19 Terribly Interesting Tips On Raising A Trans Kid (From A Trans Kid)

Originally published on Translabyrinth

Jezebel’s got a story of a 10 year old transgirl named Jackie (formerly Jack). Jackie’s parents ended up earning a 10 out of 10 for supportiveness (not to mention extra fluffy cushions on their sofa in Heaven) for their role in helping Jackie transition at the age of 10. Of course, by pop culture standards that makes her, like, 30, but better late than never, right? Truly though, it’s touching to see something that once had to be silently swept under the carpet become fair fodder for the day-to-day news. If there’s one thing I learned from the GaGa going GuyGuy the other night, it’s that whether or not her on-stage gender flip was another tired pop star trope, it’s really the repetition of things like this that helps society’s medicine go down. And there’s nothing 24 hour news stations do better than repeat things incessantly. Can I get a high five?

All this got me thinking about my now blank-firing genitals. See, before I started pumping concentrated Woman down my veins (that’s W on the periodic table of elements. Yes, I know someone told you it was Tungsten, but people lie to you, get over it), I had this thing called fertility. And during that dark, boobless chapter of my life, I had my baby bullets frozen. Now, I could sell these as cocktail ice at a gay male orgy, or I could put ‘em in a lady. And how would I react if my spawnlings turned out to be trans? I wandered around my home for awhile today, looking back on my childhood, what I would have wanted, and remembered what I’ve learned about love and support from GF, friends and family. Thus, this list.

(Pre-disclaimer: some people don’t realize they’re trans until well past their childhood. No two transitions are alike, and no one’s gender identity should be held under suspicion simply because it doesn’t follow a mold.)

Make your home an inclusive one. No, this doesn’t mean leaving your doors unlocked, I’m far too paranoid an American to recommend that. But one of my biggest disadvantages growing up (which was in no way my own folks’ fault, as transpeople still aren’t common knowledge now) was not knowing that transgender people existed. It’s easily segued from the love conversation: sometimes girls love boys, sometimes girls love girls, and sometimes girls want to be boys. Even when I was very young, I latched onto any examples of gender variance in my life, and when they were negative images (like from porn), I didn’t have any parentally-backed ones to counterpoint them with. Set a good example by making it seem normal, boring and everyday.

Don’t equate “Mommy I want to wear girls clothes” with “Mommy is the stork going to make a second trip to drop off my vagina?” Just because your child has these feelings doesn’t mean they are trans, genderqueer or simply fabulous. However, they do need the space to figure themselves out, and if you deny them that I guarantee you the feelings will only intensify over time. If you deny them this chance to express themselves in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone, it will only lead to complexes, trust issues and even more identity issues. SPOILER ALERT: everything you do as a parent makes these.

Splash water in their face? Boom! Aguaphobia.

Talk to your kid about how far they want to go right now. Some are aching to change everything now, some are just wanting to test the waters in a safe space. Talking takes precedence, and that’s why this is an okay time to exert some parental authority and say “You can’t have everything now.” But girls tend to like piercings, and boys like shorter hair, so why not start there?

Consider a therapist, but only if you’re willing to do some leg work. Therapists need to be asked about their familiarity with gender, and working with kids. Also, seek out trans or LGBT support groups and ask if they have any therapists to recommend, or advice to offer. If you have a middle school or younger age kid, consider going without them to that meeting the first time (you need to make sure this is a good group, because not all are). However, if your child tends towards the hyper confident end of the spectrum and doesn’t mind outing themselves to a group of strangers, you go, transkid.

Don’t run and tell everyone that your kid is trans just to get it over with. Tell people as they need to know, unless there’s a family member or friend your kid feels they should tell, and is one that you feel will react in a positive manner. If you’re Super Parent (and if you are, sorry about everyone on Krypton dying and everything, that sure sucks), you may want to go telling your family and friends The New World Order, but the more people who know the more pressure can be put on a child to make up their mind one way or another. Also, odds are your kid won’t want pronouns out of the gate, so call them your daughter if that’s who they are right now, and if they change that to son later, say that later. You’re not here to make other people feel comfortable, you’re here to make just one person the most comfortable person ever. So do that.

