When my son Leo came out as transgender, there were a lot of things I didn't know and understand. The biggest was what being transgender meant in general and what it meant for Leo to be transgender. I also didn't understand what it meant for me to be the parent of a transgender child.
I also didn't understand how to talk to other people about either of those things. I had a lot of thoughts and feelings about it and so many questions, and I was dying for someone to talk to about them. The thing was, I didn't know how to broach the topic, and neither did anyone else.
It's normal to have questions when someone comes out as transgender. The key is knowing which questions are appropriate to ask.
Here are five questions it's okay to ask when someone's child comes out as transgender, in no particular order.
1. What name and pronouns should we use to refer to your child? This is an especially good question if you have not heard what name and pronoun your friend or family member's child uses. It also helps that person practice their child's new name and pronoun, which they will need a lot of.
2. How do we talk about your child's past/childhood? It's a common mistake for people to refer to a transgender person's childhood using their previous name and pronouns. The first time I heard someone say, "When Leo was a little girl," I almost fell out of my chair. The correct thing to do is to use the new name and gender-neutral identifiers such as child or the word little. So, for example, you could say, "When Joe was little" or "When Suzy was a child," which removes the awkwardness of saying, "When Joe was a little boy," which doesn't align with how he presented as a child.
3. Is it okay to share this with other people? This is an important question because you should never out a transgender person without their permission. Your friend or family member's child may not be out socially yet, so discussing it with others would violate their privacy. They may have given their parent permission to share with a select group of people, and you made the cut, so consider yourself privileged.
4. What does this mean for your child? Being transgender looks different for each person. Without asking for specific details, you could ask what it looks like for your friend or family member's child to be transgender. Will they come out socially? Are they going to change their name and pronouns legally? Asking any questions related to medical transitions is never appropriate.
5. How can I support you? Your friend or family member has just had their life turned upside down. They are likely overwhelmed and emotional. They would love someone to talk to; they are just waiting for someone to ask.
Asking questions opens the door to bigger conversations and helps people feel connected. Learning your child is transgender can feel like a lonely time, especially if no one else you know has a transgender child. Supporting your friend or family member by showing an interest in their child and their well-being can go a long way in making them feel cared for.
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