Your Support Network Should Include a Therapist

We’ve talked about how vital your support network is after your child comes out as transgender. You need friends and family who can support you so you can support your child. But your friends and family can only help you so much.

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When my son Leo came out as transgender, it was over the weekend. I spent hours that first day on Google, searching for answers. The thing is, I didn’t know what I was looking for. I wasn’t sure what the correct combination of words was to put into the search bar. Six years ago, many of the articles on the internet about being transgender had to do with poor mental health and suicide statistics. I found article after article about transgender people, mainly women, who had died due to violence.

Google left me feeling fearful and anxious for my child’s safety.

I went from having questions to wanting to curl up in a ball and cry. I was terrified for what the future held for my son. The internet was supposed to answer my questions. Instead, it created more.

Leo came out over the weekend, and I had a therapy appointment scheduled for Thursday. During that time, I was a mess. The more I searched, the more worried I became. Because I didn’t know anyone else with a transgender child, I kept searching for answers on my own.

What I should have done was move up my therapy appointment.

When I finally said, “Ashley told us she’s transgender” (I was still working on names and pronouns at that point) to my therapist, the words came out in a sob. All the confusion, fear, worry, and heartache I felt poured out during that appointment.

I was able to ask my questions and get answers. My therapist explained to me the difference between gender and sexuality, which I was still unclear about at that time. She was able to calm my initial fears and concerns, and we increased the frequency of my appointments.

I learned that having one supportive person can decrease the risk of suicide in transgender youth and young adults. Knowing that gave me hope. It allowed me to stop focusing on what felt scary and start focusing on supporting Leo.

Therapy was a safe place for me to share my emotions away from my son.

When Leo came out as transgender, I was devastated. Not because he was transgender, but because my lifelong dream of having a daughter died. I didn’t understand that at the time. All I knew was that I felt a loss I couldn’t explain and a crushing sadness that wouldn’t go away.

I knew that I shouldn’t share those feelings with Leo. I wanted him to feel loved and supported. Leo’s a smart kid. Never for one minute did I think he expected I was having an easy time. But he didn’t need to hear about it. That isn’t his burden to carry. It’s mine.

Therapy is where I was able to work through what was difficult about my son coming out.

I was able to, after several years, figure out where that sadness came from. For me, it stemmed back to my childhood and never having had a sister. That, in turn, grew my dream of having a daughter one day. A dream that died when my son came out as transgender.

Your experience will be different. Not everyone grieves when their child comes out, but it’s not unusual. However, there are a lot of questions you can work through a therapist with that can help support your child. My therapist helped me navigate complicated insurance policies when Leo went for his top-surgery consult and then was denied by our company. She’s given me questions to ask when I go with Leo to doctor’s visits that I haven’t had to use because the doctors answered them first. But having those questions made me feel better informed.

There are a lot of reasons why your support network should include a therapist. You can’t get the kind of help you need from a therapist from your friends and family. If you need help finding a therapist, start with the Psychology Today website. Click on Find a Therapist. Type in your location in the search bar, and from there, you can specify your needs under “Issues.”

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