Question: Mum of transgender child needs advise

Slinky asks…

Hi – I’m the mother of a 15 year old daughter. My daughter only 8 weeks ago was in bikini’s on the beach wearing make up and hanging with her boyfriend – all fitting the gender stereotype.
My daughter now has discussed that she may be transgender, quickly followed by a very dramatic hair cut and the borrowing of her brothers clothes and refusal to shave leg or armpit hair.

My response was that we love her no matter what gender she is now or in the future, but that she should take a bit more time before she makes any more sudden changes to her look as she needs to process the feelings she is having. ( I also need some processing time but I didn’t say that to her ) She has linked with school counsellor and met once.

I would be really interested from anyone on this site who can inform and educate me so that I can be supportive to my daughter but also reassured that she isn’t jumping forward to quickly.

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on June 23rd, 2015 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 9 comments »

9 Responses to “Question: Mum of transgender child needs advise”

  1. piig

    Speaking from my own experience: making changes to my look was PART of processing my feelings. I don’t believe there’s any harm in supporting someone to explore the possibilities of gender expression, especially in the ways you described — clothes and hair and body hair are not permanent. Before I decided to physically transition, I spent years experimenting with clothing, hairstyles, names, etc, and it helped me figure out what felt most comfortable. I was lucky enough to be supported by my friends and family. That meant a lot to me at the time, and helped me feel safe to explore without pressure to make decisions before I was ready.


  2. Amery

    One thing I’ve noticed sometimes, in my own transition and that of multiple friends’, is that sometimes in the time period immediately prior to deciding to transition there can be periods of exaggerated adherence to the gender roles of the sex you were assigned at birth. I.e, I spent awhile rigorously buying and wearing women’s clothing and makeup in an attempt to both convince myself that I could do it and to “hide” from others the fact that I was gender non-conforming. It can be like a last ditch attempt to convince yourself that you’re “normal” before you realize that you do need to transition; it can make the contrast seem a little bit sharper to an outsider but it’s really more like an internalized shame manifesting as an outward attempt to conform. That may not be true for everyone, obviously, but it’s a possibility you might want to consider and talk about with your child.

    Also, just in general, the decision to transition can sometimes be something a trans spectrum person outwardly hides, or the little attempts they make to try out things (changes in clothing, behavior, etc) can be subtle enough to outsiders that those folks don’t notice, even if they are very noticeable to the person doing them. So it may be that you’re only just now noticing the more dramatic end signs of a very long, drawn-out process for your child. Talk to your child. Find out what sort of a headspace they are in, where they feel like they come from and where they feel like they’re going. Let them know you’re willing to come in there and grapple with this together, wherever it may go.


  3. Anonymous

    Thank you for being supportive. I think it’s often the case that trans kids have been thinking about this for a long time before they tell anyone. As a parent you may find yourself feeling like you’re running to catch the last car of the train.


  4. Adryrn

    I’d like to third what Amery and anon have said about your kid’s transition possibly not being as rushed as it might look. I personally spent years processing my need to change my name and getting comfortable with my current name before I actually started telling everyone to call me by that name. To my family, the change seemed sudden, but it was actually the end result of a lot of consideration.


  5. Kit

    Hey there :) firstly, it’s amazing that you’re so determined to support your child – they’re lucky to have you. I’d really encourage you to seek out an advice site in addition to this one – while Genderfork is great, advice isn’t really its primary function. I’m guessing you’re in the US (mainly because here in the UK it definitely wasn’t bikini weather 8 weeks ago)? ;) if so I don’t feel best placed to give recommendations, but hopefully someone else can? Or google “resources for parents of trans children” or something.

    Secondly, it’s completely natural that you feel your child’s transition is “sudden” and that you’re looking for “signs” in their earlier childhood. After all, most media representations of trans people feature people who knew they were trans from a very young age, never identified with the stereotypes associated with their assigned gender, etc. But in reality that’s not the way it is for many (even most?) people. They might not realise they’re trans for years because they don’t know enough about the concept to be able to put their feelings into words. They might (like me) have a vague sense of something being wrong but not realise things *could* be better/more comfortable than they are, until they find some information and something suddenly clicks. (Remember that although most people tend to emphasise “discomfort with assigned gender” as the main aspect of being trans, “comfort/happiness with the gender they now identify as” is just as crucial, arguably more so. Your child might not have known it was possible to be as happy as they currently are!) Also, as others have pointed out, teenagers often don’t tell their parents a great deal about what’s going on in their heads, so it’s bound to feel more sudden to you than it does to your child. Finally, it’s also worth remembering that there isn’t anything inherently “female” about wearing bikinis and hanging out with boyfriends. Gender is about how you feel inside: I love flowery clothes, but that doesn’t make me any less male, even though some people have tried to argue the opposite.

