When your child comes out as transgender, it's natural to want to learn all there is to know about what that means for you and your child. What does it mean for your child to be transgender? Will they transition, and what are all the different kinds of transitions? Do you have to tell your extended family and friends immediately, or ever? What about the staff of your child's school, if they are still attending, or their friends and their friend's parents? It can be overwhelming.
The first thing you should do when your child comes out is to make sure they feel loved and supported.
Transgender and non-binary youth who have the support of just one family member have 43% lower odds of attempting suicide, according to a 2021 study done by the Trevor Project. Imagine how much higher that percentage would be with two supportive parents.
Here are five ways you can support your child after they come out as transgender:
- Love them the same way you have always loved them. Your child is the same person they were the day before they came out as transgender. The only thing that might be different is their name, pronouns, or gender presentation. None of that changes how you love them. Keep loving them and make sure they know how strong your love is because they feel vulnerable right now.
- Use their name and pronouns. If your child tells you they are changing their name and pronouns, make a real effort to use the new name and pronouns, even if it feels hard. If you are having difficulty using new pronouns for your child, this post has tips that may help.
- Start small. Pick one thing you can manage relatively quickly and then build on your success. It could be complimenting your child's clothing or hairstyle. Perhaps it's buying your child nail polish or new underwear. Something that shows your child you are on board and will be there for them.
- Find support for your child. Your child may not be ready to interact with other transgender or nonbinary people yet but know where to get support for them and you. Are there local organizations in your community? You may have a PFLAG chapter or Strong Family Alliance. GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) provides resources to create safe schools and has kits and programs for students in K-12 to get involved in.
- Go slow. It may seem like your child is in a rush to move forward to the next stages of their transition, but that is because they have been planning for this moment for a long time, and they are excited. Depending on how they decide to transition (social, legal, medical, all of the above, some of the above), some of those processes take time. Prepare your child to be patient and remind them that waiting doesn't make them any less transgender.
Remember, you are your child's best advocate, and while it will take time to process your child's coming out and work through the emotions you feel surrounding it, you can support your child.
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