My teenager just came out as transgender.
January 17, 2019 5:14 PM   Subscribe

Me teenager, with no previous signs or warnings, just sent me and my spouse a long text coming out as transgender. Where do I go from here?

I just got a long text from them saying they have been feeling "off" for a couple of years but only finally realized they were trans after connecting with a group on reddit. They did not respond to my follow up text and I won't see them until later tonight.

I found the Reddit group in question and there was a single post from my child asking a question, with one follow up comment.

To be clear: My spouse and I are very open-minded liberal folks. We will support our child no matter what. Our families, maybe not so much, but fuck 'em. They're the least of our concerns. But this is also very new to us and not something we have any first-hand experience with. Right now the three of us have to figure out where to go next.

I don't even know how to process this. I don't want to treat it as some phase they're going through if that's not what this is, but it really did come out of the blue and I'm not entirely convinced it's not a phase. I'm sorry if that sounds terrible but there has literally been no previous hints, not even the tiniest of hints. My child has never told us much though. A friend of his came out as trans over the summer.

They gave us a new name they would like to be called. Ok, I can do that. Again, extended family members will most likely scoff.

They said they would eventually like hormone treatments.

Where do we go now? I think our family probably needs some sort of counselling with a trans-friendly counselor. We are in the Boston area if anyone has any resources.

Throwaway email: mefiparentoftg@gmail.com

Also, I would like to thank the community. Just a few years ago I would not have been able to accept this at all. It is 100% through reading Metafilter that I am able to view this with somewhat of an open mind. I will admit it is different having to deal with it first-hand though. I'm shaking as I type this. Thank you all.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
PFLAG is really helpful to a lot of people and could be your place to start. (The acronym is Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays I think but that's because they date back a while. Trans people are also part of their mission. ) I've never heard anyone say anything bad about PFLAG.
posted by Smearcase at 5:19 PM on January 17 [9 favorites]


Please understand that there are no "signs" that you'd notice in many cases. To this day, my mom still doesn't "believe" me and I've been out for like 4 years and I've known for 25. It's absolutely destroyed our relationship. Please just whole-heartedly support them by doing what they ask of you with name and pronoun, and being in absolutely no way a barrier to them accessing health care. Be prepared to be a fierce advocate for them in fact, if and when they get to dealing with shit doctors on this.

This is not a failure, it's nothing wrong, it's amazing and you can make it stay amazing for them.
posted by odinsdream at 5:29 PM on January 17 [80 favorites]


Hi! I am a trans person in Boston and I can (a) point you to a bunch of resources if you want (b) also sit down with you IRL if you want and have a conversation and promise not to get annoyed and you can ask me whatever.

The short answer on "resources" if your kid is under 25 is BAGLY for them (a Boston-area peer support group for LGBT youth; everyone I know who's been involved with it has found it fantastic) and PFLAG for you. Both groups are going to be able to steer you towards more specific stuff if you need it.

Also, I think it's wonderful you're asking this, wonderful you're being honest about where you're at and how you're feeling, and wonderful you're open to getting advice. Regardless of what ends up going on with your kid, you're doing the right thing by reaching out and looking for information.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:31 PM on January 17 [98 favorites]


This excellent (but small n) paper, published in Psychological Science in 2015, showed that even in children, gender identity is not a matter of confusion or pretense (i.e., not a "phase").

It's also discussed here if you don't have journal access.

...there has literally been no previous hints, not even the tiniest of hints...

This could just mean that your child is comfortable with the norms associated with their assigned sex, even though their gender is different. Gender identity is about more than just the activities/etc. you enjoy, you know? I.e., it's not always the case that a person who enjoys stereotypically female activities will identify as female.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:33 PM on January 17 [8 favorites]




Transdude here:

I'd support them wholeheartedly, while they sort and figure things out.

Also - please do not be alarmed if they decide to change names and/or pronouns; that's part of the process for sorting out things, as a transgender individual. It's not indicative that it's a 'phase'.

