How To Be A Supportive Parent/Ally to Trans & Gender non-conforming children [9 helpful suggestions...]
As parents, we can do better. As teachers and grown-ups who get the chance
to love kids and help them not just survive, but thrive, we can do better.
Cutting my hair short affirmed my identity. Wearing boys clothes AND playing with dolls affirmed my identity. And now, all these years later, using they/them pronouns and identifying as non-binary (neither male nor female) affirms my identity. Because affirming someone’s identity doesn’t make everything about their identity, it lets them be who they are.
As a gender nonconforming kid, I didn’t have YouTube and Instagram to see other people like me. I didn’t learn about the evolution of language in school. No one sat me down and told me it was okay to be queer. Instead, at first, I was told to change. To fit in. When that didn’t work, I was told to be quiet about. To not tell my parents. To not make it such a big deal. To stop doing everything for attention. I’m encouraged to be quiet, to not come out at school or church or work, to not make things so complicated for those around me. I’m expected to let people mis-pronoun & misgender me. I’m expected to be small.
But I can’t do that.
Because transgender teens are one of the most at-risk groups for self-harm, suicide, depression, and cyber-bullying. Because these kids are 9 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. Because my friend calls me and tells me her kindergartner got harassed in the bathroom for “looking like a boy” and can’t stop crying. Because another friend messages me in the middle of the night that her middle schooler wants to die because they were born in the wrong body.
I refuse to be quiet about that. About the kids who feel safe enough to come home and tell their parents, but their parents have no idea where to start. About the kids who will lose everything if they stand up for who they know they truly are. About the kids who don’t yet have the words but everything hurts. About the kids who are being bullied online and no one even knows because they’re scared and ashamed and think they somehow deserve it. Because sometimes the world tells them they deserve it.
As parents, we can do better. As teachers and grown-ups who get the chance to love kids and help them not just survive, but thrive, we can do better.
- LEARN about gender identity. It is essential that parents have general knowledge about transgender people, a strong understanding of the specific needs of TGNC (Transgender & Gender Non-Conforming) youth. Having the skills to provide transgender-inclusive care can be challenging, so you are encouraged to reach out for professional assistance to help increase your level of cultural competency as concerns parenting a transgender child.
- AFFIRM the identities of those around you. Especially that pink haired gender nonconforming teen you saw in line at the store this morning.
- SHARE what you’re learning with those around you. As parents, we get a front row view to the next generation. To all the ways they challenge the norms, to all the ways they challenge This means we also get the opportunity to tell our coworkers, friends, and neighbors what we’re learning and bring them along.
- ASK your kids what they know about gender identity. Sometimes kids have a lot to learn and sometimes they are our teachers. Make space for all of it. Question them to dig deeper. Let them question and challenge you. Remind them that their identity today is not forever and it’s okay for them to evolve in how they think of themselves. I ask my kid about her pronouns monthly to remind her that she will always be evolving into her full self and give her a chance to update me along the way.
- BE AWARE that there are an increasing number of people who are coming out as TGNC, and many are coming out as children and adolescents. Many of these young people do not feel that they will be safe or supported if they disclose their gender identity.
- BE SENSITIVE to the fact that gender influences nearly every part of a person’s life, and those who are TGNC are often acutely aware of this. Any time TGNC young people meet or interact with someone, they may be confronted with at times inaccurate assumptions about their gender, expectations to conform to gender norms, and bias/prejudice toward people who are TGNC. As a result, TGNC young people may be less likely to trust or be open with new people, and are more likely to have increased mental health challenges, such as depression or anxiety.
- PREPARE yourself, as with a little advanced preparation and effort, you can have a majorly positive impact on a transgender youth's life. Know who your LGBTQ point person is, and utilize that person’s expertise. When considering referrals for other services, call ahead and ask questions to determine if or which providers are culturally competent in working with TGNC youth. Keep a list of the individual providers at these sites who are inclusive and make sure that the youth see the inclusive providers. Remember, not all LGBTQ providers or all individual providers at a site are inclusive of or prepared to work with TGNC youth.
- ADVOCATE and become an ally to your TGNC youth, whose community is disproportionately targeted to face a significant amount of prejudice and discrimination. Every time you see other staff or youth making negative remarks, bias statements, verbal or physical remarks, or not respecting name and pronoun preferences, it is your responsibility to intervene. By paying extra attention and speaking up, you can dramatically increase young peoples’ safety, self-esteem, and sense of support.
A fascinating read which is slightly off-topic -- but definitely has some valuable insight as for better supporting, allying & advocating for your TGNC children -- is entitled Safe & Respected: Policy, Best Practices & Guidance for Serving Transgender & Gender Non-Conforming Children and Youth in the Child Welfare, Detention, and Juvenile Justice Systems. I can be viewed and/or downloaded below.
About Safe & Respected:
You should be familiar with this report if you work with transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) youth. This guide "offers child welfare and juvenile justice practitioners concrete guidance, strategies for success, and resources that will enable staff to meet the specific needs of TGNC children and youth. The guide features an overview of the barriers that TGNC children and youth face in foster care and juvenile detention, a glossary of terms, an overview of affirming resources, policies, and best practices especially meaningful to staff to help affirm and support TGNC young people." Twenty-three focus areas comprise this publication. Topics discussed range from children's services non-discrimination policies and commitment to respective care to preferred name , pronouns, and identity language to medical transition to staff cultural competency training, to name a few. Appendixes include how to respectively ask identity questions, and a glossary.
- Publication Year: 2014
- Length: 67 pages