Supporting your Transgender Child
What Does it Mean to be Transgender?
Table of Contents
Gender dysphoria is a valid struggle faced by many individuals who are transgender. The American Psychiatric Association defines it as “a conflict between a person's physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify… sometimes described as being uncomfortable with their body (particularly developments during puberty) or being uncomfortable with the expected roles of their assigned gender.” If your child is experiencing gender dysphoria, you can take on a supportive role by finding helpful resources, such as a therapist who specializes in gender exploration.1
Coming Out as Transgender
Just as people can experience gender dysphoria at any age, they can also realize they’re transgender at any age. Individuals who come out as transgender later in life are just as valid as those who realize their identity earlier. In the same way, if someone comes out in their teens or even younger, they should be embraced for who they are and accepted regardless of their age. Age does not validate or invalidate gender identity realization. Being transgender is not a phase and gender identity is not a choice. If your child has come out and you’re feeling confused or uncertain about your feelings, it is extremely important to know their journey is unique and it’s okay for them to be constantly evolving.
What are the Urgent Health Risks Facing Transgender Children?
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the transgender community. Young people who are transgender are four times more likely to live with depression than their cisgender friends. Transgender youth are also more at risk to attempt suicide, as one in five struggle with this.2
Some young people who are transgender find themselves homeless, many of which have been rejected by unaccepting families. 58% of the gay and transgender youths who are homeless have been sexually assaulted. That number is heartbreaking and points to the need for parents to support their transgender children and become allies.4 Unfortunately, physical danger exists even if homelessness is not in the equation. One survey found that 9% of transgender people included had been physically assaulted within the past year.5
Parent Concerns for Their Transgender Child
If you’re a parent who’s feeling scared about these statistics, it’s completely natural to worry for your child. However, it is not an excuse to invalidate their identity or force them to present as their gender assigned at birth. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Take time to talk with your child about ways that they can be safe in public.
How Can I Support My Transgender Child?
Mistakes are OK if Unintentional
Start with an Honest Discussion
What Do I Need to Know About Medical Interventions?
Reversible Treatment for Younger Children
Puberty blockers “work by blocking the hormones – testosterone and estrogen – that lead to puberty-related changes in your body.”6 While your doctor can tell you about the specific effects this could have, it is a method that has had proven results and can greatly help gender dysphoria. Temporary puberty blockers are available, which are taken periodically to pause further changes. Once stopped, the body will produce the hormones which have been suppressed.
Partially Reversible Treatment for Older Teenagers or Young Adults
Estrogen and Testosterone Therapy
Estrogen and testosterone therapy are incredibly popular within the transgender community. Many may think that these therapies are a quick or all-inclusive option, but there is a lot of variety within them. For instance, some may choose to go on an incredibly low dose and may only experience one or two changes because of this. Even if your child chooses a higher dose, the effects will not be immediate and it may take months, or even years, to see the desired results.
Permanent Surgical Procedures for Young Adults
Transgender surgery modifies the body to add or remove the characteristics chosen by the individual and their surgeon. This can be one of the fastest ways to see results but can also require a thorough vetting process. If your child is experiencing extreme gender dysphoria, surgery could provide relief.
Some transgender surgeries or hormone therapies will require your child to undergo counseling before they begin. This can be incredibly beneficial for their overall wellbeing while providing the peace of mind that comes from knowing a mental health professional is involved.
How Can I be a Public Ally for My Child?
What are the Biggest Transgender Issues Talked About in Public?
Within the past few decades, transgender issues have become more prevalent and frequently discussed in political and athletic circles. Bathroom bans are laws that force transgender people to use the bathroom that aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth.7 There have been no reported cases of transgender individuals harming others in bathrooms matching their gender, and using bathrooms that don’t match their gender are very dangerous for your child. Transgender women forced to used male bathrooms have a higher risk of physical and sexual assault. Transgender males forced to use female bathrooms experience distressing confrontations.
Controversy has also arisen in sports, with some questioning if transgender athletes should compete as their identifying gender or their gender assigned at birth. Different organizations and groups have varying opinions about this issue. Transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in sports, so if an issue has arisen at school, you may need to advocate for your child. If your child is a transgender athlete, remind them that their skills and talents are just as important, valid, and needed.
TERF is the acronym used for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, many of whom believe that transgender women should not be included in women’s issues or have a voice when it comes to critical women’s decisions. There has been lots of controversy surrounding this issue and if you’ve like to learn more, information can be found online.8
Helping My Child