    I think you need to talk to them – not in a confrontational way, like “prove you have felt this for a sufficiently long time!”, but more “can you bring me up to date on how you’ve been feeling, so that I can help?”

    Good luck! :)


  6. Anonymous

    It’s funny in a way the idea that altering one’s appearance is drastic. As an ftm person, I grew up expected to look a certain way, and any deviance was quickly pushed back. Then when I take control of how I look, people said, well you used to wear this and had long hair. Yeah. Sure. But you need to separate your “default” of a person from your expectations of either them or how their gender should present. When a baby’s born it’s naked. You dress it up. You dressed up your child, and people expect them to continue to dress that way and present that way. They may be processing their feelings, sure, maybe trying to find their “default”, their sense of self without all the strings attached. But I advise, don’t forget that women don’t always shave. Men sometimes wear make-up. If your child were born the sex/gender they express (maybe neutral, mixed, or male), you’d naturally allow them to show the world the way they want to look. Why make them feel guilty or ashamed about that, just because they were born differently?


  7. LJ

    Hi! I agree with pretty much everything above and wanted to add something too.

    It’s not only a hard things for your child to go through, but it’s hard for you and other “witnesses” too, and – though this sounds more negative than I’m intending- I think resistance and being inflexible, even subconsciously, is going to make that worse. My parents had the best intentions in the world, but them continuing to use my birth name, birth pronouns, and words like “daughter” made it a thousand times harder for them when I finally had enough and said “Never. Ever. Say. That. Again.” Even if it’s “a phase” or if her* chosen nouns don’t fit your child long-term or eventually don’t feel right to her, you using her chosen nouns at the time she presents them to you is going to increase her immersion in those words and with those gender expressions, solidifying her understanding of how she feels about them. And while that happens, it will allow you to loosen your conscious mind up. The more familiar you are with jumping around with words and with ideas of how she could look/change, the more comfortable you will become with any flexibility she unpredictably presents.

    In most situations, when people ask about my gender, I don’t confirm or deny anything. I don’t encourage or discourage them to believe I identify as one thing or the other and eventually they form their own opinions and move on. I do that on myself, too, and with other non-binary people I know – I don’t encourage or discourage one way or another. This helps with my own flexibility and makes sure that I’m not giving off conflicting messages of approval/disapproval – those messages can be hard to take when you’re confused yourself and might end up in some sort of either retaliation or “mirror messages” (she shows you the sides of her gender that she thinks you see her as).

    It is wonderful that you’ve come in search for resources. I hope your gender journey (this particular process of flexibility!) is as smooth as possible <3

    *I use pronouns given by the most open and/or reliable source unless told otherwise


  8. Anonymous

    I think it’s amazing that you want to be supportive. Speaking from my own experience, it might not have come as suddenly as you think. It took me a lot of thinking before I was able to come out, and I didn’t start making appearance changes until then either. I can say that the one thing I find makes it easier to come out is when people ask “what are your pronouns?”

    I’m really glad that your child has a parent willing to make the effort to understand them.


  9. Anonymous

    I recently went through a very similar thing with my mom. It can be really, really difficult to come out to your parents, especially if they are wonderful and supportive like you seem to be because you don’t want to disapoint them (it doesn’t make sense but emotions rarely do). We sort of had a sit down talk not to long a go because she felt that when it came to my gender she was the last to know. That was sort of true. Coming out to your parents feels a lot more permanent then coming out to your friends or even to even trusted adults, I chose to tell my parents last because it was my final step before making a major change.

    I personally was at my most girly right before I did the switch over to the other side of the department store. Right now when your child is first starting to experiment is when they are most vulnerable. In the grand scheme of things not shaving is not that big a deal, but I know that when I first started to present masculine it was a point of tension. Be willing to listen to your child especially on thing that don’t require medical intervention. Letting your child safely binding (if they ask), not shaving, and using the pronouns/name they ask of you may not be permanent or they may be, but they will have a long term effect on their mentality.

    The fact that you are willing to learn is a great first step. I agree with everyone above in that I think that you seem like a great parent and it is awesome that you are so accepting. My advice would be to make sure to listen to your kid as well as the internet.

    (I don’t know what pronouns your kid is currently using so I used the singular they.)


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