Three years ago at the start of a new year, on January 2, 2016, my youngest son came out as transgender. At the time, I was too preoccupied with my own reaction to his announcement to pay much attention to the significance of the date. As a lover of fresh starts and new beginnings and starting over, I couldn’t see how the beginning of the new year made perfect sense as the ideal time to let the world know that you were freeing yourself from a false identity and essentially creating a fresh start.
The symbolic significance of it is beautiful, looking back on it now.
As we move through these first few weeks of the year, I have heard from a lot of parents who are just learning their child is transgender. Especially those who have teen and college age or young adult children who recognize the significance of a fresh start at the new year. Their worlds have been turned upside down and they are navigating uncharted waters as they figure out new names and new pronouns and adjust to a new family dynamic.
Maybe this is you?
If so, you might be wondering what your next steps are moving forward. You might be wondering how you are ever going to get through this, and how come nobody prepared you for this possibility? Let me give you five simple things that can get you through these next few days, weeks, and months.
First, take a deep breath. Now take another one. Your child is okay. You are okay. You may not feel okay right now, and that is alright. It’s normal to have a lot of different emotions when your child comes out as transgender, and as long as you process them in a healthy way, none of them are wrong.
Second, tell your child that you love them. You may have done this already, but tell them again. Your child is feeling very vulnerable right now and they need to know that you support them. You may have a lot of questions and there may be a lot of things you don’t understand. That is okay. There is plenty of time for you to learn. In the meantime, continue to let your child know that you’ve got their back. They might have a new name and a new look, but that same person you loved before is still there underneath it all.
Third, find someone who can support you through this journey. If you don’t already have a trusted therapist, now is the time to find one. You don’t necessarily have to find someone who specializes in transgender issues, but it helps to have a therapist who is familiar in treating parents of transgender children. At the least, you want to make sure that your therapist is pro-LGBTQ and will keep and open mind and support you and your child’s choice.
Four, find other parents of transgender children to talk to. Visit the PFLAG website and see if there is a chapter that meets near you (at the top of the site click on Find a Chapter ). If you are a mom, consider joining the Seredipitydodah Facebook group. You can find out how on this website (it’s a secret group to protect the privacy of the members). There is a special subgroup for moms of transgender children but the main group is just as supportive and full of good information.
Five, take another deep breath. Your child has already done a lot of research and read all the websites and is, what is going to feel like, miles ahead of you on this journey. At times you are going to feel like you need to run just to keep up. Research from reputable websites like GLAAD or the National Center for Transgender Equality. Read books like Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue or The Transgender Teen or Transgender Children and Youth: Cultivating Pride and Joy With Families in Transition.
Remember that you are transitioning as well. You will not be the same parent you are now at the end of this journey. As you learn about your child and the identity they will be presenting to the world for the rest of their lives, you will learn new things about yourself as well, both individually and as a parent. Embrace the journey. It will not always be easy, but both you and your child are going to be okay.