Is your partner, child, parent or friend transitioning, or questioning their gender?
You may have only just found out, but you can be sure they have been on their journey a lot longer. And it has likely taken a lot of courage to tell you.
- They are rebuilding their identity on foundations they are creating on their own terms.
- They have to find their way through the minefield of society’s imposed rules about how it’s ok to express yourself.
- They have to process and navigate other people’s reactions, judgements and prejudices around this.
It’s not hard to see that it’s not an easy path for them.
Nor is it for you.
Yes, you want nothing more than to be supportive, and love them unconditionally.
But why does it feel so incredibly overwhelming and weigh so heavy on your heart?
Because not only do you feel powerless to watch them in their struggle, you also have to get used to a new reality that affects you both.
And because they are the ones going through the more difficult journey, you may find yourself thinking that your feelings don’t matter.
Or matter enough.
Or matter enough right now.
But they do.
Your feelings are valid.
Your struggle is valid.
Struggling with a loved one’s gender journey doesn’t make you a bad partner/parent/child/friend – it makes you a human one. It’s what you do with that matters.
It can be an incredible opportunity for growth.
Make sure you gather a large dose of self-compassion and dare to ask yourself…
Why am I struggling with this? What is this struggle rooted in? Where is it coming from?
- Maybe you feel like you’ve lost the person they used to be, and you find yourself needing the space to grieve that loss as if someone had died – and no one else seems to understand.
- Maybe you’re thinking ‘this is not what I signed up for’ – which makes you feel riddled with guilt or shame.
- Maybe you’re finding the foundations of your own identity crumbling from under you – which makes you feel confused and overwhelmed.
- Maybe you’re realising you’ve been caring too much about what others think, and you’re ready to choose not to let social and cultural conditioning dictate who you love, and how you love them.
It’s all valid. And you deserve to be heard.
Now, you will have to be very careful about sharing your honest feelings with the person who is going through the gender journey. Expressing your thoughts and struggles to them can make them feel rejected, misunderstood and hurt. They are going through a lot, so it can be a burden for them to carry your feelings as well as their own. So it’s important to find support elsewhere.
Somewhere where you are not judged, but completely accepted – and most importantly, accept yourself through it all.
When you come out the other side, you will find yourselves in a new relationship – whatever that looks like for you.
If nothing like that exists yet, then you’re the first – someone always is.
Remember – to you, it may feel like this person has changed – or is changing. Probably a lot. But they are still the same person; just more of it. And they are showing you who they really are.
Make your own rules. Love is worth it!
(Find resources further down the page.)
CISGENDER IDENTITY CHALLENGE:
To help you understand your loved one better, try this for yourself, and see what comes up, how you feel, and what challenges you run into.
You can journal about it on your own, or talk it through with someone you trust – or both.
1️⃣ Describe your gender.
2️⃣ Explain how you know you are that gender
❌ You can’t reference body parts (“I know I’m a woman because I have …”)
❌ You can’t use gender terms/language (“I know I’m a man because I feel masculine”)
3️⃣ Consider the privilege of not having to answer questions like this to prove the validity of your gender identity
4️⃣ Reflect on your experience
By @rebeccaminorlicsw adapted from @transgender_together via Mx Lupin @tanesh.lupin
Podcast episodes about parenting and family
ANGE DE LUMIERE – parent of a transgender child
Ange de Lumiere moved to the UK from Paris in 2001. Ange has four children, one of which is transgender, and she started the Parents of Transgender Adults support group earlier this year. Ange identifies as a cisgender woman, however she can relate to the term non-binary because she believes that souls are not gendered. We also talk about reincarnation, past lives, choosing your life experience and law of attraction; We talk about gender roles in society, the Silk Ring Theory of support, home schooling, The Hero’s Journey and the ins and outs of running and moderating a support group.
KYL MYERS – genderqueer woman, gender-creative parent
Kyl’s pronouns are they/them or she/her. They identify as a genderqueer woman and are a gender-creative parent. We also talk about being raised with conventional gender roles, trying on different gender labels and pronouns, how names fit or not, what it’s like to bring up a child without gender expectations, and the start of a gender revolution.