Getting started on counseling is an excellent idea for your child, for two reasons: 1. It'll help them work through this with an understanding professional, and 2. It'll work towards satisfying the 'counseling' requirement that some gatekeepy doctors and surgeons and insurance companies require, in order to access medical resources for transition.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:40 PM on January 17 [6 favorites]


Listen, there is nothing wrong with it if it is a phase. If your teen moves back and forth between genders their whole life, that is great and wonderful and you should be proud of them for living their own truth. So, take out of your head that it might matter if it is a phase. Everything in life is always a phase and nothing is permanent. It is toxic to be looking for signs that something will pass. Accept it fully and completely in this moment and if it changes down the line, accept that fully and completely, too. That is how you support someone, especially your child.

Now, on to the rest of it - hooray that your kid felt confident enough to tell you! (I am assuming that you have used updated pronouns in this question, so going forward with they/them. If not, then get on that with yourself.)

Being a gender isn't about how you look. It isn't about how you act. There's no tell-tale signs that you could have been alert to. Everyone's experience is different, and it is largely internal. It's really exciting to figure out how to align more fully with yourself! It's exactly what being a teenager should be for - self discovery. I'm really excited for your kid that they got the words and concepts to be able to understand this about themselves so young. The internet has meant that many people get to be happy and comfortable while hormones will still make a big difference in presentation and development. That is an amazing and wonderful thing.
posted by stoneweaver at 5:55 PM on January 17 [68 favorites]


You didn't say what your followup text was, but if it wasn't in there, you could say thank you to them for being open with you and trusting you, just as a first step.
posted by Mizu at 6:02 PM on January 17 [26 favorites]


Oh god yes they're likely really anxious about this please send a heart emoji and tell them you love them.
posted by odinsdream at 6:03 PM on January 17 [56 favorites]


Step one is certainly to tell them you love them, let
them know that you're here for whatever they want to talk about, and to listen. This is their show, let them take the lead. Your role here is to support them, not direct them. Don't hit them with a barrage of questions, don't make it about you. Just sit back and act as a sounding board for them to talk through whatever they feel like they need to get off their chest right now. Let them drive and let them define what your role is going to be on this issue. But make sure they know you love them unconditionally.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:16 PM on January 17 [8 favorites]


This is really big news, thank you for sharing it with us. We're here for you, we love you. What, if anything, can we do to support you?
posted by theora55 at 6:27 PM on January 17 [15 favorites]


Here are two books I have found helpful: Kate Bornstein has a series of books, I have only read My Gender Workbook which has a "welcome to this awesome club of self discovery" vibe, though she is not everyone's taste. I also recently got How to Understand Your Gender by two trans academics.


We will support our child no matter what. Our families, maybe not so much
A friend was recently trying to explain to his very traditional first generation immigrant mom why he is helping his 4 year old transition to a new name and pronoun at school: we know what happens when we don't help or don't allow it and it's really bad.
posted by shothotbot at 6:37 PM on January 17 [15 favorites]


Gender Spectrum is an amazing organization that has been immensely valuable to my family as we have learned to navigate parenting a transgender child. There are so many resources there, including a variety of discussion groups directly tailored to your needs, your kid's, and your extended family's (if they can be induced to participate).

I am so happy for your kid that they have such supportive parents. You are going to do just great.
posted by la glaneuse at 6:49 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


In addition to the great advice above, here are a few more activities you can do together.

- Online community has probably been a lifeline for your child these past few years: articles, message boards, social media, YouTube, and more. Ask your child to share some of their favorite YouTubers, Instagram and Tumblr accounts, etc. Watch them together or alone, and give compliments and ask questions. For example, "I really love her eyeliner!" or "It's awesome how he does the videos with his grandma!" and "Their coming out story made me cry at the end!" Your child likely sees these people as inspirations, and having this conversation helps you show them you accept and appreciate people like them. Your child will then also share more about themselves, too.

- If they are in secondary school, ask about your child's life at school: are there any teachers who know and are supportive? Do they have any friends who are also trans or otherwise LGBTQ? Do they feel safe and supported? What are their fears? Invite the friends over, ask your child if you can call the teacher to chat (as an educator, I'd welcome this opportunity), look into school policies on bathroom use and what not.

