For Parents of Transgender Youth
This content is based on A Parent’s Guide to Supporting Transgender Youth and other sources.
If you’re a parent and your child has come out to you as transgender, you may be struggling with understanding and accepting this. Yet your child has never needed you more. Growing up transgender without strong parental support can even be life-threatening. Transgender youth suffer higher rates of depression, suicide and substance abuse than their peers. Family rejection and fear of family rejection play a big role in the stress transgender young people feel, in addition to bias and discrimination. As parents, your support can help keep your transgender child healthy and safe.
Being transgender is not something your child chose, or that you can change. Gender dysphoria, the distress that comes from feeling your gender doesn’t match the sex you were assigned at birth, varies from person to person and at different ages. It can be severe and painful, especially once puberty begins. Transitioning can help alleviate this stress. Transgender youth will need different types of support at different ages as they pursue becoming their true selves. Parents who help their transgender children transition socially and medically are helping them to be healthier and happier.
Social Transition: Validate, but Keep Them Safe
Social transition may include changing hairstyle or clothes, choosing a new name, using the correct pronouns and doing activities that fit with their true gender. For some children, this may be all they need to feel supported and be happy. Help your child find a community of other gender-nonconforming kids. Let your child define themselves and where they are on their journey—don’t ask them if they are transgender.
Help them decide where they want to transition, whether it’s just with family and friends or also at school or out in the community. Be aware that in some communities a transgender kid or the whole family can be rejected or bullied. Contact the school principal, guidance counselor, dean, or a supportive teacher to determine how the school will react and how they can support your child’s transition. Validate your child, but keep him or her safe.
Medical Transition: Puberty is Key
The onset of puberty, starting around age 10, can be unpleasant or even traumatic. Puberty blockers are hormone-blocking agents like Lupron, which prevent puberty or stop its progression. Puberty blockers can buy time by preventing development of secondary sexual characteristics. They can be stopped at any point if the young person decides not to transition. Once they are stopped, anatomical puberty will happen. Stopping puberty also eases the transition if transgender youth later go on to cross-gender hormones. Health insurance may or may not cover the cost of puberty blockers. In the state of New York, Medicaid will cover the cost.
Cross-gender hormones are the next stage of transition, which allow the child to take on some of the secondary sex characteristics of their true gender. It’s important to find a medical provider who has experience caring for transgender children before starting hormone therapy. Usually kids start cross-gender hormones at age 16, although they may start at age 14 or younger to keep their development similar to their peers.
Most youth wait until age 18 to 21 to start surgical procedures. Your child may decide they don’t want to pursue surgery, or they only want to do certain procedures and not others. Supporting them at this stage means supporting their decision-making and investigating insurance coverage.
Taking Care of Yourself
Seek help for yourself in a caregiver support group or from a mental health professional. Learn about gender dysphoria by seeking out LGBT groups, talking with other families, or consulting online resources. Seeing your child’s pain can help you move past any ambivalence or fear to fully support your child’s transgender journey.
This information is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services, only general information for education purposes only.