When it comes to schools, talk to their teacher first when they start living a significant period of the day in their new gender’s clothing (if they’re in elementary school). If there’s bullying, talk to an administrator, but don’t do so with the assumption you’re going to have to fight them all the way to the Lifetime movie adaptation of your struggle. Most people, yourself included until your kid became trans, don’t know as much about gender variance, so be ready to take the lead, educate, and make it clear that the school’s job is to prevent any kind of bullying. Also, never let changing schools be off the table. If they’re in middle school or high school, don’t divulge to their, what, eight teachers, until they’re going to school in dress. Talk to teachers of whatever classroom they’re being bullied in, first, if they’re not full time new gender at school.

If your kid changes dress in the younger age bracket (0-10), their peers’ll likely just accept what you tell them. “Your girl is a boy? Capital! Now where’s your most edible ground?” -Their peers. Really, kids are mega-accepting and submissive to authority figures when they’re young. That is, until the fruit of knowledge begins properly digesting and we all become twats in middle school. A good friend of mine (let’s call her Tessa) who’s a transwoman, fathered a kid just before she transitioned. She told this daughter, Melisa, when she was about 2 that mommy Tessa used to be a boy, but Tessa wasn’t happy being a boy and became a girl. Melisa’s response even years later? A perpetual motion machine of love.

Hormones can be a comfort for kids, but never let them be a crutch. If they’re younger, tell them that if their body starts making them too much like a girl or a boy, they can stop that if they feel comfortable with it. If older, only if they can come to you knowing everything good and bad these drugs do. It’s important that they understand their identity emotionally before they get too fixated on their identity chemically. (Hormones don’t fix the self, they just give it different wrapping paper)

On fertility. This may be an awkward convo for a suddenly hormonal 11 year old who wants their body to stop changing them the wrong way. Yes, hormones, especially at that young an age, can *potentially* end their ability to have babies forever. Talk to doctors and see if anything can be frozen. If it can’t, you and your kid need to decide if X amount of time without hormones is something they (and not you) can live with until something can be frozen. If not, there are an awful lot of unadopted, love-worthy kids on this planet.

Encouragement. Yes, you may need time to mourn the “death” of the child you’ll never have again, but don’t put that pain on them. They need you to be strong, they need to think of you when they’re afraid, and not the fear. If they know someone can stay by them and be strong, that makes all the difference. For ‘xample, I was very hard on myself at the beginning of transition, but GF never flinched in daily reminding me how strong I was and how wonderful I was for being true to myself, and over time, when I would find myself on the floor, wet eyed, shaking and scared, I would stop replaying my fears and would instead remember her, and her sureness. That’s what you want: the magic of repetition.

Family who is not on your side will not be accepted. That is all.

Don’t force them into their new gender. You know your kid, even if right now it feels like you don’t. You know whether or not your kid is the kind who’d be happy to come home from school one day and find their room pink and every trapping of their old life replaced with bunnies, bunnies and more bunnies. You see, whether I’d been born guy or girl, I’d still think My Fair Lady and Starship Troopers are excellent, so let your kid explore their gender rather than tell them what it is. I wouldn’t have been broken hearted to come home and find Ultraman hugging a stuffed kitty.

Or tackling Ryugulo’s mighty head knife. I was a weird kid.

Part of encouragement is telling them it’s okay to be wrong. They need to know they can come to you with doubts, especially if they want to change their minds about hormones, pronouns, their name, anything. Would you want to be judged? No? Then do unto others.

Don’t erase yourself from this equation. Have a support network of your own, because you’ll need someone to lean on if this hurts. It’s not your kid’s fault, nor yours, but the biggest trip-up in parenting is pretending you’re a magic fixit machine. You’re a person who feels. Just spare the child the woe you’re writing in your heart and save it for that certain someone great at making you feeling less ARRGH-sad.

Stand up for them. They’re very probably terrified in one way or another, and if they don’t learn to expect someone to stand up for them, they’ll withdraw, hiding their real self in the dark place where it’s safe. Correct people on pronouns. Stare back at starers. Answer questions to your heart’s content, not someone else’s. You can always walk away from a conversation and no one will arrest you. If someone tries to tell you about how to raise your kids, well, if you’re in the 1950′s you can say “Sure thing, Mrs. Willoughby, we’ll get right on that.” If you’re in New York you can say “Yourself: go fuck it.” Or if you’re a regular person you can say something hokey like “I’m just letting my child be who they are in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone,” because you’re a parent and you say things that are well-intentioned and hokey.

