Family support for LGBT children

Posted by Ayesha, Volunteer Mentor @ayeshasharma, Jan 25 3:23pm

I'm a mentor here on Mayo Connect, and I like to spark discussion around being LGBT to invite others who identify as LGBT to join whenever they'd like. I recently posted about being LGBT during the holidays and the challenges that this experience can pose for a lot of people of all ages and identities. But I want to open up the conversation about LGBT kids and their relationships with their families year-round

Here is a note that Mayo Clinic's website has on how to support your LGBT child:

If you or your child is LGBTQ, look for a doctor who is empathetic and respectful of your specific needs. By doing so, the doctor can help identify ways to reduce the risk of health concerns, as well as identify medical conditions and refer you to specialists when necessary.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/basics/lgbtq-health/hlv-20049421

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I want to share this video because it's a perspective directly from a young trans man who was supported by his parents as a child. He's able to look back on his experiences and share what helped and what hurt him during his transition.

Some highlights if you don't have time to watch…
1. Research! Do some research on your child's identity (online, books, or just by talking to your kid about what they want and need)
2. Respect your child's name and pronouns (it will speak volumes!)
3. Help your child with the coming out process (but talk to them first to make sure this is something they want before doing it!)
4. More research!
5. Financial support (only if this is something you're able to do)
6. Legal and medical guidance (transitioning can be difficult and complicated. One thing you can help with is finding an trans friendly doctor for your kid)
7. Validation (believe your kid. Transitioning can be confusing, and it might seem like this identity came out of nowhere. Trust your kid and it will make them more comfortable to trust you and turn to you when they need you)

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@ayeshasharma

I want to share this video because it's a perspective directly from a young trans man who was supported by his parents as a child. He's able to look back on his experiences and share what helped and what hurt him during his transition.

Some highlights if you don't have time to watch…
1. Research! Do some research on your child's identity (online, books, or just by talking to your kid about what they want and need)
2. Respect your child's name and pronouns (it will speak volumes!)
3. Help your child with the coming out process (but talk to them first to make sure this is something they want before doing it!)
4. More research!
5. Financial support (only if this is something you're able to do)
6. Legal and medical guidance (transitioning can be difficult and complicated. One thing you can help with is finding an trans friendly doctor for your kid)
7. Validation (believe your kid. Transitioning can be confusing, and it might seem like this identity came out of nowhere. Trust your kid and it will make them more comfortable to trust you and turn to you when they need you)

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@ayeshasharma A great conversation starter! Thank you for starting this discussion, and posting this video. There is definitely a period of transition for family/friends/co-workers just like the young man stated. I hope to see posts here from others. Support on a journey is so important!
Ginger

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Supportive parents of color are rarely represented in the mainstream outwardly accepting and loving their LGBT+ children. As families of color, we can sometimes think about being LGBT+ as solely an aspect of western culture, when this couldn't be further from the truth!

Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union are celebrity examples of what it means to support your LGBT+ child. Here is a short interview with Dwayne Wade about unconditionally loving his LGBT+ child, Zion:

Here are some quotes from the interview that stand out to me:
• "Don't put your wants and needs on them. Get to know theirs, and parent them there and love them there, and support them there where they are."

• "As a family, we just support each other. That's our job. My job as a father is to facilitate their lives, and to support them and to be behind them in whatever they want to do. So the same effort that I'm going to put into Zaire wanting to be a basketball player, the same hours that I'm going to put in to making sure that he has the right trainer, that he eats right and has the right time with me on the basketball floor and the knowledge that I give him is the same time I'm going to give Zion with the things that he wants to do. He's a writer, he's someone who has an unbelievable mind, an [imaginative] mind, he's a reader…"

• "They all [my children] are different. And I have to get to know them where they are, and I have to be able to parent them where they are and who they are, and not saying, 'okay, well it's 3 boys–they all do the same thing. We parent them the same way.'"

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Since it's Children's Mental Health Week, I wanted to share this post from the brilliant and bold British activist and writer, Monroe Bergdorf: https://www.instagram.com/p/B8Hl9hzgK70/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Here it is if you have trouble with the link:

"Create and support inclusive environments that hold space for ALL children as they are, not as they are expected to be.

If a child tells you that they're trans, listen to them, ask them what they need from you as an adult. Support them. Encourage them to be themselves. Make them feel proud to be who they are. There is nothing wrong with your child saying that they are trans, because there is nothing wrong with being trans. In shutting them down, you are sending a message that there is.

Transgender infants are not having sexual reassignment surgeries. That is not a thing. That has never been a thing. Unless those children are also Intersex, in which case they may experience surgeries – something that many intersex activists are campaigning to stop as standard practice for all intersex babies. Please see @intersexjusticeproject, @pidgeo_n, @rivergallo and @interact_adv for more information on that.

Supporting and encouraging a trans kid can consist of as much or as little as they need. From allowing them to dress differently, to taking an interest in their true interests, to changing their pronouns or name if they ask you to, to not policing the length of their hair, to letting them decorate their room in a way that reflects how they feel… Just listen to them, let them know that you are listening to them.

