How to Emotionally Process Your Child Coming Out as Trans

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The gender of a child is something we've been conditioned to assume is settled while they are still in the womb, but that isn't always the case. In reality, children may not identify as the gender that matches the sex they were assigned at birth.

This might be something obvious, as with a toddler who openly tells their parent that they are a different gender than the one assigned to them, or the subject may not arise until a child's teenage years.

Whether it happens early or later, knowing how to emotionally process your child coming out as trans isn't necessarily something you innately know how to do. And it's very important that you take the right steps, as family acceptance plays an integral role in the health and wellness of trans youth.

Ahead, learn the steps you can take to process your child coming out as trans, and how to be the supportive parent your child needs.

Refrain From Reacting Emotionally

When your child comes out to you as trans, you may find yourself very surprised. You might feel overwhelmed, angry, or disappointed. These are all normal emotions when we hear news that we did not expect. However, it's important to not respond in a reactionary way, as that can be hurtful your child.

"Wow, that's really big news!" or something similar is an appropriate initial response. You want to acknowledge the situation, and that you heard what your child said. However, you very much want to avoid questioning them, asking if they're sure, or telling them you disagree. These are harmful actions that can increase a trans youth's already high risk of suicide and suicidal ideations.

Let your child know that you love them unconditionally, and you'll need a small amount of time to sit with this new information. Before you ask too many questions, since you might not yet know which are harmful and which aren't, share that you'll be taking a moment to educate yourself so that you can provide the best support possible.

Educate Yourself

The next step to help you process your child coming out as trans is to learn about what that means, and how your behavior impacts your child.

Know that some people don't agree with a trans identity, and have false "scientific" claims about transgender youth. For example, the concept of "rapid onset gender dysphoria" postulates that trans kids are impacted and influenced by other kids, and may not actually be trans. This notion has been completely disproven; if your child comes out to you as trans, you should believe them.

In addition to learning about the ways that people with political agendas have tried to make false claims about trans youth, you should also learn about the ways that your support of your child will have positive effects. For example, the acceptance of parents has been proven to play a critical role in trans youth's self-esteem. Your support and acceptance of your child is their lifeline. Learn about how to find trans affirming mental healthcare so that you can offer your child options if the subject arises.

If you're feeling taken aback that your child has come out as trans because you think it's an uncommon identity, you might be equally surprised to learn that it's about twice as common as we previously thought. It's not necessarily that more trans people exist now than did when you were young, but that they now have the language to voice their identity, as well as role models to represent it.

These are just a few of the areas that are helpful to delve more into to help you process your child's identity. Seek out whatever information you can find, and return to the subject with your child once you feel more grounded about it.

Let Your Child Know You Support Them

Once you have self-educated for long enough to feel more stable and comfortable with this topic, reach out to your child and let them know that they have your support. You're free to tell them this is a surprise, or that it feels challenging, but refrain from putting your concerns on them. Your child has enough concerns of their own, and feeling responsible for your emotions too isn't a fair situation to put them in.

At this point, you may want to ask your child about their needs for transition. Do they want to visit a doctor to discuss medical intervention? Would they like to speak with a therapist so that they can iron out their feelings further? Find out what your child needs, and be committed to providing it for them.

Use Their Pronouns and Chosen Name

The most straightforward and basic way to show your trans child that you love and support them is also one that also enables you to further process the news that they are trans. Ask your child what pronouns they are going by now, and use those. Use them yourself, and tell others to please do the same. You can speak with your child about what family members or family friends they want to inform, and who they'd prefer you speak to on their behalf.

Your child may also have selected a new name they'd like to be called that aligns more closely with their new identity. It might be an emotional process for you to let go of the name you gave them, but it will signal your support for their transition right off the bat.

The act of using a person's pronouns is one of simple respect. If your name is Sally, you wouldn't just let someone call you Jack. You'd think that was rude, and possibly even mean. The same is true for pronoun usage. Using your child's pronouns will solidify their gender to you, which will speed up the processing time about this. It can also help you to realize that what first seemed like a very big issue is actually one made of many small, and easily tackleable, things.

Advocate As Needed

LGBTQIA+ youth face more bullying, discrimination, and victimization than their cisgender heterosexual counterparts. This is important for you to be aware of, as it may prove challenging for children to tell their parents about bullying.

78% of trans and gender nonconforming youth reported being harassed, and 12% reported being assaulted, numbers that are higher than those of the general population of children. Learn about the signs of bullying and other harassment in children to best educate yourself about what to look out for.

Additionally, ask your child about what areas they most need your advocacy for. Even if they currently feel they have a handle on things, let them know that you are available to speak as needed to teachers, school administration, parents, or whomever else they may encounter discrimination from.

Let Them Lead

As adults, we generally think pretty linearly. We operate in a manner from start to finish. Kids are different, and a gender journey may be different as well. Don't expect a linear experience of transition. Instead, allow your child to lead.

Take their lead on the types of services the need, how quickly or slowly they want to come out to others, and how involved they want you to be in their transition. By letting your child need, you'll be telling them that you trust them and understand their autonomy. This is the perfect message to send your child.

Find Support for Yourself

Inasmuch as your child may need your support through this journey, you equally deserve to be supported. Confide in people you trust about your child coming out. Speak to your therapist if you have one, and if you don't, consider starting therapy to help you through this process.

In addition to therapy, group settings with other parents of trans youth can assist greatly in helping you navigate your child's journey. Look into the offerings at your local LGBTQ+ center, or if you're in a more remote area, find an online support group about the subject. Know that many other parents have gone through this experience, and you are not alone.

A Word From Verywell

As a final point, pop culture can play an excellent role in helping you normalize someone coming out as trans. There are more and more storylines that include transgender characters, and seeing them can help both the family and transgender person feel more seen.

When Elliot Page transitioned, The Umbrella Academy wove his transition into the plot. An act as easy as watching tv shows with trans characters played by trans actors can make you and your child feel affirmed and positive about their identity.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.