Family support for LGBT children

Posted by Ayesha, Alumni Mentor @ayeshasharma, Jan 25, 2020

<p>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</p>

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the LGBTQIA Health group.

@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:

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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@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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Hi there! I'm a proud mother of two trans kids. One is 19, and he just began testosterone, and the other is 14, and just had their first visit at the trans clinic. I have always been supportive of their transitions and immediately dove in to research and helping in any way I could. My oldest got bullied so badly at Mayo High School for being trans, that he decided to put the process on hold until after he was an adult. We are all so excited for all the changes he's noticing with the testosterone and are documenting every step!
My question is regarding my 14 year old. After their first visit, they are sure that they want to start taking the steps they outlined to begin testosterone as soon as possible. I think instead of asking a question, I might be seeking validation.
My boyfriend and I had the conversation about starting the transition pretty early in the adolescent years. My oldest switched genders, pronouns, and names dozens of times along his journey before settling on his original plan. That's why it's a journey! My boyfriend and I discussed with each other- what if the youngest changes their mind? What if they take medications that make irreversible changes to their body so there's no going back? They barely have a real sense of who they are at this tender age.
Here are my instincts as a mother (and where our conversation settled in the end): LGBTQIA+ people are born this way. Even though it's a journey and they may change their minds dozens of times (I think because of societal pressures), eventually, with love and support, they accept themselves and decide to be who they were born to be; themselves. We should let our child decide when and how they transition, and trust them. Am I supporting correctly? Are my worries for not? Thoughts?

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@juliethenderson

Hi there! I'm a proud mother of two trans kids. One is 19, and he just began testosterone, and the other is 14, and just had their first visit at the trans clinic. I have always been supportive of their transitions and immediately dove in to research and helping in any way I could. My oldest got bullied so badly at Mayo High School for being trans, that he decided to put the process on hold until after he was an adult. We are all so excited for all the changes he's noticing with the testosterone and are documenting every step!
My question is regarding my 14 year old. After their first visit, they are sure that they want to start taking the steps they outlined to begin testosterone as soon as possible. I think instead of asking a question, I might be seeking validation.
My boyfriend and I had the conversation about starting the transition pretty early in the adolescent years. My oldest switched genders, pronouns, and names dozens of times along his journey before settling on his original plan. That's why it's a journey! My boyfriend and I discussed with each other- what if the youngest changes their mind? What if they take medications that make irreversible changes to their body so there's no going back? They barely have a real sense of who they are at this tender age.
Here are my instincts as a mother (and where our conversation settled in the end): LGBTQIA+ people are born this way. Even though it's a journey and they may change their minds dozens of times (I think because of societal pressures), eventually, with love and support, they accept themselves and decide to be who they were born to be; themselves. We should let our child decide when and how they transition, and trust them. Am I supporting correctly? Are my worries for not? Thoughts?

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Hi Juliet, as a mom of a child who went through a period of questioning, I can understand where you're coming from. Personally, I think you're spot on to let the child guide the decision-making and the process. But that can be so hard since they are swimming upstream in a world of adolescence. Our mother instincts cry out, "they are only 14!"

I'd like to invite @doslovesdogs21 into this discussion too.

In the meantime, you might appreciate some of the posts and experiences shared in the somewhat related discussion.
– What's an ally? How can I help improve a patient transitioning? https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/whats-an-ally-how-can-allies-help-improve-a-patient-transitioning/

Juliet, does the trans clinic offer support for you and your partner? I might talk to a social worker at the clinic to also get some guidance.