- If you are able to, offer to take your child shopping to find a few new pieces that feel good to them. Or give them some money to buy clothing or accessories online. They may eventually want a new wardrobe or already like what they have but, either way, some new things can feel nice.

- This is so cheesy but is worth considering: At the store, buy a small cake of their favorite flavor and have the bakery write "I love you [new name]!" Or get a balloon or flowers or whatever your child likes. Come home and you and your spouse can give it to them with a huge hug. Your child will probably be both embarrassed and touched at the same time.

- Definitely connect with local resources like BAGLY and PFLAG, and take up nebulawindphone on the amazing offer to meet up in person. It's totally OK to have lots of questions and, just as your child deserves a "safe" space to be themselves where they aren't judged, you deserve a "safe" space to ask any and all questions from people who understand and won't judge.

Best of luck! Like others have said, the fact that your child came out to you is a sign that are you doing things RIGHT as a parent!
posted by smorgasbord at 7:01 PM on January 17 [21 favorites]


Seconding everything already said, especially that it's important to support them even if it were a phase (probably isn't) to show them you trust their judgement and have their back. Also, you should forget you ever found your kid's reddit account/question (don't bring it up to them, don't look at their posts in the future). Ask and follow their lead on what they want your support on, including if/what they want you to say to family. Process any difficult emotions (it's ok to have them!) with anyone other than your kid.
posted by gaybobbie at 7:15 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


They're probably shaking too... make sure to explicitly say something to the effect of:

"I love you so much
I'm proud of you for being who you are
I'm honoured that you trust me enough to share this part of your life with me
I'll always love and support you
Some of this is new and surprising and maybe confusing to me and I promise I will do my best to understand.
I want to support you the way you need because you're my little stinker"

So awesome to see a loving parent in this situation, i'm happy your kid has you. You don't need to know all the answers as long as you keep in mind that loving your kid comes first.

Also I'd say try to trust that people, even young people, don't make huge life changes like coming out as trans for kicks- if your kid says they're trans, they're trans and they've probably known for a loooong time. I've also been shocked to hear ppl I knew for years were trans- but a few years down the line as I've seen them absolutely blossom after they finally affirm their gender- I look back and think "holy heck you had an award winning performance going on in so many spaces trying to minimize this part of yourself and it is so great to see the real you."

Also, maybe your kid's gender will be more fluid or intermediate and not flip from one side of a binary to the other. That's a thing too, and is also totally a viable way to live and not a sign that any of this was just a phase.

I'm glad you asked this question and wish your family the best!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:01 PM on January 17 [7 favorites]


You might benefit from a few visits with a trans-competent therapist yourself, especially if this seems "strange" or "out of the blue" to you - you probably have a lot of feelings, and talking them through with someone Not Your Family will help you be there for your child. My impression is that if you don't have lots of queer and trans people in your social circle and this seems like a strange and uncertain situation, you might be having some fearful or negative feelings even if you support your kid, and being able to talk those through with a professional will help insure that those feelings don't surface in your home life.
posted by Frowner at 8:04 PM on January 17 [12 favorites]


Boston area, eh? You parents should go out for a beer next Thursday night at Aeronaut in Somerville. A bunch of healthcare professionals from the trans team at Fenway Health is doing a Science by the Pint night on gender medicine. They regularly provide care to trans teens, and the providers I’m familiar with on the team work hard to provide holistic gender-affirming care (not just, and not necessarily, hormones). This night might give you a nice low-key way to check them out. More on trans care, including trans youth care, at Fenway at this link.
posted by amelioration at 8:27 PM on January 17 [23 favorites]


Seems this is moving a bit fast. There’s nothing wrong with taking time and moving slowly to support your child at their own pace.
posted by Middlemarch at 9:24 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


It may seem like this is moving fast to a parent who has only just heard from their child but it is likely something that they have thinking about for a really long time to get to the point of sending the message. Seconding all great advice and resources above, especially the advice on another message to reply with.
posted by ellieBOA at 9:51 PM on January 17 [14 favorites]


I have two friends who each have a teenager who's transgender. It's been a pleasure to hear them talk about their teen's new names and express anger at family members who refuse to call the teen by their correct name or correct gender.

