Dear Parent of Trans Child (or Trans Adult):
Congrats! It takes a lot of guts to come out, and if your kid came out to you, it means that they’ve got faith in you to help them along this journey of self-discovery, self-expression, and self-definition.
This might be difficult for you, and that’s okay. What matters most is that you make an effort—to make your child comfortable, to love your child, to help your child. As a parent, it is your responsibility to nurture your child, affirm their identity, and encourage them to reach their goals. This is critically important for parents of trans children to do: to provide a safe haven in a world that wants trans people to hate ourselves, a world that makes us feel othered, a world that hurts us and kills us at disproportionate rates, a world that does everything in its power to snuff out our light.
Here are some things you can do to help your child.
Educate yourself on trans issues. Learn about different identities, especially your child’s identity. Research and ask questions—Google is your friend! There are so many different trans identities. Be receptive.
Make sure your child knows that they are important, that their identity is legitimate, and that they are loved. Many trans people struggle with self-esteem issues, largely rooted in feeling “abnormal” for being trans. What you can do is tell them you are proud of them for coming out, assure them you will do everything you can to help them, and love them. Love them just as you did before they came out. Do not treat them any differently, with the exception of changing names and pronouns as needed.
USE THEIR NAME.
I know this is a hard one. I know it’s difficult for parents of trans kids to accept that their child is choosing a new name. I know you probably spent months figuring out what to name your child, and years calling them by that name. It might especially be difficult for parents to accept that their children might be choosing a new surname. But one thing to remember is that this is not about you—this is about your child, and their identity, and their safety, and their comfort. Practice using their name. Practice talking to them in the mirror, or pretend that lamp over there is your child. Say, “Chosen Name, will you wash the dishes”, or “Chosen Name, do you have work today?” or “Chosen Name, it’s time to get ready for school!”
If you slip up and use their birth name, DO apologize, DO correct yourself, but DO NOT make a big deal out of it. Do not say self-deprecating things about what a horrible parent you are for using the wrong name. Do not get aggressive with your child, or say things like, “I wish you didn’t have to change your name! This is so hard for me!” Do not make it about you. Apologize, correct yourself, and move on.
USE THEIR PRONOUNS.
One of the most important things for a trans person is to have the correct pronouns used for them. Your trans son might want to be called “he”, or your trans daughter might want to be called “she”, or your trans child might want to be called “they”. And yes, “they” is an acceptable singular pronoun—it might not be something you’re used to, but if it helps your child feel secure, please use their pronouns!
DO WHAT YOU CAN TO HELP THEM TRANSITION.
Each trans person has a different goal with transition. For one trans person, hormones may be the end goal. For another, they might want hormones, top surgery, bottom surgery, and other surgeries. Help your transfeminine child get fitted for a bra, or pitch in to buy your transmasculine child a binder. See if your insurance covers puberty blockers, hormones, or surgeries. Help make doctor appointments, and help them find a therapist. Take them out to buy new clothes if it is financially feasible. Take them to local support groups.
So many parents of trans children disown their children, or ignore their child’s identity, or actively harm their child for being trans. Please don’t be one of those parents. Help your child! Let them know they are loved. Support them. This is a difficult journey, but you can make it easier by being by their side through it.
Tranifesto: Trans Etiquette for Non-Trans People, Matt Kailey
University of Rochester: Resources for Parents of Transgender Children