There are many misconceptions when it comes to raising a transgender or genderqueer child — but in many ways, it is similar to raising a cisgender child (someone who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth). Raising a transgender (a child who does not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth) or genderqueer child (a child who does not identify with traditional gender distinctions), like any child, requires compassion, time, open-mindedness, resources, and at the end of the day, loving your child unconditionally.
Let your child be themselves
When a child is born, it’s easy to use gender norms as a way of determining who you think they are. From decorating their room to choosing the color of their clothes, you’re setting expectations for your child. If a child doesn’t feel they align with these gendered expectations, it can become isolating or uncomfortable. Whenever possible, keep items as gender neutral as possible and allow your child to gravitate toward whatever feels most natural to them. Reminding them no matter what, they will always know who they are, best (whether it’s their gender, sexuality, or simply their favorite thing to do). This means supporting your child for who they are and encouraging them to explore their inner selves without fear of judgement. Your child may explore their identity and evolve over the years. Being open to the fluidity of them learning who they are, in terms of their gender, is no different than their career interests. Learn with them and understand that you are both on this journey together.
Parents of transgender children often may want support and advice from other parents, or, ideally, trans adults who can speak to their experiences. Feel free to reach out to parenting groups, primary care physicians, or schools to see if there’s support or individuals in the LGBTQ+ community who can help you figure out the best way to support your child. This is of the utmost importance. A recent study found transgender children, who had been socially transitioned with the support of family, did not demonstrate higher rates of depression than children who were gender-conforming, as some purport
Teach your child to ask questions and be accepting of themselves
Maintaining a gender neutral home environment will unfortunately not be enough, as your child is likely to encounter gendered interactions outside of the home. Assisting them through this process can be as simple as teaching them how to ask questions — if they see a gendered expectation they don’t understand or agree with, they can ask. Asking or stating pronouns, regardless of whether your child is cisgender is a great way for them to practice understanding how to listen and value people’s descriptions of themselves and their identities.
Be honest with your child
It’s difficult as a parent to share the less accepting parts of the world with your child, but not being honest about how imperfect the world is will only do them a disservice. It’s important to communicate to your child while others may hold expectations for them on how they should present themselves to the world, they have the freedom to be themselves regardless of other’s opinions. While you can’t control the thoughts or behavior of the people your child will meet, you can support and prepare your child to go out into the world and stand their ground. Reminding them you love, support, and believe them, means they know they always have you on their team.
Expose your child to diverse books, shows, and movies
It’s important for your child to see themselves, or someone like them, reflected back at them. This means reading books, watching tv shows, and seeing movies involving queer, trans, or non-binary characters. This is especially crucial if your child doesn’t have many of these examples in their day-to-day life. Role models are an important part of development, and providing your child with a wide range of examples of what a role model could look like, is a positive step.
Advocate for your child
Having a support system home is the biggest positive influence you could have on your child. This is especially important because a child can’t always advocate for themselves, so they need someone in their corner. Do your part to educate your family members, friends, and community on how to communicate with your child—especially when it comes to not enforcing gender stereotypes. This is also a good opportunity to show your child what a true ally looks like.
Reach out to Northwest Primary Care with any questions. Our team is happy to connect and be your partner in ensuring your child is safe, happy, and supported throughout the stages of your child’s life.