Obviously, this is a boundary you need to discuss with your teen but as a former teenager, I feel like these parents' acceptance of their teen's lives is so happy-making.
posted by bendy at 11:26 PM on January 17


I‘d just like to put it out there that there is nothing you need to do right now (except for what they ask you to).

I know it feels like OMG WHAT DO I DO urgent. But it‘s ok to just spend the next days and weeks getting familiar with this new idea. It‘s ok to cut out complicating factors (like, you guys don‘t have to visit extended family now, if your kid doesn‘t feel sure about coming out to to them.)

My immediate advice would be to take a deep breath and and take the urgency out of it.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:29 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Since your teen has indicated that they are interested in hormones, I have a suspicion that might be part of what freaked you out. I want you to know from my heart straight to your’s: hormones are a lofe saving treatment. I know it can be scary to think about because of a perception that they cause permanent changes and what if this is a phase and my kid regrets having done it!

If they have regrets sometime down the road, that’s ok. They’ll survive. Many trans teens and adults do not survive without access to hormones. Be 100% supportive of hormones and help them find a trans friendly doctor to talk to about the risks and what they can reasonably expect. Let your teen have complete autonomy over this choice. Let them know that you can help them weigh their options, but that they have complete control over this choice. And mean it.

Think about how many people take hormonal borth control or thyroid or vitamin D. All of those are hormones and they’re an every day part of life. If you can’t make your own or you are making the wrong ones, store bought is good.

Please understand how scary it is to say to your parents that you might like hormones. The fact that it came up means you should listen and really internalize just how important this is.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:05 AM on January 18 [18 favorites]


Definitely tell them you love them, and I think it would be a great idea to do something to celebrate them coming out and taking a new name - cake? Dinner out? Something that helps your kid know that you're there and excited for them to find themselves.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:50 AM on January 18


I agree completely with those above who said to thank your child for telling you. Thank them for trusting you.

Also, take this opportunity to reaffirm your love for them.

But, don't start treating them like they're made of glass. They aren't. Treat them like a healthy, normal teen who just happens to need a little extra medical attention. The only immediate behavioral change you need to make is using their preferred pronouns and their new name. It sound like you already listen to them, so just keep that up.

Also, those scary statistics you read about trans folk and suicide? Those are for the ones who don't get support and acceptance. That's not your child. You are going to accept them fully and give them all the support they need, right?

They'll be fine. You'll be fine. You've got this.
posted by Tabitha Someday at 7:30 AM on January 18 [7 favorites]


As a another trans Mefite, Thank You for being open and supportive! That's your first big step!

There is a whole lot of great advice here already. The best next steps are to make sure you TELL your kid that you still love them and support them, then be prepared to just listen to them. Family counseling with a Queer/Trans supportive therapist can be incredibly helpful for everyone.

Regardless, it will be ok, you got this. Your kid is still your kid. If anything, they are more your kid than they were before.

Feel free to MeMail me as well!
posted by RhysPenbras at 8:14 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


If they're going to start taking hormones, now would be the time. They've probably given it a lot of thought and research already—assuming that's true, I would be strongly inclined to help them get what they want. Your role there would be more to just confirm that they're making an informed decision (which they probably are) rather than to gatekeep this.

I know it sounds like a huge choice to make at their age—which it is—but if they're going to go on hormones at all, there are real benefits to starting them as young as possible. It's not something where you can really say "wait until you're eighteen" about. It's not like getting a tattoo, where the long-term result will be equivalent whether they do it now or later. As long as they know what they're getting into, now would be best.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:04 AM on January 18 [7 favorites]


That’s super rad your child came out to you two, listen to them and don’t overthink it. There’s a lot of emotion around this but it’s not a bad thing at all and whatever road your child takes from here it’s gonna be okay as long as you empower them and let them explore this.
posted by nikaspark at 9:15 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Skilled observer here. A few years ago I was talking to a neighbor whose daughter as he described, appeared to be transitioning to a son. He is a very open person but there was tension there. I was surprised by this having watched the whole family grow up, mom and dad and then their child. A couple of years later I dropped by and she was girling, had a guy friend, got very long hair, then looks like maybe has a girlfriend now. They are living their best life, as it happens. I think they are almost through college and happy. My take is being supportive is important and staying on top of being the responsible parent is also important.
posted by Oyéah at 9:16 AM on January 18


I can't speak to the specifics of transitioning, etc, but I just wanted to speak to the no signs part.