How cool and in touch your kids see you. (neck beard and all)

Gender Spectrum has piles of good advice, so here’s a few of their tips:

If there’s trouble at school, keep records of it. Who with, what day. This will give you something to bring to administrators, PTA meetings, teachers, etc.

Make sure you and your kid understand the difference between privacy and secrecy. Secrecy is frequently something you’re ashamed of, and that’s not what your youngin should feel. Privacy is explaining to your kid that not everyone accepts this, and that telling everyone everything is not what a person does for anything in their life, least of all this. Work out between the two of you what’s the right thing to say when asked, like rehearsing a script.

If your child moves back and forth between genders “a lot,” accept that maybe they’re a crossdresser, maybe they’re genderqueer, or maybe, just maybe, they’re a person who gets confused and unsure. The same way you do about everything you’ve ever known, including and especially about who you are. Most of transition is being in a safe space to act out your identity. So it’s not about whether your child is “really” a boy or “really” a girl, it’s about accepting that your child is your child, and needs help.

Now, post-disclaimer (but ha, you suckers read the whole thing anyway! Except for you down scrollers, who I’ll soon exact vengeance upon): this is a guide that was written in reaction to the story of 10 year old Jackie (plus some inspiration from another ABC News piece), but like general parenting 101, there is no ‘parenting trans kids 101′ textbook. All there is is showing up to class. Situations vary for each kid, regardless of age, but I find that when I’m feeling lost, reading through guides can help shine a light where once there was just darkness to blindly grope about in. You’ll make mistakes, but this is how you learn. Or as transman pastor Aaron Raz Link said, “Forgive yourself for learning instead of knowing.”

If you have hella helpful additions or teeth-gnashing criticisms, deliver them to the comments below, or my electronic mailing service via [email protected] I certainly don’t want to write from a vacuum when there’s whole communities of people out there who can help me increase people’s collective knowledge, or something equally cuddly and LeVar Burtony like that.

w/luv,
M

“Family In The Beach” photo courtesy of artist photostock at freedigitalphotos.net.
“Love heart” and “Etienne Parent” photos courtesy of acobox free images and hosting.


Avatar of Morgan M

Morgan is a gay ginger transgirl gamer hailing from North Carolina. She's been fortunate enough to be Autostraddle's Miss April 2013 as well as an A-Camp counselor (go Battlestars) and a writer and speaker at various outlets and events. Currently, she lives in sin in the Bay Area.

Morgan has written 6 articles for us.

48 Comments

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    This is great. I hope it gets to the people who need it! I love seeing kids whose parents are supporting them doing their own thing. I think that trusting kids, especially to know how they feel more than anyone else does, is a great way to instill self confidence and to make them feel loved.

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    Wow, this is an amazing article. I wish my mom could see this. She’s supportive of me being trans, but more in a ‘I’m just going to ignore this-it’s your business to tell the family not mine-kind of way’.

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    her parents are so sweet in the video on jezebel! the dad says “i knew i was a boy when i was two” – saying basically, why would we disbelieve our kid’s identity any more than our own?

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    This is awesome. I don’t have kids yet, but I feel better reading this. I’m gay and plan on having kids and although I feel being gay myself helps to allow me an open mind for my future chillens** (whether gay or straight), this article gives me a better understanding of how to be sensitive and understanding to yet another dimension of being a human being. It’s extremely important for me that my future spawn be secure and feel accepted for who they are so I find this beyond informative on the chance that he/she might not be comfortable being born a specific gender. Thank you so much for this.

    **Disclaimer: I just want to make sure that everyone realizes that I’m not making the assertion that being gay will make me any more open-minded than any other kind of parent…Just thought I’d cover my bases

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      Excellent question! Since this article was meant to be accessible to all parents, LGBT savvy and unsavvy alike, and many people are not familiar with what “trans” or “transgender” mean, I thought it would be clearer if I included both of her names. I don’t generally mention anyone’s old names, but Jackie’s names have already been disclosed to the media, so I didn’t see the harm.

