Whether you have a trans child in your own family or want to support trans kids in your community, we must first educate ourselves and work through our own biases.
If you’re parenting or in community with a trans child, your support could be a protective buffer for their mental health and development. If you’ve ever been stumped about how to answer your child’s questions about gender expression, pronouns, transitioning, or how to be an ally to trans and non-binary young people in your community, you are not alone.
Society is rapidly changing, and although progress has been fraught with political controversy and increased oppression against the transgender community in the form of a military ban, transphobic legislation, and violence, the benefits of protecting transgender youth and affirming their gender identities can be life-saving.
Whether you are working on accepting your own trans child or wondering how to navigate conversations with your child about trans classmates or relatives, it’s imperative you educate yourself first to unlearn biases.
Debunk Biases Together
There is lots of misinformation about transgender youth, and some adults may claim children are “too young” to identify their gender. However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “a child’s awareness of their gender identity begins in the first year of life.” Discussing common myths about transgender youth with your child will help both of you better support trans students and community members.
Learn About and Practice Using Correct Pronouns
Another common pitfall is struggling with pronouns. Practice together by reading books about trans youth. We know misgendering young people is one of the key drivers for high rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide in transgender youth, and it is up to us to address our biases to stop misgendering young people in our lives.
Listen and Follow Your Child’s Lead
Part of building inclusive communities for all is listening without judgment, especially listening to your own child. If your child is asking you questions about gender expression, they may be testing if you will accept them if they identify as trans or non-binary. Listening without judgment can be difficult but is a crucial component to authentically supporting your child.
If you are parenting a trans or non-binary young person, there are resources to support you, such as these tips from a therapist and mother of a trans child. Whether you’re parenting a trans child or supporting a trans relative or student in your child’s class, listening is a key first step. This guide from Family Equality is a helpful resource for supporting trans youth. Remember, listening does not include trying to change your child. No child will thrive if they’re told, “I’ll love you if you change the core of who you are.”
Continue to Learn and Build Acceptance
Overall, acceptance of transgender youth’s identities is associated with better outcomes, both for transgender and non-binary youth and the communities they live in. Continue educating yourself and learning alongside your child to build supportive, inclusive communities for all.