Your child has shared their gender identity, now what?
I remember those days when she first shared her truth with me. She is so little. This scares me. How were my parents going to react? Friends, my siblings? Who should I tell and how?
I don’t have the perfect answer for you because it isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. What I will tell you is to let your child lead the process. I say this and mean it, however, when she came to us five days past her fifth birthday, she told me not to tell…anyone. I felt the need to share with her father and I told a very close friend. Those days were filled with fear of the unknown. Let me be clear- our child was not ready for the world to know, and neither were we.
It took about nine months for her to really be ready to make the transition. In August she went to a magical camp for kids whose parents have had cancer. Camp respected her pronouns and gender identity. From there the Band-Aid rips off and she is ready for the world to know, well kinda.
Your Child Has Shared Their Gender Identity, Now What?
- Firstly, your child might feel ready for someone to know one day and different the next. This is normal. While the joy of being seen for who they are is delightful, it often comes with trepidation. Whether that is from reading our apprehensions, overhearing conversations with unsupportive or uneducated adults, or their own anxiety, having mixed emotions is normal and does not make their identity illegitimate.
- Check your ego and insecurities. As the mother of four children, I am well versed in eating crow. Whether my judgmental pre-parent self was rolling eyes about bedtime routines, or I refused to let my little cherubs play Nerf guns with kids with older siblings because “it wasn’t our values.” We have all been schooled as we become more seasoned and, quite frankly- educated. I promise you that what you believe about your child’s transition today will change. Take time to educate yourself from reputable sources. Not sure where to look? Start here.
- Less is more. Once you speak it into the universe it no longer belongs to you. Take it slow and easy. In addition, follow your child’s lead. If they only want to be called by a different name or pronouns at home, let that be. If they are ready to tell their best friend’s family but not your parents- please follow their lead.
- Above all, never, ever out your child. When we were visiting a craft store, we saw the most fantastic car with an inclusive pride flag on the license plate and pride stickers all over. We were both so excited. We walked inside and right into the owners of the car (also covered in pride garb). I asked if it was their car, and they said yes. I turned my daughter around showing her Trans Is Beautiful shirt to them. They nodded and kept walking. Meanwhile, my daughter was furious. Let me tell you- I WAS WRONG. Don’t do this. This precious soul entrusts me with such private information- her core identity, does not need to be shared like a party favor.
When your child is ready to publicly transition it is important that you have educated yourself thoroughly. Do you know what cisgender means? What about non-binary? Do children have surgery (the answer is no) and do we have to medically transition, or can we just socially transition for now? To clarify, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Lean hard into learning and listening to transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse people. Talk with supportive parents who have been there, done that. Seek out trusted resources for information from reliable sources and be open to challenging your worldview. In short, love your child fiercely and unconditionally.
American Academy of Pediatrics
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
American Psychological Association
Princeton University: Human Diversity Lab