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    Thank you for this amazing post. I also shared it with some groups I am involved with. My wife and I plan on having kids, and this is a great framework for general kid raising. Though I’m not gomna lie that part of me wants to have a transgender kid, so as to carry on the family trans-ness. Instead I’m going to have a straight republican jock…. :)

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    Oh this article was just as awesome the second time! Does this mean that you’ll be writing here in the future maybe possibly please? Because that would be extremely relevant to my interests. Also, a video of your talk at PAX East would be awesome too, but this probably isn’t the place to ask for that, so.

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    Hey Morgan,

    Beyond the fact that this article is a fantastic piece of advice, you just seem like a wonderful/dorky person (from this piece and the calendar post), and it’s been lovely having you around here! Please stay? You’re hilarious/great.

    Hugs,
    A.

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    Awesome article, will def link people to this! Just one query:

    “It’s important that they understand their identity emotionally before they get too fixated on their identity chemically.”

    I’m cis, so I don’t really get an opinion, but some trans adults have told me that because their dyphoria/dissonance was much more about their bodies than their social identity, it was much more important for them to get on hormones asap, and they could work out whether they were female/non-binary gender/agender/something else later. Could this not also be true of trans kids?

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      In my own humble opinion, I’d say hormones are very important. They do so much more then just, change your body. When I was put on hormones some years ago, so many things, physical things, got better for me. Why? I don’t know. I’d theorize that opposite sex hormones in such high capacity is dangerous unless you’ve got the appropriate gender to handle them. (Someone knows for sure?)

      When you’re talking about a child what you usually do in terms of hormones, is puberty blockers. They have no permanent affects, but they stop your body from developing in the wrong direction. It’s very important to block puberty since many of the effects during puberty are irreversible, like your voice breaking. And let me tell you, the single most infuriating thing in the world is having to learn how to speak again because your voice broke and now you sound like a —.

      And If your child isn’t trans, then you can take them off puberty blockers no harm done. But it usually becomes apparent within a few months if they aren’t. And there are mental exercises you can do to help you on the way, like trying to imagine how you look few years into the future and stuff.

      And I do agree that trans isn’t something social for me, it’s bodily only (which is part of why I don’t identify as trans, since if you look at all the research done in the last 10 years, there’s a lot of evidence to support me being born a woman). I’ve not changed anything from how I dressed or acted before I “transitioned” to how I am today. I wore jeans and T-shirts 5 years ago, and I still do so today. I had long hair 5 years ago, today I have medium-short hair. And since my mom wanted me to “practice being a woman” she forced me into a dress, which made me looked like a wet cat, miserable. I can say for certain I’ll never wear one again lol.

      Sure, how people see me is important, and I do want people to see ‘woman’ when they look at me. But hormones makes me physically healthy, and I’d take looking like Johnny the Butt-ugly and being on hormones over the opposite any day.

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      I actually think this point is really important. I was expecting this article to be like throw them to the endocrinoligist now, send out a postcard to everyone with new pronouns and names! But it wasn’t and I think that’s brilliant. I feel like there is SO much pressure to transition as fast as possible and there’s no room to just be yourself and try to understand whats going on in your life without trying to fix everything with medicine. Obviously hormones/transition is general is wonderful for some people, but I feel like there’s another subsection of people who maybe should have just been left alone to think for a bit without all this pressure to go pick new names and stuff.

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        And you’re absolutely right! Hormones just helps to take care of the physical aspect, not the overall picture. If want to delay hormones then you should.

        I’ve been on hormones for over 2 years, and any changes to my overall life has been minimal. I think what shocked my family the most, is that they had this idea of how transitioning was this BIG DEAL and there was a HUGE EFFORT you had to put into it. I’ve just sat on my ass like i usually do lol. These last 2 years have been basically trying to find out what I want to do with my life. Both in terms of education and stuff but also in terms of how I want to portray ME to the outside world. And I’ve yet to come to a conclusion.

        It’s important to separate the medical stuff from the social stuff. Transitioning isn’t about the hormones, although they do play a part. Transitioning is about discarding your fake self, and starting to be your real self. Medicine can’t help with the that.

