Content warning: discussion of transphobia, mental health, parental rejection; mention of suicide & suicide risk, depression, and substance abuse--
Many parents don’t know what to do when their child tells them that they are transgender – many are afraid of doing the wrong thing. Regardless of their identity in the end, you have two choices:
If you reject them, no matter the end result, you will contribute to their harm and increase the risk of mental illness.
A few facts and thoughts:
If you choose to affirm their identity, no matter the end result, you are telling your child that they can trust you. That they can confide in you. That they are allowed to trust themselves and their own feelings, and that you trust them to learn and figure themselves out. This is a part of building a healthy parent-child relationship .
It is also important to keep in mind that by the time your kid brings this to you, the parent, they have probably spent months or maybe years crying themselves to sleep at night, wondering if you will still love them. This declaration to you is not a whim, this is well-thought through statement, and in this moment, you have a rare opportunity to show your kid they can trust you, that they can confide in you.
In the end, you as the parent have the choice: You can either increase the risk for harm and suicide by rejecting them, or you can dramatically reduce that risk by affirming their identity. It is your choice.
Don’t be your child’s first bully.
“But my kid is too young to know they’re transgender! This is such a big life decision and I don’t think they’re old enough to make it.”
This is actually incorrect! Studies show that gender identity actually develops quite young – before kids begin school, around the age of 3-5 years old . This doesn’t mean that every kid realizes that they are transgender this young. Social and parental pressures as well as general societal stereotypes of gender can cause many transgender individuals to remain presenting as the gender they were assigned at birth for many years. Still, the argument that kids are “too young” to be able to know who they are is scientifically and psychologically incorrect. Kids absolutely are capable of knowing their gender identity.
Do not conflate gender identity with executive functioning. Many folks know that the prefrontal cortex (where executive function originates) does not mature until mid to early adulthoold . But, this is irrelevant to the development of gender identity. Executive function is often referred to as cognitive or self-control. This skill set includes the following three skills: cognitive flexibility, working memory, and inhibitory control . Inhibitory control includes the ability to hone attention and focus, ignore distractions, and inhibit or regulate base emotions and impulses. So, if anything, mature executive function could actually reduce the ability for a person to be able to openly speak their mind and express their authenticity because mature executive function allows for a heightened ability to inhibit oneself — and potentially could allow a trans person to inhibit their expression of self due to fear or some other hesitation. This implies that children are actually better equipped neurologically to be able to express themselves authentically.
“But some people do regret their transition!”
Yes, they do! The video does not say that no one ever regrets transition. It says that almost no one. This is statistically true. A handful of folks do de-transition and realize that they are actually their assigned gender. This handful out of the literaly millions of transgender people in the world is statistically insignificant. Additionally, I have read zero accounts/case studies of folks who regretted transitioning or who de-transitioned who thereafter experienced significant psychological harm or distress. They usually express that the experience wasn’t for them, and they actually would rather live in the gender they were assigned at birth. Compare this with increasing suicide attempts by 3.5x due to rejection of identity. It is always better to affirm, even if it means that (less than) 1% of the time, the person might not be transgender in the end. They are more likely to be alive if you affirm them. They might not be if your reject them.