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Dear parents of trans* kids (of whatever age)
When you sit in shame and awkwardness as a parent, concerning your trans child’s name, pronouns, transition, life, news … it is often felt on the deepest level by that child. It is an extra layer of guilt, of shame, of awkwardness for them to carry – a perceived confirmation of their fear that they’re making things difficult for you, instead of being able to focus on themselves. Society already makes things difficult and dangerous enough for people sheltering under the trans* umbrella, so it is your job and duty as a parent to be as openly and visibly supportive as possible – not just when talking to your child, but when talking about them publicly. Following the idea of Circles of Grief and Ring Theory – comfort goes in, dumping goes out. Comfort, support, recognise and affirm your child – remember how much it will have taken them to trust you with this. And when the child is safely asleep, away, out of earshot … that’s when you dump out. Turn to your friends, ask for help, advice, support. Read the books, join the groups, cry your tears, do your therapy, live your grief for the one who won’t be, and your apprehension for the one who will. But don’t let your child see that. This is time once again for you to be the strong parent, the unflappable one, the unquestioningly supportive one. You made the choice to have a child - now is your chance to support them, wholeheartedly, as they navigate their life's path.
Below is a response to the question from many parents, who ask what they should say to their friends, their family, their community when their child comes out as trans:
Tell them the truth.
Tell them you’ve never heard me sound so happy and so sure, despite all I’m going through.
Tell them you’re scared to make a mistake and hurt my feelings, but you know that not talking hurts me more.
Tell them you’re confused by some of the words and terms, that you still slip up. That it’s OK. That you’re learning, you’re trying.
Tell them you’re proud of me for everything I’m doing, even if you don’t always understand.
Tell them of your fears, of your concerns. For me, for you, for us.
Tell them you miss me. You miss seeing me now, and you miss seeing me as you thought I was.
Tell them you miss my old face and name, the ones you had so many dreams for.
Tell them you’re realising those dreams you had for me were just that – your dreams for me.
Tell them my name and my pronouns.
Tell them I’m transitioning, I’ve transitioned, and put the full stop wherever you need to after that.
Tell them only what you need them to know, but tell them all of that.
Tell them if they really knew me, they’d know I’m exactly the same person. I’m becoming more me, not less.
Tell them you’re conflicted and confused, and it’s OK. Ask them for help, support, advice, an ear.
Tell them as hard as it is to bear the loss of who I never was and never will be, you’re glad to bear it for me as it means I finally get to be who I’ve always wanted to be, who I’ve always been underneath.
Tell them the things you don’t tell me because you know how heavy my load already is to carry.
Lighten your load.
To my own parents, I want to add:
Tell them I'm no longer suicidal. I'm no longer exploring slow death through booze and nicotine, nor am I thinking of faster means to get there.
Tell them my name is Jo, my pronouns are 'she' or 'they' (but never 'he').
Tell them how they can help you. How they can help me.