your mtf child welcomes that.)
There you are, you sly mom — four loving tests that not only support your child, but give you clues to the depth of their identity change. As with all parenting advice — you know your kids better than ANYone in the world. Use your judgement and gut instinct on reading their reactions. Be sure to take care of yourself so that you can care for your child. A big reason why your child is so amazing is because of your love for them.
How can I know that?
Hey — you’re reading an article on how to support a child who thinks they are TRANSGENDER!!
THAT … is my sly little test to discover if you really ARE a totally transtastic and amazing mom.
Result: You passed — 100%.
If you have a transgender parenting story to tell, I'd love to feature it here. Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org