ROBIN RICE – parent of a transgender adult
Robin uses she/her pronouns and considers herself a cisgender woman. She is the mother of two sons, one of whom is transgender, and runs a project called Your Holiday Mom, which is all about offering LGBTQ youth a loving mother’s support between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. We also talk about the journey you go through as a parent as you support your child through their gender journey, the importance of a parents’ acceptance, how gender colours everything we choose for ourselves, our children and our world, and just being who you are.
CARA WILDE – parent of a transgender teen
Cara has two children, one of whom is transgender. We also talk about questioning your gender and looking beyond body parts as a cis person, assumptions and misinformation about hormone/puberty blockers, supporting and empowering your child and watching them thrive, what it would be like if we were all free to explore gender, and why we should all question what’s considered normal.
DEAN RASMUSSEN – parent of two trans kids
Dean is a trans man and the parent of eight kids, two of which are trans. We also talk about being a non-binary parent, separating the role of nurturer from gender, experiencing dysphoria in pregnancy, gender assumptions and how we are perceived, how testosterone can affect attraction, and the freedom that can come from trying out names and pronouns.
PAIGE LOEWEN – partner of a transgender woman
Paige is married to a transgender woman, Esther (or Elle), who came out to her in October 2020. They’ve been married for 16 years and have two children. We also talk about being married to a troubled person, becoming more bold and growing into your skin, learning to communicate our needs, the freedom in speaking your truth, going through your own journeys together, that it’s ok to not put a label on yourself, and how we may find ourselves in one closet or another. parent, separating the role of nurturer from gender, experiencing dysphoria in pregnancy, gender assumptions and how we are perceived, how testosterone can affect attraction, and the freedom that can come from trying out names and pronouns.
You can listen to Paige’s spouse’s (Esther’s) episode below:
KATE BROOKES – parent of a transgender child
Kate is a cisgender woman and uses she/her pronouns. She’s also the parent of a transgender child. We also talk about the challenges of deciding on a name, being in transition as a family, the privilege of having access to an accepting community, how important it is to be an ally and educate ourselves, that acceptance is protection, and telling stories in a responsible way.
CW: Please be aware that there is mention of suicide in this episode. Also, in this conversation, Kate uses her daughter’s old pronouns and name (which is a pseudonym) to communicate how she identified at a given time. This is in line with how their story is told in Kate’s new book, Transister: Raising Twins in a Gender-Bending World, which was released on August 8th.
The following are sourced directly or indirectly from the podcast conversations – there are of course many more.
Charities & organisations:
- Mermaids Charity – helping gender-diverse kids, young people and their families since 1995
- FFLAG – a national voluntary organisation and charity dedicated to supporting families and their LGBT+ loved ones
- Your Holiday Mom – founded by Robin Rice, offering LGBTQ+ youth a virtual home for the holidays
- Raising Zoomer – created by Kyl & Brent, about their gender-creative parenting approach
- Navigating Gray – a Nonprofit Organization located in Southern California whose mission is to support LGBTQIA+ youth and their families
- Support Network for Parents of Trans Kids Facebook group by Cassie Brighter
- For Cis Spouses & Partners of Trans Folk Facebook group by Cassie Brighter
- Parents of transgender adults Facebook group by Ange de Lumiere
- You Might Wanna Learn More About Trans People Facebook group by Evey Winters
- There may be local support groups in your area, and there are many online groups (like on Facebook) available for help and support. Ask around, and try some out to see if they resonate with you.
Articles & guides:
- Essential Tips for Parents of Transgender Children by Cassie Brighter
- Trans+ Gender Identity – A Guide for Beginners by Mx Harris Hill
- My Trans Child on medium.com
- When a Child Comes Out, Whose Story Is It to Tell? on Popsugar
- Q&A: Understanding the High Court Hormone Blockers Judgment With Director of Legal and Policy, Lui Asquith
- Hormone Blockers and Trans Children
- Debunking the myths around puberty blockers for trans kids