Book Reviews · LGBTQ

Review: The Transgender Teen by Stephanie Brill and Lisa Kenney

The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens is a comprehensive guide written to help parents understand what it means for their child to be transgender or gender-nonconforming and how best to support them.

The Transgender Teen by Stephanie Brill and Lisa Kenney
Photo credit: Simon and Schuster

This book, written by two professionals in their field, is a must-have for parents of transgender teenagers and young adult children. It starts with the parents first. How did you find out your child was transgender and what are some questions and feelings you might have about it? What does it mean for you, and what do you do next?

“You cannot control your initial feelings or what others will think about you or your teen. It is not up to you or because of you that your child’s gender is unfolding in a way you never imagined. But you have choices about how you will respond to this unexpected turn of events in your life.” p. 26

Next, the book explores gender and what it means. The authors define the different terms you might encounter as you learn more about your child and what it means for them to be transgender. They discuss the difference between gender and sexuality and how gender evolves as we mature. They explore all the myths surrounding transgender people and especially how it relates to teenagers. Finally, they cover the different variations of being transgender: non-binary and gender fluid and genderqueer and Intergender and people who identify as transmasculine and transfeminine.

“It can be valuable to think of a person’s gender as something that grows and matures over time.” p.61

The next few chapters talk about adolescence and how it impacts how transgender people view their gender and ways to help them come to have a positive sense of identity. This is important to help prevent feelings of anxiety, depression, and even self-harm that can come from having a vague sense of self (p.99).

The rest of the book is for parents. Chapter 6 is titled “What Keeps You Up at Night” and is not easy to read, if we are honest. If you Google Search “transgender” and go to the GLAAD website, right on the FAQ page, you will read some grim statistics. If that is one of your first search results on the day your child first comes out (as it was mine), you will spend a good part of that day crying.

This chapter is honest about the hardships that transgender people face, and what the mental health risks are especially for teenagers. If your child came out as a young adult, you might learn about things your child suffered through as a teenager that you weren’t even aware of. They give you a heads up that it will be difficult to read when you first start it. Have tissues ready. Take a break when you finish it.

“There is strong evidence that family support is the key to greater health and well-being for these teens. Your love and support have a significant impact.” p. 155

Then there are chapters on how to support your child on their journey, understanding how minority stress impacts your child, professional support and mental health considerations, what you can do to beat the odds, and nurturing your child’s resilience. The kind of topics you didn’t even know you needed to read about yet, but all nicely collected into one volume, answering questions you hadn’t even thought of.

The Transgender Teen is the perfect book to read when your child first comes out as transgender. This is especially true for parents of teen and young adult children. It gives you a place to start your learning journey. It also answers your questions and offers support as you read. The back provides a glossary of terms you might find in the book or as you research more on the Internet.

At 336 pages and twelve chapters, The Transgender Teen is a bit of a longer of a read but worth your time. It’s a book you won’t be able to put down and one you will return to again and again. Also, for parents of younger children, Stephanie Brill and Lisa Kenney wrote The Transgender Child. It addresses topics relevant to children such as navigating schools and doctors visits and how to deal with other families and playdates. What do you do when your son wants to wear a dress to school? Stephanie Brill is the founder of and board chair of Gender Spectrum, an organization at the forefront of work related to children, youth, and gender. You can learn more about them at the link above.

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