I suffer from depression. I have been treated for it for 15-ish years, both with medication as well as therapy. My father still doesn't "believe" I have depression, because I don't "act" depressed.

What he doesn't see is how fucking hard I work to hide it. I have gotten very good at hiding it in normal day to day interactions with people, so yeah, I don't seem depresssed. I could quit hiding it and instead cry at the table instead of quietly crying in the bathroom. I could talk about how I am convinced everyone would be better off without me. I could publicize how hard it has been for me to engage with people. I could make it very apparent, but I don't because that would ultimately create even more difficulty for me. So I hide it, really well. It is difficult and exhausting and comes at a huge emotional cost, but it is just easier.

I'm guessing there may be some parallels.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:40 AM on January 18 [11 favorites]


Hi, I'm the cis parent of a trans kid. Feel free to me-mail me!
posted by heathrowga at 11:07 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


First of all, I’m so proud of your kid for finding the words, and I’m so proud of you for being parents they felt able to come out to! That’s nothing to take for granted.

Second, it’s okay to be scared and confused right now, because it is different having to deal with it first-hand for the first time. But it’s also incredibly important to remember that you’re dealing with it second-hand, because I promise you it’s even scarier and more confusing for your kid. Remember the Ring Theory (“comfort in, dump out”), know that this is where the open-minded liberal rubber meets the road, and please, please make darn sure you have a strong enough support network to keep your kid from having to deal with your anxieties on top of their own.

The good news is that just by coming here to ask “what now?” you’ve already started building that network. Meet up with nebulawindphone, she’s great people! Go check out a PFLAG meeting. Offer to get your kid in touch with BAGLY if they want. Look up Fenway’s parent support groups. Find a specifically trans-competent—sadly, “LGBT-friendly” doesn’t cut it, ask me how I know—therapist for them and, separately, for yourself. MeMail me or any of the other folks in this thread who have offered. Keep looking for your people, because you deserve to find them. And for the love of God, only ever go on Reddit for the trans memes. ;-)

Third, your kid is the expert in the room right now. They’ve (probably) done the reading that you (probably) haven’t, so ask them for recommendations and follow up afterward. They’re the only one who can tell whether or not this is a phase (but it’s probably not), and the only way they can ever find out is by living through it, so help them do that. They came out to you when they were ready for you to know (and they did a better job of not dropping hints than I ever did); keep trusting them to know when they’re ready.

Finally, no matter what your kid’s gender ends up being, this is good news! You and they are both learning something new and interesting about them, and they’re finding a way of being a person that will hopefully work a lot better for them. Remember to celebrate that any way you can. I’m so happy for you, and I wish you the best.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 12:37 PM on January 18 [4 favorites]


And as for PuppetMcSockerson's comment: as a teenager, I didn’t know I was trans, but I knew for damn sure I was depressed, and the parallels are real. I asked my parents for help once — once was enough — and then ten years later I finally stopped second-guessing myself with “okay, but doesn’t everyone feel this way?” and “why would I put even more of a burden on myself and my loved ones by ever going public?” and “do I really need professional help, or is this just a character flaw that I can learn to manage?” just long enough to get myself to a psychiatrist. (I’m doing much better now.)
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 12:39 PM on January 18 [8 favorites]


Nthing all of what's been said, also, you might want to consider Fenway Health Sidney Borum for their primary care and hormone-considering therapy. Having a professional to examine that question with was super helpful to me, also, I kept being uncertain and talking to the therapist about it for like a year. Other people who were Very Certain have gone from giving Fenway their insurance info to putting hormones into their actual bodies in weeks. Fenway Health is not everyone's cup of tea and I had a poor experience with the Borum's psychiatrist, but that was a few years ago and your mileage may vary.
posted by bagel at 1:46 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Stepping in a little later to reiterate what so many helpful people have said--the notion that "there are no warning signs" and "this is moving so fast" are observational biases. The only thing that's sudden in most cases is the trans person finding the courage to disclose and talk about their inner life and experience in a society that makes us afraid that family and loved ones will reject us. "Signs" in this case really kinda say more about the expectations of the observer than the health of the individual who's supposed to be giving off the signs.

