Parents very supportive of teenage transgender son despite hidden feelings of loss.

Parents support their transgender teen and find high school and college very supportive even as they continue to harbor fears for a successful future.

  • Briefly describe how your child first came out to you and your initial reactions.

  • We are a 3 person family – mom, dad and 16-year-old child. We were sitting at the dining room table on a Sunday afternoon and our child looked at us and said, “I am transgender”. Dad and I were in shock – we definitely had not seen it coming. It was like the whole universe changed in that moment. Of course we told him we loved him and would always be there for him. The next day Dad took him to the men’s shop to buy proper men’s clothes. We immediately met with the school. They were great and supportive. They changed his name to the male form on all documents they could and every teacher used that male name. We arranged counseling for him. It turned out he had come to this conclusion a year early but waited to see if it was just a phase. I was so impressed with his maturity. We have tried to never let him know, but this has been really hard for me to deal with. We had this beautiful girl for 16 years and then she was gone. I grieved the loss. The pain was overwhelming. I know everyone says your real child is still there and I am sure that is true; that their true identity has always been the one they now express. But I felt like I was walking through absolute blackness, feeling I was supposed to be somewhere and help my child but not having the slightest idea or even a guess what is ahead of me in the blackness. That feeling has passed with time.

  • What concerns did you experience over the first weeks or months? How did you deal with them?

  • We found ourselves in a perfect storm–our beloved child told us he was transgender; within two months the pandemic further changed our world; choosing a college was no longer about where he would learn the most or have the most fun – it became where he would be safe, not have to share a shower with 20 other guys and not get killed. It is likely that he is very slightly on the autistic spectrum, so communication is not easy. I read everything I could find on being transgender, until the pandemic closed it down, I attended PFLAG, which was enormously helpful. The very knowledge that there were other transgender kids from all walks of life was reassuring. As we did things to progress his identity – getting a new state ID with his male name; making sure that he was registered at college as a male; changing his passport from F to M – the blackness slowly dissipated. In the end the college process was positive with many colleges making provisions for transgender students. He is finishing his freshman year and I don’t think he has ever been happier or more self-reliant. This summer I will be with him when he has top surgery.

  • Has your child come out to other family members over time?

  • Yes.

  • If yes, who, when, and what was their reaction?

  • We do not have any really close family. Dad’s family, who are British, reacted with warmth and support. My sister says she does not believe there is such a thing as transgender.
  • What is the hardest thing about knowing their LGBTQ identity?

  • Fearing for the future. How are his feelings going to get hurt? Will he find the right path? He wants to be a doctor and certainly has the intelligence for it, but will that be possible? I really fear the atmosphere toward transgender people which may develop in this country in the next few years.

  • What are some challenges have you faced concerning your LGBTQ child? How did you deal with these?

  • As mentioned above it was challenging to identify a college where he would be safe, welcomed and comfortable, In the end it all worked out better than I could have ever hoped. So I would encourage parents not to feel overwhelmed.

  • What is the best thing about knowing your child's LGBTQ identity?

  • Knowing who he is comfortable being. His Dad and I both felt like we were the worst parents in the world because we did not see this development coming. It is heart breaking to imagine a situation where we interacted with our child as if he was one thing when he really was another. Additionally, it has given me the opportunity to provide support and help with things such as his name change.

  • Knowing what you know today, would you want your child to “stay in the closet”? Why?

  • OMG…NO
  • What would you say to other parents learning the LGBTQ identity of their child?

  • I can really only speak to the transgender situation. At first, it may feel like you have been hit by a train, You may convince yourself it is just a phase (it probably isn’t) . You may feel like you need to do something to help your child, but you have absolutely no idea what. You will grieve and maybe envy/be angry at your friends who have more “traditional” families. But you will make it through. Seek specialized counseling or a group such as PFLAG. In the end I have come to feel that our child is not just the same as he was before – he is different, but that can be OK, better than OK.
  • What would you say to youth coming out to their families?

  • Your parents love you. With the exception of evangelical or those to the extreme right, your parents will be there for you. But you should also remember that this may be a new world for them – new vocabulary, new ways of being polite or rude, new approaches to life, leaving behind old expectations and learning new ones. You need to give them a little room for mistakes. Because no one will love you like your parents do.

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