Do you know what it means to parent your transgender child?
When my son came out as transgender, the first thing I had to learn was what the word transgender meant. I didn’t know there was a difference between gender and sexuality and how one was about who you are and the other you love. I spent those first few months learning everything I could about gender identity and gender expression. The next thing I did was to learn what it meant for Leo to be transgender.
Every transgender person is unique and their experience being a transgender person is different.
Some transgender people will socially transition, others will medically transition, others will do both, and some will do neither. There’s no right or wrong way to be transgender. Each person gets to decide for themself what it means for them to be transgender. Then, they choose if they share that information with anyone else.
Leo decided what it meant for him to be transgender, and he shared it with me pretty early on. Before I knew better, I asked him, “What does your transition look like?” shortly after he came out. I thought I was being supportive. I didn’t know then it wasn’t my place to ask him that. If he wanted to share that information with me, it was on him to do so in his own time.
My only job at that time was to love and support Leo. The thing I did correctly in those first days was to ask how I could support him. To learn what it meant for him to be a transgender person from the point of knowledge. To do my research so I didn’t have to pepper him with unnecessary questions. And I did plenty of that as well. There were questions I had specific to Leo himself that Google wasn’t going to answer. And I asked them, so I could learn more about what it meant for Leo to be transgender. And I know he didn’t have to answer them, but he was gracious with me in all the ways.
Just as our children’s experience being transgender will be different, our experience parenting them will be as well.
We may experience the same broad things, but the specific details of those experiences will be unique to each of us. For example, we all will experience our child coming out. But how our child comes out will be different. Your child may come out to you in person, over the phone, or in a note. My son came out in a social media post. And even in those experiences, there are dozens of ways they can look different from each other.
As parents, we can get caught up in comparing our experiences to one another. This leads to feelings of not being good enough or thinking we are doing something wrong. If your experience doesn’t look like mine, you can feel “less than” or that you’re failing somehow.
There’s no right or wrong way to parent your transgender child.
As long as you love and support your child, you’re doing it right. The rest is unique to you and your family. Whatever your experience looks like is okay. Don’t worry that it’s different from someone else’s. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are getting it wrong unless it’s your child. And even then, carefully vet what they tell you that you are wrong about. Your emotions are never wrong, but how you process them might be.
Where are you on your journey to parent your transgender child? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Or feel free to send me an email.