It is so, so special that you will support your child no matter what--it isn't underselling things to say that that support can make all the difference in the world for any teenager, and especially one who's in a vulnerable position like this. Listen to them and get more details about their experience, and absolutely look into some of the great support and medical resources in your area that folks have suggested above. Things I would have suggested like PFLAG have already been well covered.

One thing that might be helpful because I'm having a heck of a time finding it on their website is PFLAG's Our Trans Loved Ones pamphlet, which itself includes a list of some more resources.

This is a wonderful thing for your child and for your family. Please do your best for them.
posted by elsilnora at 7:45 AM on January 19 [3 favorites]


This is the post a good parent makes. Most of the trans people I know have parents who have made things very hard for them. You want to support and respect your kid and you’re actively addressing the challenges you know you’ll face. You’re being awesome right now and I hope you can truly believe that and feel pride in that because if rocky waters are ahead you need to remain confident in your decision to support. Go you!!
posted by chudmonkey at 5:41 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]


As another cis parent of a trans child, four or so years into this amazing journey—congratulations! Welcome!

(It was scariest in the beginning, and the initial learning curve was steep. It got sweeter and sweeter as time went on. Parental support makes a decisive difference for our children. Being there with my child through this journey deepened our bonds. People in the family were either supportive or kept quiet—if they hadn’t it would not have gone well for them because I would have been one mad mama. For me, the big surprise was my 90 year old Catholic father-in-law—he just showered love and acceptance on us all. And the agencies and professionals who helped showed warm open-hearted acceptance, enfolding us in the new-to-us world... and I guess any that didn’t were quickly fired. It brought us into contact with so many people doing so much good.)
posted by seacats at 6:57 AM on January 20 [4 favorites]


I'm a parent of a trans kid in the Boston area. Please MeMail me.
posted by Sublimity at 5:08 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


OK, decided to revisit and write. I notice that there are many substantive responses from trans folks but few from parent of trans folks, particularly parents of teenagers who are coming out as trans.

I'm going to write a lot of things and some are going to press folks' buttons. Please show the the same respect for my experience and perspective that you would ask to be shown for yours.

The first thing is: you love your kid, and you want the best for your kid, of course. Staying connected and loving is job number one.

It is indeed a great sign of closeness that your child has shared this with you, and I think it's important to honor this intimate disclosure as a sign of trust and closeness.

That said, as a parent of a teenager, you know full well that your kid is in the midst of self-discovery and development of identity. If your adolescent is like most others, you know full well that many things they feel passionately about today will change in due time. It's completely reasonable to wonder whether gender exploration is one of those things.

You are not required to embrace this immediately, fully and without reservation. If you're upfront about your reservations you can and will get a lot of pushback about that, including name calling, which is completely shitty.

The general message about transgender kids can seem like it distills down to "transition or suicide". It's reasonable as a loving parent to be terrified about that. It is reasonable as a loving parent to feel like that is emotional hostage taking and to be furious that this is part and parcel of the messaging you kid is getting. It's reasonable as a loving parent to be incredibly suspicious of your kid getting all this info from online resources in the era of fake news. It's reasonable as a loving parent to be upset that your child is undertaking a path that will make them a target for right-wing hatred and possibly violence. This is of course the landscape that your child is in and they would benefit from having a counselor for coping with all these scary issues as well as their own personal growth and reflection. Getting a counselor for yourself is a good idea for working through a lot of complicated feelings in a space well apart from your child.

Fundamentally your child is an individual separate from you, and will make their own choices about their life. Adolescence is a time where it's very common for parents and teens to have conflict to one degree or another about the choices that the teens are making about their own lives: about high school, about extracurriculars, about dress and appearance, about friendships and relationships, about sexual activity, about drinking and drugs, about pastimes, about life path after high school, whatever. If you look at it in this frame, gender exploration or change is one more dimension where your kid is autonomous and may be doing things differently than you expected or would want. Every family has to navigate tough stuff about increasing autonomy and choices in adolescence that will have long term impact. This issue is not so different.

