In the days after my son Leo came out as transgender, I wasn’t sure who I could talk to about how I was feeling. Part of it was because I didn’t know if my feelings were okay. The other part was more complicated. I didn’t want anyone to misinterpret my emotions as a lack of love or support for Leo. More importantly, I didn’t want anyone to take something I said and use it as an excuse not to support Leo themselves. Thinking about it now, it feels like a lot of pressure that wasn’t mine to carry, but that was how I felt. My first instinct was to protect Leo, even if that meant I had no one to talk to about how I was doing or feeling.
So, how do you know who is a safe person to talk to about your child?
Part of it is gut instinct. Who are the safe people you are already going to when something big happens in your life? Start there. Do you trust those people with your deepest, darkest secrets? Are you already confiding in them when things in your life are hard or complicated or messy? Do they ask good questions and provide good advice when you ask? Do they know when you need space? Are they able to sit when you and let you talk and cry and not offer an opinion if that is what you need? Those might be your people.
Your true friends will ask how you are before asking how your child is doing.
That’s a good sign you have someone safe to talk to. It’s okay to stay closed off until you decide who is safe and who isn’t. You don’t have to share how you are doing right away. “It’s a lot, and I’m still processing” is a perfectly valid answer until you get your bearings. Your people know that you’ll share when you are ready. They will keep showing up. Pay attention to who those people are.
People who keep showing up are usually people you can trust.
You may have people you are close with, but know this is not a topic you can “go there” with. That’s okay. Sharing about your child isn’t for everyone. That doesn’t make them bad friends. But know that some friendships won’t weather your child coming out. Some friends won’t be comfortable with you having a transgender child, even if they offer their support for you and your family. You may have to let those friendships go.
It’s okay if your inner circle is small. At first, you may want just a few key people in your circle of trust. As time passes, you may feel more comfortable sharing with additional friends and family. It’s about your level of comfort and vulnerability. Your circle may never grow bigger, and that’s okay too.
Being the parent of a transgender child is lonely. There’s a good chance you don’t know anyone else with a child who is transgender. If you do, consider yourself lucky. But unlike with other events in your child’s life, there isn’t someone you can reach out to ask your questions to. You don’t have that mom who has gone before you and knows all the tips and tricks. Or the friend who is good at knowing what the next right thing is and has all the answers.
Find people who are willing to share their experiences.
You don’t have to bring them into your circle if you don’t want to. Sometimes it’s helpful to learn from those who have gone before you. But sometimes, it helps to be able to talk to someone who knows what you’ve been through. Who can say, “I’ve been there, and I get it.” Who can point you to resources and answer your questions.
I’m happy to be that person for you. If you feel comfortable sharing with me, I’m happy to listen to your story and answer any questions you have. My email box is always open. You can trust that what you tell me will stay private unless you give me permission to share what you’ve told me. In five years, I’ve only ever shared one idea that one person shared with me, and it had to do with the holidays (and it was an excellent idea).
Have you found your people yet? If not, what are you struggling with in this area? Share about it in the comments, and let’s see if we can figure it out.