6 Tips for Raising a Transgender Child

Helping your child navigate the channels of growing up can be a challenge enough. However, if your child is transgender, the dilemmas you deal with on a daily basis can increase tenfold. Below, Lee Schubert, author of Woman Incognito: Transsexual without Transition, offers insight on raising your transgender kid.

“When I was a child, there was hardly any awareness of the issue, and neither my parents nor I had any idea that I was transgender,” says Schubert. “But during my own process of self-discovery, and especially since I came to understand myself as a woman in a male body, I have become very aware of how different things are for trans children now.”

Between the advances in the understanding of gender by mental health professionals and the increased awareness by the public, Schubert notes that it has become much less difficult to realize that a child is transgender and to help him or her to deal with the fact and grow up as a healthy and happy individual. “Children and their parents no longer have to feel so isolated and unusual,” says Schubert, “And even the broader society has begun to remove some of the obstacles to growing up transgendered.”

How Do You Know Your Child May Be Transgender?

It can be tricky to distinguish behaviors typical with children from signs that your child may identify with the gender opposite from his or her biological sex. Your son wanting to dress up in heels or wear lipstick does not mean they may be transgender, nor does your daughter’s interest in baggy boy’s clothes. However, Schubert explains, if a child expresses a real discomfort with things generally expected of children with his or her biology, it is time to realize that there may be a real gender issue involved.

“These days many children do not even keep you guessing,” says Schubert. “Some ‘sons’ tell their parents straight out that they are really girls, and some ‘daughters’ declare in no uncertain terms that they are really boys.”

So how do you move forward if your child is identifying with a different gender?

Take them seriously. “If your child seems serious, take it seriously,” stresses Schubert. “This will help him or her to communicate openly with you about his or her true feelings. If Charles wants you to call her Charlene, do it. This is important, and so is referring to them by the pronouns they want you to use, because it tells them that you accept them for who they really are.”

Show them support. According to Schubert, the most important factor in the healthy future of transgender children is the love and support they receive from their own families. “They need to know that their parents fully accept them as they are and will help them with whatever social or physical changes they need to really be themselves,” says Schubert.

Seek support yourself. If you yourself are feeling conflicted over your child’s gender identification, seek counseling, but do not let your child see that you aren’t 100 percent supportive.

Talk with extended family. Of course, showing support within the house may be easier than gaining support from relatives. “Some of their relatives may not be able to accept them as transgender right away, and some may never really do that,” says Schubert. “Give them time to understand, but insist that they treat your children with respect no matter how they feel about it.”

Know when to ask for help. Schubert notes that being trans is not the same for everyone, and you need to help your child decide how far to go with social or physical transition. At some point, you will likely need professional help. Fortunately, says Schubert, there are now many sensitive and qualified counselors and therapists who can help both transgender children and their families.

Talk to their teachers. It’s one thing to show your child endless support in the home, but sending them to school is entirely different and, for the parents of trans children, can seem a bit scary. “The world outside your home is definitely a different arena, one where your child will face difficult challenges and even some amount of hostility,” says Schubert. From locker rooms to sports teams and the proper use of pronouns, school is a place where gender often comes into play. Talking to your child’s teachers is essential, especially if your child is transitioning in a school system that once knew them as a different gender. Having faculty support is imperative for ensuring your child is treated like every other boy or girl in their class.

Parents and grandparents of transgender kids can find addition resources for support at any of the following resources:
- National Center for Transgender Equality
- Gender Spectrum 
- TransFaith
- The Purple Rainbow Foundation