In my work with trans kids, I’ve found that what has been the most meaningful and impactful on their ability to thrive in their identity is the support, acceptance, and love of their parents. I’ve noticed three big themes in my work with trans kids: parents educating themselves to serve as a better ally, kids feeling safe at home, and parents being an advocate for their kid. It’s been painful to hear LGBTQ+ kids in session talk about feeling unsupported, and often I’ve noticed that it’s because parents are struggling in one of those three areas. I felt compelled to write this blog post in an effort to help parents focus on the areas that I see making the most impact on their kids.. This is of course not the end all be all of being an ally or a how-to guide on parenting - as a childless 20 something I definitely do not have the credentials for that. But, as a trans therapist it is information I feel passionately about sharing with y’all, especially in light of recent anti-trans bills and laws being enacted in schools. Let’s get into it.
Educate yourself - One of the best things you can do for yourself and for your kiddo is to educate yourself. Resources are abundant and can be confusing or even discouraging when starting from scratch as a trans ally/parent. I’ll add some of my favorite resources at the end of this post to hopefully ease some of that stress and overwhelm. There is a wealth of knowledge out there for guardians to get a better understanding of pronouns, stigmatizing myths of trans folks, the ins and outs of gender affirming care, and many other terms you may not have heard before! Oftentimes, the expectation is put on the transgender community to explain the nuances of their identity to cisgender people. This can feel especially hard for kids. Although cis folx are typically well-meaning, oftentimes questions are asked in a way that comes off as demeaning, albeit unintentionally, because we aren’t taught how to be allies to the community. Additionally, depending on your kiddo’s age they may or may not have the language yet to fully articulate themself, leaving them feeling frustrated and interrogated. A good way to alleviate some of that strain is to educate yourself first, so you can provide support to them in a safe and affirming way.
Allow their home to be a safe space - It is vital that your kiddo’s home becomes and stays a safe space. As they move about the world, they most likely will experience either blatant or subtle discrimination, bullying, macro/microaggressions, etc. When they come home, it is important that their home be a welcoming and affirming space for them to be themself. As the guardian, it is imperative that you create an environment that fosters open communication about your kiddo’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences while you intently listen to them without interruption and without offering immediate solutions. Your kiddo wants to be heard, not just listened to. Using their chosen name and their pronouns throughout every interaction not only with them around, but while they’re not around is a huge piece of this as well. If you notice yourself or someone else slip up, simply correct the mistake with the right name or pronouns and move on. Excessive apologizing can make the kiddo feel uncomfortable or even guilty.
Be an advocate for your kiddo - A lot of bullying and messages of anti-queerness can exist in the school. A wonderful way to support your kiddo is to advocate for them at their school. This can look like establishing open lines of communication with your child's school administrators, teachers, and counselors, and working with them to ensure that your kiddo's rights are respected and that they have access to affirming resources. You can also help get your kiddo connected with LGBTQ+ clubs or support groups at school and then advocate that the group gets the support and resources they need from the school. Laws pertaining to trans people, and especially transgender kiddos are rapidly changing. It is important for you to be familiar with local, state, and national laws that support queer liberation and how you can support organizations that are fighting to maintain those freedoms. Lastly, you can attend parent-teacher association (PTA) meetings and school board meetings to advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the curriculum and school policies, and speak out against discrimination or harassment when it occurs.
These tips are so important because they provide care for kiddos on multiple levels. As parents educate themselves they can then have the knowledge to make sure their home is a safe and affirming environment, and then go on to provide support on a bigger level like at school or in the community. It can make a big difference for your kid to just see you trying to meet them where they are. It can make an even bigger difference to see you stand up for them. I’ll leave you with this - believe your kid, trust your kid, empower your kid.
As I mentioned before, here are some of my favorite resources that aim to assist families of trans and gender-expansive kids in those three categories. These are a great place to start as you navigate supporting your kiddo.
Strong Family Alliance - “Strong Family Alliance is an organization with a simple mission – to save lives and preserve families by helping children come out and parents become informed supporters and allies”. - https://www.strongfamilyalliance.org/
Transforming Family - “Our mission is to empower children and families to create supportive and inclusive environments in which gender may be freely expressed and respected. Our vision is to create a society in which ALL children and youth are respected and celebrated.” - https://transformingfamily.org/
Trans Families - Trans Families is a nonprofit organization that has been supporting transgender people and their families since 2008. They run parent support groups, a trans youth leadership program, special topics groups, and youth support groups, with more programs in development. - https://transfamilies.org/
LGBTQ Center of Durham Transforming Families support group - This is a support group that meets virtually monthly and hosts events for trans parents and family members to get support navigating parenting and the struggles their kiddos are facing. - Transformingfamiliesnc@lgbtqcenterofdurham.org