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      And sometimes the social aspect is the only part that makes someone dysphoric. Transition is a very personal thing and everyone does it their own way. Personally I don’t think I will ever want hormones or surgery, but that’s because I was thankfully born with an already pretty masculine body. The social part of transition is really important and needs a lot of thought. But for some people the body dysphoria is just too much to think about anything else. So it really depends on the individual in the end.

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    Great overall advice, but as a trans woman it REALLY bothered me how much the author unnecessarily peppered this article with references to trans women being “born boys.” Adding a disclaimer of “not everyone’s story is the same” doesn’t justify or excuse repeating one viewpoint over and over without even pointing out that a lot of transgender people find that offensive. I am not a boy who decided he wanted to be a girl. Maybe that description fits your experience, but it doesn’t fit mine nor does it fit that of many other trans people, and saying this without putting it in context is just reinforcing misconceptions about gender that negatively impact the transgender community and all gender-variant people.

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      would ‘born biologically male’ be better, because though we all like to forget it, we do have that. Also Morgan does say in a comment just up a bit that it’s meant to be accesible, the way to do that is little steps to start with that people are more likely to understand. People tend to try and resist change if you just say this is how it is, deal with it.

      tl;dr, ‘born biologically male’ is probably better but this is hardly bad for people who have no prior understanding of trans* issues, as my parents didn’t

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        “Born biologically fe/male” is considered problematic language as it implies that (binary) trans people can’t ever be physically male or female despite their gender identity. Designated __ at birth (DXAB) is a lot better.

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          Fair enough. I don’t see it that way (should probably reiterate i am trans) but i’ll make sure to use it for others. Already use it for non-binary so shouldn’t be hard

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    I found this really helpful as a primary school teacher and would just like to add that most kids I’ve taught LOVE dressing up as the opposite gender, specially boys, and I think it’s really important for kids to get to explore that and experiment whether they identify as trans or not.

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    Great article! I’m always happy to see new writers on Autostraddle.

    However, one small thing to note: this article has a bunch of typos, grammar mix-ups, and poorly-constructed sentences, which detracted from my reading experience. One of the things I love about Autostraddle is the close editing you do for most articles, because it shows that you guys put a lot of effort and care into your work. Please don’t let writing quality slide! It helps everyone take you seriously as a website and makes your arguments more credible.

    That said, this article was really important and amazing!

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    Great article, and I’m really glad to see trans* issues being discussed here more often. Just a point – a kid who switches between genders could also be bigender or polygender. I know that genderqueer is mentioned, which is good, but saying a child who “moves between genders a lot” seems to be describing a bi/polygender kid more than anything, and since we tend to be left out a lot … Anyway, I know that’s not the point, just wanted to mention it.

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      I have a feeling she was using genderqueer to mean nonbinary genders more so than a particular gender identity in itself. At least that’s how I interpret “genderqueer” most of the time (I’m agender).

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    “If older, only if they can come to you knowing everything good and bad these drugs do.” With this are you saying that they have to do that research themselves, or just that they have to find these things out with or without the parents help? And also do you mean hormone blockers or actual hormones?

    I find the idea of grieving for the child you don’t have when your child enters transition odd. I know its something people go though, but your kid is exactly the person they always were, you just had the wrong information about one part of their person. And they’ll probably change during the process but they’d be changing anyway because people do as they grow up and have experiences etc. (This may be because my own experience of gender is apparently odd – I find it to be something almost entirely externally imposed based on how other people percieve me)

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    If I could add one more thing to this excellent list, it’s to read Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper’s book “The Transgender Child” which is a superb resource for parents with trans or gender variant kiddles. The book does a great job in helping parents to be aware of if their child is more about the socially-variant gender expression or if they’re trans (as in needing to transition). It’s also a great book to read if you just want perspective on your gendered-self growing up.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Transgender-Child-Handbook-Professionals/dp/1573443182

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    Excellent Article!

    I always believed in unconditional love when raising a family. I reinforced this over the years, along with raising my daughters to embrace diversity. When I came out to my daughters as being both pansexual and a woman of transsexual history, they both hugged me and told me that they loved me unconditionally and wanted me to be happy. If you give unconditional love and support, it will come back to you.

    Growing up, I told my mother as early as 2 or 3 that I KNEW I was a girl. She was as supportive as a parent could be in the dark days of the early 1950′s, living under the shadow of the cold war and McCarthyism. I did have to keep quiet to my dad though and eventually when things came to light, he made my life difficult.

