by ChrisTina L. Reed
The Cleveland Clinic Transgender Medicine and Surgery Program
Learning your child is struggling with gender identification can be overwhelming, possibly leaving you wondering what to do next but there are resources available to help navigate this complex challenge.
1. Understanding the Scope of the Issue
It is critical that your child feels supported and accepted at home. According to a recent article posted on suicide prevention website www.thetrevorproject.org, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24. In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt and 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.
2. Finding Professional Support
It is essential to find a competent, affirming mental health provider familiar with WPATH (World Professional Association of Transgender Health) guidelines to support your child and family. Continuous discussion of one another’s challenges and goals will help assure the best possible outcome and soften the potential challenges and disappointments along the way.
3. Make Connections
Familiarizing yourself and loved ones with terminology (such as preferred pronouns, acronyms often used, etc.); gathering resources and making connections in the community may help you feel empowered and more comfortable with situations that may arise. Knowing you are not alone is often helpful and community support is available; a great place to start might be your local LGBT Community Center as they may offer support groups tailored to your situation.
4. Respectful Communication
Your child might request using their preferred name and/or pronouns or change their physical appearance by wearing different clothing and hair styles; it is important that caregivers and role models offer messages of support so the child feels they always have a safe space to go during times of struggle. Disagreements between parents regarding intervention and even smaller changes such as preferred names and pronouns can often arise and should be handled with respect and care, a family counselor may have the best conflict intervention techniques to help make these important decisions a bit easier to make together.