Your kid has their own perspective and process, and that needs to be respected. So do you, and that also needs to be respected. "Transition" implies a period of time. You are fully entitled to take time to respond and react to this news. It may well be that your kid has been reflecting on this for a long time, but if it's new to you, it's new to you, and you are not required to internalize it fully in an instant.

If your child wants to be addressed by a different name and use different pronouns, that is their prerogative and you should respect that. That said, it takes a long time and significant effort to shift your mental map about these things, and that's just the fact. It is to everyone's benefit to not have this be a point of conflict. Your kid will likely be sensitive about being mis-addressed and misgendered. Defuse that by catching and correcting yourself, but do not accept being browbeaten about not being able to make this change instantly. You get to take time to transition as well.

Trans culture seems to cultivate contempt for prior identity and birth names. It is not fair to be treated with contempt for something that you didn't know about. Names in particular can be a very sensitive subject. It is absolutely true that your kid's name is your kid's name, and they have to live with it or not. That said, as a parent, you gave them that birth name as a loving expression of bringing them into the world and it is very likely that name has very special meaning to you as well. It is within your rights to be treated with respect about the birth name that you gave your child. Your child has the right to be addressed by a chosen name. It is within your rights to ask that the birth name that you gave your child not be derided or referred to in a derogatory way ("dead name") in your presence. The life that you and your family had before your child changed name and gender is still your child's history, and that is simply the fact. Nobody is well served if that history is treated as invalid or worthy of contempt. Every person on the planet has things about their bodies, histories, and upbringing that they wish were different. Coping with that is part of maturing as an adult. Being transgender does not give you special dispensation in this regard, nor license to treat your parents/siblings/family poorly.

Your family is woven into life and society. As a parent you have been your child's representative in all manner of ways since before they drew breath: legal, medical, administrative and bureaucratic, social. Until your child becomes a legal adult, all of the formal/legal/administrative tasks will still be yours. Now that your child is changing, you are confronted with the challenge of whether and how to be their representative and advocate in these spheres as well. Your child likely has no idea how much your family configuration is part of your social sphere in every realm of your life. Your child likely has no idea how much emotional labor they are expecting you to do on their behalf. It is, of course, immense. Honoring your child's name and gender change, even in the most forthright understated way, will require you to become a trans advocate. This may not be a role you ever wanted to undertake. It is likely that there will be conflicts with your adolescent about navigating this space, with tensions about honoring your child's truth vs. desire for privacy vs. concerns about being outed. Good luck with that.

Because your child is still a child and does not have experience in the full range of adult responsibilities, they likely have no clue about the practical challenges of implementing legal or medical changes. There can be a very large gap between "formally possible" and "actually feasible" that your child may not fully grok. If your child is a teenager, and so legally and financially dependent on you, this is one of those spaces where their drive for autonomy collides with the reality that you as a parent are the ones bearing the burdens of responsibility/effort/money. This is one of of those struggle-for-independence issues not dissimilar to others in adolescence. It is OK for you to have limits and boundaries here.

It is completely reasonable for you to insist on time to pass before your child can undertake irrevocable legal or medical steps. Different medical providers have different thresholds before dispensing hormones. Some will send teenagers home with hormones on the first visit and others require more time and formal assessment. It's advisable to do your homework and choose a path that fits your kid and situation best.

It is OK to decide that the responsibility for legal name change is theirs and not yours. They can do it when they are legally entitled to at 18.

It is OK for you to look at the totality of your financial circumstances and to not be willing or able to underwrite expensive elective procedures. If you establish this boundary you are likely to get a lot of flack about this. You can love your child and support them in their path, while also refusing to jeopardize other parts of your financial landscape. This is not like cancer or diabetes, which are often invoked by comparison to pressure parents. Just like you have real life limits about what you can afford to pay about other things, you are permitted to have real life limits about what you can afford to pay for transition expenses.

Lots more that hasn't been addressed, and I'm out of time to write. Hope this helps.
posted by Sublimity at 6:59 AM on January 21 [3 favorites]


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