A Parent’s Guide to Supporting Transgender Youth
A Parent’s Guide to Supporting Transgender Youth
Gender identity and expression are central to the way we see ourselves and engage with the world around us. This is certainly true of transgender and gender-expansive children and teens, for whom strong familial support is absolutely critical.
In fact, studies have shown that without this family support, transgender youth:
Have a higher tendency to engage in behaviors that put their health at risk
Are at a higher risk of depression and other mental health problems
Are more likely to become homeless or commit suicide
Familial support is particularly important for transgender youth because it can act as a buffer against any bullying or bias faced outside the home. In addition, it protects against substance abuse, suicidal ideation and depression, issues for which transgender youth are at a disproportionate risk.
My Child Has Told Me They Are Transgender. What Should I Do?
Learning that your child is transgender can bring on a range of emotions, from confusion and fear, to grieving for the son or daughter you thought you had, and it will likely leave you with many questions. Will your child be safe? How will this change the dynamic of your family? What can you do to support your child through this period?
Through it all, you must remember that with the right support, transgender children can lead happy, healthy and successful lives.
WHY YOUR SUPPORT IS SO IMPORTANT
Supporting and helping your child navigate a world that still isn’t easy for transgender people can make all the difference between a fulfilled and happy life and a miserable existence
If you have discovered your child is transgender, here are some simple tips on how to support them:
Take a deep breath and relax. You are going to have plenty of time to work through all the details and emotions you’re likely to experience on this journey with your child. For now, remember that mustering up the courage to talk to you about this must have been very hard for your child. Feel proud that they have taken a huge step towards a happier and healthier life.
Give your child the freedom they need. It’s important to give your child the space to express their gender. There is no easy answer to the question, ‘is my child transgender?’ nor a precise plan of action if they are. All you can do is not hold them back or push them forward before they know who they are. Let them show you how they see themselves and who they are becoming.
Show unconditional love and support. Transgender children face a tough road ahead, possibly with harsh treatment from their school, peers, relatives, and the general public. What they need above all else is your unwavering love and support. You may feel like an emotional rollercoaster, but try to remain calm, positive, and patient for your child.
Protect your child’s safety. Sadly, many transgender children are teased, bullied, or abused. Watch your child closely for signs of bullying and check in frequently with their teachers regarding your child’s treatment and behavior in school. If you fear for your child’s safety, consider moving them into a more diverse and accepting community.
Become an advocate. As your child’s support system and their legal guardian, navigating everyday transphobia is something you’ll have to do. Be prepared to stand up for your child if they’re experiencing discrimination from a teacher, parent, peers, or other adults. Read up on the best ways to support your child and help them through these difficult situations.
Consider finding support groups and other resources. Parental education, support groups, and child and family therapy are critical in helping families better navigate a transgender child’s needs and transition. You, your family members, or friends may experience confusion, anger, or grief, and as such may resist accepting a child’s decision to transition. Family counseling can help during this difficult time.
Other Simple Tips to Keep in Mind
Always use your child’s preferred gender pronouns and preferred names.
Educate yourself about the issues and concerns facing Kenyan transgender youth and adults.
Always be your child’s advocate. Call out transphobia when you see it and ask that others respect your child’s identity and decision to transition.
Encourage your child to stand up for themselves when it’s safe to do so.
Reassure your child that they have your unconditional support and love during this time.
What if I make a Mistake?
As a parent of a transgender child, you are probably going to make some mistakes, and that’s perfectly okay. Come at it with the intention of supporting your child and don’t stay in your comfort zone. If you use the wrong language or say something that upsets them, just apologize and work on correcting yourself in the future.
Jinsiangu: Creating Safe Spaces For Transgender Youth in East Africa
One of the best things you can do for your child is to find a safe space where they can explore their gender identity and their feelings about it. At Jinsiangu, we understand that it may not always be safe for them to do so in the real world, which is why we offer a refuge where they can explore, play, and be free without fear of judgment.
ITGNC Support Groups in Kenya: You Are Not Alone
Jinsiangu offers support groups and psychotherapy support (counselling) for ITGNC persons, as well as their parents. To find out more about our support services, call us at 0700-423-343/0711-300-343. Alternatively, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Post credits: Iman Verjee