As parents of transgender children, we want what's best for our kids. Even if we don't understand what it means to be transgender when our children first come out, we know that we love them and will do whatever we can to help support them.
We work to learn new terminology and practice using their new name and pronouns. We advocate for them with our friends and family and with their schools. We work through complicated feelings to do our best for them without our stuff getting in the way. And despite all that, sometimes, the best we offer our children isn't enough.
And it's not that what we have to offer isn't enough; it's that our children aren't in a place to be able to receive it.
Our children have complicated feelings about coming out as well. We tend to think that when they come out, they have worked through all the doubt, shame, guilt, and whatever else they feel about their identity and gender. There is a misconception that if they feel ready to come out, they must be in a good place, mentally and emotionally.
Coming out is a complex process that can bring about an emotional response and, for some people, can even be traumatic if the person on the other end is unsupportive. While coming out may improve some people's mental health, it could temporarily decrease the mental health of others.
Each person's coming out journey is individual to them, and you can't know how your child will respond to your offer of support.
If your child is rejecting your offers of support, here are some things to consider:
- It's not about you. While it can feel very personal when you offer support to your child, and they refuse it or push you away, there's a good chance it has nothing to do with you. This is especially true if your child lives independently and has come out as a young adult or adult. They may be working through some things and need to feel like they can do it on their own without the help of mom or dad, and accepting your offers of support would feel like a failure.
- They aren't ready. Even though they have come out to you and others, your child may not have worked through how they feel about their gender and identity yet. Your support and kindness may trigger feelings they aren't ready to deal with yet, so they are shutting you out.
- It's a painful reminder. For some people, coming out as transgender is a new beginning. It brings a new name, new pronouns, a new gender identity, and a new gender presentation. It can also mean saying goodbye to the person they once identified as. For some people, this means leaving people associated with their former life behind, as hard as that is to accept. This may be temporary until they work out their new gender identity and what that looks like going forward, or it may be permanent.
The best thing you can do if your child rejects your offers of support is to give them time and space. If you keep pushing yourself at them, it will drive them further away. Let them know that you love them and you'll be there when they are ready to connect, and then take a step back. Send cards for special occasions and let them know they are loved and cared for, but let them take the lead when accepting your support.
In the meantime, consider enlisting the help of a trained professional to help you work through your feelings and emotions regarding your child's coming out and their rejection of your support so that if and when they are ready, you will be too.
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