In the LGBTQ+ community, we recently observed Trans Parent day, which takes place on the first Sunday in November. According to TransParent.org, which operates a public group on Facebook, this is a day that “celebrates life and the love between Transgender parents and their children. And parents and their Transgender children.”
Not either/or, both/and.
However, I’ve been listening carefully to conversations happening within the LGBTQ+ community about this topic. I’ve heard transgender parents express unhappiness about the use of the term “trans parent” in regards to parents of transgender children. Transgender, or trans, is an adjective that modifies whatever noun can be used to describe a person: man, woman, singer, writer, or parent. So the implication of the word trans parent is that we are speaking about parents who are transgender (whether they have transgender children or not).
I’ve also been listening carefully to conversations happening within the parents of transgender children community, who feel they are included in this day of celebration. The TransParent.org community is very welcoming of parents of transgender children, and the Facebook group is a source of encouragement and support for both groups of parents, welcoming each equally.
I’ve been paying close attention to this dialogue because I use the #transparent hashtag on both Twitter and Instagram. When I first began to use it, I did a quick (too quick, to be honest) search of the posts that came up, and I saw a mix: parent of, and parents that are transgender. I thought only briefly about my posts, and how they would be interpreted under that hashtag. I decided as a parent of a transgender child; it should be fine.
After all, there is an organization called TransParent (separate from TransParent.org), that supports parents of transgender children. Some sites, such as TransParent.org, say that the terms encompass both groups. It should be okay then, I thought, for me to use the hashtag.
I was wrong. I didn’t do enough research, and I’m sorry.
As a community of parents of transgender children, we want to learn and grow and broaden our understanding of what it means to be transgender. We want to be able to communicate in a way that is both respectful and considerate of the transgender and greater LGBTQ+ community. We want to be supportive, loving, and kind to both our children and other transgender people.
As society becomes more accepting and understanding of the diversity of different genders and sexualities, the LGBTQ+ community can express themselves more fully and openly. As a result, the language used in and about the LGBTQ+ community is always changing and being made more inclusive. As we discuss gender and sexual identity, the language made available to us has grown, with some terms falling out of favor, and others becoming more prominent.
As allies, we must pay attention to the changes. We must keep learning the language. We need to be sure that we are using our words to help and not harm.
And because we are people who live in the world, as my friend Kendra says, sometimes we are going to make mistakes. Mistakes don’t make us bad people. They mean we are learning and growing. The best thing you can do when you have made a mistake is to apologize and do better next time.
What’s not helpful?
Insisting that your point of view is correct. You may have evidence to support your position, and that’s fine. But when actual people are stating that something you are doing is causing conflict, you need to pay attention.
Shaming others, instead of educating them. There’s a polite way to inform someone that what they are doing may not be correct. It’s a safe bet that they are going to feel awful when they find out. There’s no need to make them feel worse.
Animosity between two groups on the same team. Parents of transgender children and parents who are transgender both want the same thing: to love and support their children, or to be loved and supported by their children (and/or others).
As allies, and parents, and people who support the LGBTQ+ community, how do we keep up with the changes in the language used to discuss gender identity and sexual orientation so that we don’t cause unintentional harm?
Do the work.
- talk to people in the LGBTQ+ community, including other allies
- read articles and information from reputable sources
- research the topic regularly to stay current with the changes
- attend events and lectures by thought leaders and experts in the field
Going forward, I’ll be using the hashtag #parentsoftranskids on social media. If you are the parent of a transgender child, I invite you to join me. On TransParent day, I’ll celebrate transgender people who are parents, and the amazing organizations, such as Family Equality, that are working hard to ensure legal and social equality for all LGBTQ+ families.
If you are a parent who is transgender or the parent of a transgender child, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic in the comments. How do you feel about the use of this term?