I often use the metaphor with parents that when they learn that their child is trans* or gender non-conforming, the experience can often feel like learning that they are running a marathon without knowing ahead of time to start training. I say this because often at the point a teenager shares this information with their parents, they are moving to a point of wanting to take steps towards coming out and transitioning, in whatever way that fits for the youth.
Mostly, this news feels overwhelming, not because parents aren’t supportive of their children, but because it is new information and may not have been on a parent’s radar. At this point, tension and conflict may come up between a child and their parents over speed of action. A parent wanting to slow down and digest the information, while the child may want to start making changes, which may include starting hormones, obtaining a legal name change, or coming out at school to their classmates and teachers.
At The Juniper Center, we recognize that when someone in a family comes as out trans*, that person deserves support and a space to work through their own feelings and needs. We also believe that to best support our trans* and gender non-conforming individuals, we also need to provide support and space for their parents and family members to process, as well as to gain resources, and support. For a parent, the process of catching up to their child’s gender transition can feel confusing or overwhelming, even when a parent fully supports their child’s coming out.
We offer family sessions or individual appointments with parents so that they can get support and discuss any questions they have. Additionally, we provide resources and referrals to support groups, such as PFLAG (pflagillinois.org) that can offer space for parents to talk to other parents with gender variant kids.
We believe that helping the whole family to support their child in the child’s transition of identity and/or expression, helps everyone in the family to live happier and more connected lives. For more information on family or individual work for a person who is coming out as trans* or gender non-conforming or who is exploring their gender identity, please contact us at: 847-759-9110 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributed by Melisa Bailey, Psy.D.