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  • Writer's pictureJessica Gurley

What does it mean when my child tells me they're transgender?

Your child has come out to you as transgender or non-binary. You listened to what they were saying, but for some reason all of the words blurred together as you tried to understand what is happening. I am here, as the parent of a transgender child to tell you, you got this and both yours

and your child's feelings are valid.

There are a couple ways to answer this question. One answer is, congratulations, your child coming out to you as transgender means you have created a safe and secure space and relationship with your child. They came to you because they feel like no matter who they are or how they express themselves, you will still love them. Your child is so smart to know who they are inside and confident to be able to speak their truth even though it is scary and not the norm. You are an amazing parent and you are raising an incredible child.

Another way to answer this question is, with the facts. At some point, nearly all children will engage in behavior associated with different genders – girls will play with trucks, boys will play with dolls, girls will hate wearing dresses and boys will insist on wearing them – and gender nonconforming behavior does not necessarily mean that a child is transgender. Historically, this has resulted in gendered terms such as, "Tomboy" or "girly-boy," and brushed off as a phase. However, some of these behaviors can clue us in to what a child may be feeling about their gender – with some children identifying as another gender than the one they were assigned by the time they are toddlers.

Sometimes it may be a parent's initial reaction to get their child checked when they see gender non-conforming behavior in their child. While this reaction is normal, it may tell your child that when they explore ways of living beyond what you know or are comfortable with as a parent, that they are wrong. This may leave your child feeling confused or alone if how they feel inside is different from what they have been taught by you and the world around them. Giving your child the freedom to try new things and explore different ways of living and presenting themselves does not automatically guarantee that your child will be transgender or gay, but it will show them that it is okay when they or others live in a way that is not like mom or dad. This freedom of exploration and growth helps your child embrace differences in their friends and family.

But, if your child does come out to you as transgender or non-binary, that is okay too. They are still your child. They still want to cuddle with you, and laugh with you, and learn from you, and most importantly they want to feel like they are still supported and loved by you. As a transgender or non-binary child, they may dress differently, or style their hair a new way. They may ask you to use a different name or different pronouns. While none of these things make any long-term physical impacts, they make all the difference for your child in knowing who supports them and sees their identity as valid.

While, as mentioned, you don’t need to necessarily take your child to see a specialist for a problem if your child is exploring other gender expressions, it is imperative to talk to your child’s pediatrician if your child expresses interest in medical transition. Making sure your child’s medical care is gender-affirming will, again, confirm your support for them, but will also help them and you know what the medical possibilities are. If your child is experiencing Gender Dysphoria, it will help them physically and mentally to get started on Hormone Replacement Therapy to stop or decrease the growth of secondary sex organs upon puberty. I will go into medical transitioning more in a separate blog.

The biggest take-away here is now that your child has come out to you as transgender, it is important for you as a parent to be open to talking to them and listening to them. Take the time to do your research, just like you currently are. Reach out to local or online support groups for you and your child. And remember your child’s feelings are valid and true.

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