#1 – Prioritize your child’s needs and preferences on who and when to tell.
This story is your child’s story; your child gets to decide who to tell and when to tell. They may be eager to be open, or they may be uncomfortable being discussed among family and friends. Let them take the lead or ask their permission.
#2 – The “big reveal” may not be necessary.
Always share in the way most helpful to your child. People may figure it out on their own and a gradual realization may be best for them. Months or years can go by without a clear statement about your child’s identity while in the meantime, normal relationships are preserved.
Many people are unaware of the social stigma they express toward LGBTQ and transgender youth. When this becomes personal, through realizing that someone they care about is LGBTQ, they can often find their own path to acceptance over time. Gender expressions like bright hair color, nail polish, or opposite gender dressing may simply be overlooked in someone they love.
#3 – If they want to be open at school, home, work, or in the family, support them all you can.
Watching your transgender loved one begin to live out their identity publicly may leave you feeling anxious. You may fear for their safety or worry about the discrimination or bullying that can occur.
These realities are part of why acceptance and support at home are so important. Transgender people need a safe place – where they can talk and be heard, where they can express concerns and find encouragement, where they can be safe and find support. This is their journey, but supportive parents are a huge and valuable defense against hardships they may face. Moreover, the confidence and coping skills you help them build will serve them throughout their life.
#4 – They may ask you to tell someone. Help if you can.
If your child asks you to tell someone, be as helpful as you can. They may want someone to know (another parent, for example) but be nervous about telling that person. Ask so you understand what they want you to share. If they ask, you can offer guidance to your child regarding the range of responses you anticipate. You can accompany your child as they initiate the conversation or you can take the lead if that is what the child wants. Be sure you understand the role they want you to play and what they want to share (or keep private).
#5 – They may ask you not to tell others. Respect their wishes.
The child is the one who may be the object of scrutiny, subject to questions, or a topic of family gossip. If they need privacy, let them set the pace. Coming out is their process, so the decision to tell others is theirs, not yours. This can be difficult if it means keeping a “secret” from close friends or other family members. However, the loving choice is to respect your child’s needs and desires.
#6 – Trust your instincts — and your child’s.
If you sense an acquaintance or family member may be hostile or hurtful, be mindful of this. Relatives, friends and neighbors, school chums and others all have a relationship with your child already. Again, let your child’s preference lead. Try not to push them or hold them back. Be open to their reservations about certain people and honor their judgment.
“What’s been most difficult is the reaction of my family members. No one on my side of the family knows because our son has chosen not to tell them. He told my husband’s family, but they’re not supportive.”
Anonymous Mother from Parent Stories.