    Thankfully today, more parents are embracing their kids differences and letting them explore. My best friend still (after 55 years) had many similarities in his childhood, and is today married to his husband six years (and together with him for 43). So although we had similarities in our childhood exploration, we ended up at two different places as adults. Which is why you want to let the child more or less tell you where they’re at and not try to rush conclusions.

    I do note some misconceptions in many articles on the topic. For one, I would like to see writers use “cisgender” rather than “genetic”, “non-trans”, “biological”, or born”. Research has shown that our brains are actually the gender we KNOW (I’d rather say “know” than “feel” or “think” because those imply being less than positive or less than physical) that they are intrinsically, instinctively. The last time I checked, my (female)brain was physical, organic, biological, and genetic. I was never a boy/man. For me it is a matter of correcting a birth defect and bringing an errant body into congruence with who I truly am.

    For noting birth in an article, I prefer CAMAB/CAFAB (coercively assigned male/female at birth). Essentially the attending person at a birth takes a quick look at genitalia and makes an educated guess as to the SEX of the baby. The only way you can know what someone’s GENDER is is to ask them what it is. As someone once pointed out “There are cis women and there are trans women, but they are both women.” (Same for cis and trans men).

    The other misconception I see often enough to mention it, is the idea that in an ideal world of acceptance, we would not need to transition. I can say for myself that all the acceptance in the world would not change my need to transition and be as fully as possible, the person I truly am.

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    This is generally a good article but, there are some major problems with it:
    - “It’s easily segued from the love conversation: sometimes girls love boys, sometimes girls love girls, and sometimes girls want to be boys” This is not how being trans works. Trans people don’t want to be the gender they are anymore than gay people want to be gay. It’s not something you want, it just is.

    -”girls tend to like piercings, and boys like shorter hair, so why not start there?” Gender norms are always a great thing to push on your kid right? Why not let them pick out clothing and/or a haircut that they want, with minimal influence from their parents?

    -”Also, odds are your kid won’t want pronouns out of the gate” There might be some kid somewhere who won’t/didn’t, but I’ve known a lot of trans kids, and I have yet to meet one who, upon coming out to their parents, didn’t want them to use the pronouns of their correct gender.

    -”new gender” is used a bunch of times. Yes, it may be new to the parents, but it goes back to the want thing. They’ve always been that gender, the parents just didn’t know.

    -”Hormones can be a comfort for kids, but never let them be a crutch. If they’re younger, tell them that if their body starts making them too much like a girl or a boy, they can stop that if they feel comfortable with it. If older, only if they can come to you knowing everything good and bad these drugs do. It’s important that they understand their identity emotionally before they get too fixated on their identity chemically. (Hormones don’t fix the self, they just give it different wrapping paper)”

    First, no mention of hormone blockers at all? Yes, they’re expensive, but going through the wrong puberty is one of the most unpleasant things. Plus, you would be saving money on top surgery/electrolysis in the long run. Second, the wrapping paper analogy is just terrible. Yes, they don’t change the “self” as the author puts it, but they can be a very big, life affirming thing for a lot of trans folks.

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    I read this article when it was posted and haven’t been able to get it out of my head. I don’t think anybody has even begun to explain me the way you just did. Except, I’m 26. I’m not entirely sure if I’ve even dealt with the things you talk about. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    This is the exact reason why I love Autostraddle and why I am hellbent on going to A-Camp in September. THANK YOU.

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    I loved the section on fertility until the last line: “If not, there are an awful lot of unadopted, love-worthy kids on this planet.”

    Ugh! There are donor gametes out there for couples including a trans partner. My husband didn’t get to get anything frozen before he transitioned, so we used donor sperm. Adoption is way too invasive, exclusive, & expensive to be an option for everyone.

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    Thank You for this. I am the Mom of a gender variant child and she is beautiful. She is not even six yet and more self aware than I have been most my life. I am so afraid to screw up as move toward getting her in school *not going smoothly*
    I feel bad whenever I feel like she picks up on my worrying vibes *she always does. So, thank you. If your article is true from your own experience then I really am not doing bad.

  20. Pingback: LGBT Parenting Roundup – Mombian

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