Letting Go of the Child You Thought You Had

When your child comes out as transgender, it’s normal to grieve the idea of the child you thought you had. We’ve had years, sometimes decades, to think about our children in one way. The idea of that child has lived in our minds, hearts, and home, and it doesn’t disappear overnight when our children tell us they are transgender. Letting go of the child you thought you had is where the majority of the grief you feel comes from.

Image is of a boy and girl walking next to a fence on a fall day, with leaves on the ground. They are facing away from the camera and their backs are to us. The girl is in a white sweater, pink tule skirt, white tights and boots. The boy is in a white shirt, tan pants, and boots. The photo is for a blog post called, "Letting Go of the Child You Thought You Had."
Photo by Kevin Gent on Unsplash

When your child comes out as transgender, they are telling you they are someone different than what you thought, gender-wise. Your child is still the same person inwardly that they have always been. They still like the same music and food. They still have the same interests, hopes, and dreams for themselves. But they are not the same person outwardly that you thought they were. They may have asked you to use a new name and pronouns to refer to them.

How you think about your child has changed, along with your idea of who they are.

Changing the idea of who your child is doesn’t happen overnight. When your child began to understand that they were transgender, they needed time to adjust to that reality. They spent time researching being transgender and what it meant and determining how it applied to them. Knowing your child is transgender is one thing. Being able to think about your child in a new way takes time and work.

Be patient with yourself as you adjust to this new way of thinking about your child. Your brain has to learn how to associate a new gender, name, and pronouns with your child. You have to give up the old way of thinking about and referring to your child. And in the middle of that, you have to process the emotions that come with it.

It’s important that you love and support your child while you work through your emotional process.

Your child needs to know that you still love them for who they are. They need to know that your love for them hasn’t changed just because they are transgender. Or that your love isn’t dependent on what gender they are, what name they go by, or what pronouns they use.

Keep supporting your child even when your heart feels heavy and sad. You don’t have to have it all figured out to say I love you, or I’ll be here for you as you determine your next steps. Your love for your child hasn’t changed. Keep loving them the same way you always have.

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