The worst thing we can do is expose that child to shame. Making a child feel ashamed to be trans won't make it go away. It won't give you the child that you want, you'll just end up with an unhappy one. Don't be your kids first bully. Believe trans kids.

#childrensmentalhealthweek"

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@ayeshasharma

I want to share this video because it's a perspective directly from a young trans man who was supported by his parents as a child. He's able to look back on his experiences and share what helped and what hurt him during his transition.

Some highlights if you don't have time to watch…
1. Research! Do some research on your child's identity (online, books, or just by talking to your kid about what they want and need)
2. Respect your child's name and pronouns (it will speak volumes!)
3. Help your child with the coming out process (but talk to them first to make sure this is something they want before doing it!)
4. More research!
5. Financial support (only if this is something you're able to do)
6. Legal and medical guidance (transitioning can be difficult and complicated. One thing you can help with is finding an trans friendly doctor for your kid)
7. Validation (believe your kid. Transitioning can be confusing, and it might seem like this identity came out of nowhere. Trust your kid and it will make them more comfortable to trust you and turn to you when they need you)

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@ayeshasharma – This was very enlightening. He is very articulate and engaging as a speaker.

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As an update to my previous post about Dwayne Wade's child, Wade had an interview with Ellen Degeneres recently when he spoke about his child's journey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG9-Q6UabfQ

Wade's child has expressed to her father that she is a trans girl, would like to be referred to with the name Zaya, and uses she/her pronouns. Since this, Wade has begun referring to his daughter as Zaya (rather than Zion, her given name) and using the correct pronouns when speaking about her.

It can be difficult for our loved ones, but it is crucial for the mental health of trans children for parents to be supportive and curious. Switching our use of pronouns from what we are used to (in this case, he/him pronouns) to what is most affirming for our trans children (she/her pronouns for Zaya) is a process which requires flexibility, maturity, humility, and an open mind.

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@ayeshasharma

As an update to my previous post about Dwayne Wade's child, Wade had an interview with Ellen Degeneres recently when he spoke about his child's journey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG9-Q6UabfQ

Wade's child has expressed to her father that she is a trans girl, would like to be referred to with the name Zaya, and uses she/her pronouns. Since this, Wade has begun referring to his daughter as Zaya (rather than Zion, her given name) and using the correct pronouns when speaking about her.

It can be difficult for our loved ones, but it is crucial for the mental health of trans children for parents to be supportive and curious. Switching our use of pronouns from what we are used to (in this case, he/him pronouns) to what is most affirming for our trans children (she/her pronouns for Zaya) is a process which requires flexibility, maturity, humility, and an open mind.

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@ayeshasharma I agree, it was a heartfelt discussion, and very affirming. I bet there were many young trans people who wish they could have their own family be so comfortable. Zaya is to be commended, also, for feeling comfortable to be a shining poster gal for this! And let's not forget the sibling support, from her brother. What a strong family.
Ginger

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@ayeshasharma

As an update to my previous post about Dwayne Wade's child, Wade had an interview with Ellen Degeneres recently when he spoke about his child's journey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG9-Q6UabfQ

Wade's child has expressed to her father that she is a trans girl, would like to be referred to with the name Zaya, and uses she/her pronouns. Since this, Wade has begun referring to his daughter as Zaya (rather than Zion, her given name) and using the correct pronouns when speaking about her.

It can be difficult for our loved ones, but it is crucial for the mental health of trans children for parents to be supportive and curious. Switching our use of pronouns from what we are used to (in this case, he/him pronouns) to what is most affirming for our trans children (she/her pronouns for Zaya) is a process which requires flexibility, maturity, humility, and an open mind.

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Hi, @ayeshasharma – I'm wondering if you have noted people who have known the trans individual for a long time and don't mean to be hurtful have trouble remembering the new name and pronouns?

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Hello, @ayeshasharma

I've appreciated all of the videos you have posted. I belong to a church in the United Methodist denomination in the U.S. and the denomination will be splitting soon over the issue of gay clergy as well as the marriage of gay couples. My congregation is quite progressive and will not split off with the more traditional congregations who oppose the inclusion of gay pastors and marriage of gay couples. All of this to say, that I would like to share this information and the videos with my church staff. They will no doubt appreciate the perspective and the kind way this is presented. Thanks for your good work in bringing this to our attention. We need more insightful conversations and these videos do present material to achieve this purpose. I will also see if some of the gay and/or transgender members of my church might like to join Connect and share their own experiences.

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@gingerw That's so true! It's unfortunately not that often that parents of trans kids will be as publicly supportive as the Wade family. Many parents may accept their children but won't go out to say, "Hey, this is my kid. She's trans, and I stand behind her unwaveringly. Also, she's got a lot of other qualities to be admired!"