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@juliethenderson

Hi there! I'm a proud mother of two trans kids. One is 19, and he just began testosterone, and the other is 14, and just had their first visit at the trans clinic. I have always been supportive of their transitions and immediately dove in to research and helping in any way I could. My oldest got bullied so badly at Mayo High School for being trans, that he decided to put the process on hold until after he was an adult. We are all so excited for all the changes he's noticing with the testosterone and are documenting every step!
My question is regarding my 14 year old. After their first visit, they are sure that they want to start taking the steps they outlined to begin testosterone as soon as possible. I think instead of asking a question, I might be seeking validation.
My boyfriend and I had the conversation about starting the transition pretty early in the adolescent years. My oldest switched genders, pronouns, and names dozens of times along his journey before settling on his original plan. That's why it's a journey! My boyfriend and I discussed with each other- what if the youngest changes their mind? What if they take medications that make irreversible changes to their body so there's no going back? They barely have a real sense of who they are at this tender age.
Here are my instincts as a mother (and where our conversation settled in the end): LGBTQIA+ people are born this way. Even though it's a journey and they may change their minds dozens of times (I think because of societal pressures), eventually, with love and support, they accept themselves and decide to be who they were born to be; themselves. We should let our child decide when and how they transition, and trust them. Am I supporting correctly? Are my worries for not? Thoughts?

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@juliethenderson The sources that @colleenyoung gave you will help ease your concerns.

More importantly, may I take a moment to thank you for your continued support of your children as they transition? Parenting these days has its challenges, and to find a parent who is so supportive and desiring to do the best possible, is great to read. I have friends who never had that from their families, and I saw it in the court system, also. My heart simply was raw from sadness they had noone to lean on. Kudos to you! And, I hope your kids know they are so loved.
Ginger

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Question and concern about 6 yr old grandchild stating she is a boy. Parents are letting her express this in dress, haircut and pronouns. As a grandparent, I am ok with this, if indeed she sees herself this way. What bothers me is that she is only 6 and wonder if she is just "trying this on" or can she indeed know this at her age. I wonder if it just a phase, she might think she is an astronaut next week. Do not want to do the "wrong thing" but concerned this may be pushing her into something that is just a phase.

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@swedegirl54

Question and concern about 6 yr old grandchild stating she is a boy. Parents are letting her express this in dress, haircut and pronouns. As a grandparent, I am ok with this, if indeed she sees herself this way. What bothers me is that she is only 6 and wonder if she is just "trying this on" or can she indeed know this at her age. I wonder if it just a phase, she might think she is an astronaut next week. Do not want to do the "wrong thing" but concerned this may be pushing her into something that is just a phase.

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May I ask you a question, please? Are the parents gently following the child's lead? If so, I am not sure there is a long-term problem. I would feel differently IF it seemed either parent was stepping out of the child's shadow & trying to lead, making one choice or another seem right or wrong.
It surely could be a phase, but being accepting and open now means that when other issues come up over the next few years, even a complete change of gender identity, the child will feel secure discussing it with family instead of hiding it like it is bad. We have friends whose child decided at eight he was a boy, but this summer, at 13 has decided to be referred to as it/they, created a gender-neutral name, and informed family they will "decide exactly later." Fortunately, parents, brothers, grandparents and cousins are very accepting.
My heart goes out to those who struggle with gender identity, but family can make it not so scary by being flexible and accepting, creating a safe landing zone for the questioning one.

I hope you can accept whatever he tries on over the next decade or so. If you are uncomfortable talking about it with your peers, get in touch with the the LGBTQIA support community at your church or a local school, where you can meet others with questions like yours.
Sue

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@swedegirl54

Question and concern about 6 yr old grandchild stating she is a boy. Parents are letting her express this in dress, haircut and pronouns. As a grandparent, I am ok with this, if indeed she sees herself this way. What bothers me is that she is only 6 and wonder if she is just "trying this on" or can she indeed know this at her age. I wonder if it just a phase, she might think she is an astronaut next week. Do not want to do the "wrong thing" but concerned this may be pushing her into something that is just a phase.

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@swedegirl54 Thank you for coming here to ask this question. What @sueinmn said comes from someone with children and grandchildren [and I cannot come from that place].

And, thank you for being concerned enough to make sure you do not do something that may leave negative interactions with your family. We never know what may be going on in a youngster's mind, and it does us all well to foster what is authentic to them.
Ginger

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