Dear Parents and Guardians and Loved Ones of Trans Kids,
I’m writing to you as a PSYCHOLOGIST who cares deeply about the wellbeing of your kids. I’ve listened, provided you with research findings, challenged your well-meaning questions, and supported you when you were scared.
I’ve read the books on how to be a supporter of trans youth and adults, gone to lectures, and participated in intensive workshops on how to work with this population, and spent much of my graduate school career talking with my trans adult dissertation participants about their childhoods and their identity.
I have one important thing to say to you:
Trust your kid.
They know what’s best.
Children as young as three years old know their own gender identity.
Yes, three (3) years old!
They might wrestle really hard against their gender identity because it’s almost as though they can sense that you disapprove and they want to make you happy. While they don’t always make the right decisions about everything, the common lesson that I have learned from my work is, trust your kid, whether they are old or young, that they know their gender(s) or lack thereof.
What does trust look like, concretely?
1. When your child or youth comes to you and says “I am a boy” or “I am a girl” or “I am a girl and I am a boy” or “I am neither a girl nor a boy,” nod and say their words back to them.
For example, if your assigned male at birth child comes to you and says, “I am a girl,” you say,
“You are a girl. I love you”
and then, be quiet.
While this statement has not been scientifically proven to do anything, it can’t hurt and, it might show the young child in your life that you hear them and that you love them, and that would be a gift.
2. When your child or youth wants to WEAR a dress or stockings or NOT SHAVE their legs or SHAVE their legs,
Protect them from other people’s comments by saying out loud to naysayers how proud you are of your child’s uniqueness and creativity.
3. GET SUPPORT from people who are **NOT** your child or youth.
Attend a PFLAG meeting (www.pflag.org),
Go to a Transforming Family meeting (www.transformingfamily.org),
Ask your kid’s therapist for the name of a rockin’ therapist or support group FOR YOURSELF.
Whatever you do, do it AWAY from your child.
YOUR CHILD needs to see that **YOU CAN HANDLE THEIR GENDER** just like you can handle their deep love of nature; it is a REAL part of them and who they are.
Be a caregiver who shows their children that they are worth learning more about without putting the pressure on the child or youth to teach them everything.
4. Use your child’s or youth’s CORRECT PRONOUNS.
Do this even though it is hard. If they ask you to use “they” to describe their gender identity, don’t tell them it is grammatically incorrect.
(As an aside, it isn’t according the the Washington Post’s article on the use of “they” grammatically: http://preview.tinyurl.com/WashingtonPostUseOfThey ).
Practice using “they” until you use it naturally.
Ask your children how they want to be referred to in front of others and follow their lead.
You've got this, Loved Ones!
For more information about local resources for your family and loved ones or to set up a free 15 minute phone consultation to begin therapy with Californian psychologist Dr. Abi Weissman (PSY 27497), please call (619) 403-5578, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Dr. Weissman’s web site at www.doctorabi.com. Let’s work together to affirm your child's most authentic self and empower and support you along the way.
Dr. Abigail "Abi" Weissman, Psy.D. of Waves, A Psychological Corporation, is a feminist and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, intersex, and questioning (LGBTQIQ) - affirming, multiculturally competent, clinical psychologist in the Rancho Bernardo and Hillcrest communities of San Diego, California. More information about her and her private practice can be found at www.doctorabi.com
This article does not constitute a therapeutic relationship. Please follow the advice only as it best feels safe to you and your loved ones.