@lisalucier Yes totally! It happens all the time to trans folks and it happens to me personally on the regular. And I think it's a really important think for allies to engage with, so I'm so glad you brought this up. Your trans friend/family member/partner/etc. is likely more concerned about the genuine effort and intention as opposed to whether you 'get' their correct pronouns/name right away. Most trans folks, like myself, will generally have lots of people in their life who know their correct pronouns (or name) but actively choose not to respect them. The reason for this can be that these people think it's too difficult, they don't believe that being trans is real or valid, etc. But if you're trying, it's really not a big deal if you mess up every once in a while. Just apologize, correct yourself to convey that you know this person's pronouns/name and you intend to respect them (correcting yourself aloud also sends a message to other people who may have heard you misgender this person so they don't misgender the person as well as a result of your mistake), and move on.

And one big thing I want to add to this is, just because you shouldn't be hard on yourself about when you mess up doesn't mean you shouldn't make a genuine effort to try to learn the individual's name and pronouns. If you care about the trans person and/or if you're interested in becoming a better ally, you can practice using the individual's correct name and pronouns when they're not around.

Here are two ways to do so: 1) ask someone to be your accountability partner, and to correct you when you mess up someone's pronouns or name (I did this when I was first learning and it was so helpful! My friend would correct me and I would correct her when we used the wrong pronouns for our mutual friend, and it really *worked*!), 2) practice on your own – speak about the trans person in your life to yourself while you're alone. Just simple sentences that include their name/pronouns! If you do this regularly, you'll get the hang of it.

Everyone has their own methods. An actor from the show Pose, Indya Moore (they/them pronouns), developed an accountability system with agents at their talent agency. Whenever someone accidentally misgenders them, that person has to put some money in a jar. Indya said the cash will be donated to organizations that support Black trans and gender non-conforming individuals, which is a really cool initiative, I think!

@hopeful33250 I really appreciate you sharing that, and for being an active ally. It would be awesome if some gay/queer/trans members of your church partook in these discussions, as it will bring more diverse perspectives which we can definitely use. The community is not a monolith, but one thing I think many of us can agree on is that LGBTQ+ people could use some more health advocacy in and out of formal healthcare spaces. Please do feel free to follow up with me on that and let anyone know they should feel free to connect with me personally if they'd like.

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@ayeshasharma

@gingerw That's so true! It's unfortunately not that often that parents of trans kids will be as publicly supportive as the Wade family. Many parents may accept their children but won't go out to say, "Hey, this is my kid. She's trans, and I stand behind her unwaveringly. Also, she's got a lot of other qualities to be admired!"

@lisalucier Yes totally! It happens all the time to trans folks and it happens to me personally on the regular. And I think it's a really important think for allies to engage with, so I'm so glad you brought this up. Your trans friend/family member/partner/etc. is likely more concerned about the genuine effort and intention as opposed to whether you 'get' their correct pronouns/name right away. Most trans folks, like myself, will generally have lots of people in their life who know their correct pronouns (or name) but actively choose not to respect them. The reason for this can be that these people think it's too difficult, they don't believe that being trans is real or valid, etc. But if you're trying, it's really not a big deal if you mess up every once in a while. Just apologize, correct yourself to convey that you know this person's pronouns/name and you intend to respect them (correcting yourself aloud also sends a message to other people who may have heard you misgender this person so they don't misgender the person as well as a result of your mistake), and move on.

And one big thing I want to add to this is, just because you shouldn't be hard on yourself about when you mess up doesn't mean you shouldn't make a genuine effort to try to learn the individual's name and pronouns. If you care about the trans person and/or if you're interested in becoming a better ally, you can practice using the individual's correct name and pronouns when they're not around.

Here are two ways to do so: 1) ask someone to be your accountability partner, and to correct you when you mess up someone's pronouns or name (I did this when I was first learning and it was so helpful! My friend would correct me and I would correct her when we used the wrong pronouns for our mutual friend, and it really *worked*!), 2) practice on your own – speak about the trans person in your life to yourself while you're alone. Just simple sentences that include their name/pronouns! If you do this regularly, you'll get the hang of it.

Everyone has their own methods. An actor from the show Pose, Indya Moore (they/them pronouns), developed an accountability system with agents at their talent agency. Whenever someone accidentally misgenders them, that person has to put some money in a jar. Indya said the cash will be donated to organizations that support Black trans and gender non-conforming individuals, which is a really cool initiative, I think!

@hopeful33250 I really appreciate you sharing that, and for being an active ally. It would be awesome if some gay/queer/trans members of your church partook in these discussions, as it will bring more diverse perspectives which we can definitely use. The community is not a monolith, but one thing I think many of us can agree on is that LGBTQ+ people could use some more health advocacy in and out of formal healthcare spaces. Please do feel free to follow up with me on that and let anyone know they should feel free to connect with me personally if they'd like.

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@ayeshasharma

Great. Please send me a PM and let's talk about how to engage them in Connect. I know of one he/she who speaks at a university in Ohio on a regular basis on the topic of transgender issues and several others.

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