I was thirteen when my girlfriend came out to me as a trans girl. That was the first time I had ever heard the term transgender - at least if my memory serves me right. It made something click, though. My 2016 was spent figuring out my own identity, but when I finally figured it out, my ambitious dreams came crashing down.
My mother also figured it out, you see. And came home yelling about it. For three hours straight. While I was busy having a panic attack in my bed because I was certainly not ready to tell her. I still don’t know where she found it out, and I’ve not bothered to ask. I’ve not bothered to ask her much of anything of importance since then, actually, because “home” isn’t a safe environment for me anymore. Has not been since that incident.
Four years later, I’m on the brink of turning 18 and still trans - surprise! These years would probably have been much easier for all of us if my mum wanted to do her job as a parent and be supportive, but what’s done is done and can’t be changed. I’m not expecting her to come around anymore. I’ve found a new family, anyway.
I’m not alone with these experiences. It is quite uncommon for a trans kid to get a warm, accepting response when they come out. Some of these unaccepting parents come around when they’ve digested the idea of a trans child, others never do. However, even if they do, feeling unloved by your parents for any period of time isn’t exactly ideal for a child during their formative years.
It shouldn’t be up to a 17-year-old to explain this to adults. It’s obvious that a child or a teenager is still figuring out their identity, and should be allowed to experiment with it in a safe space instead of feeling like they have to hide themselves. It is okay to try things out and play with gender expression and identity. A child should have a space to try out different pronouns, different names, different clothes, whatever! If they decide it’s not for them, that’s fine. If they do, that’s fine too. What’s important is that they had the place to explore themselves.
Many parents seem to struggle with the misconception that being trans or questioning your gender must mean immediate medical intervention. In fact, trans people do not have to transition medically at all if they don’t feel like it, and a lot of transition is merely social and legal. On top of that, no one is trying to push surgeries and hormones on your 14-year-old. A person at that age could get puberty blockers, which do not have any lasting effects and only give the child more time to think about their identity. They can either decide to get off them later in life and resume life without medical intervention or continue on to hormone replacement therapy if they feel they need it.
There is no pressure to transition. However, there is a lot of pressure to not transition or even detransition after you have transitioned. Most of the detransitioners end up doing it because they are being socially ostracized or end up having other social issues, and many end up transitioning again later in their lives.
Another common misconception is that being trans is contagious. Now, on a first glance, it may seem like your “beloved son” interacted with a trans person and now wants to put on a dress, but that is most likely a case of your child merely finding the words for what they have felt for a long time and realizing, possibly for the first time, that what they have been feeling is perfectly normal and therefore finding the courage to start to come out. We don’t have good - if any - representation in the media, and schools don’t teach about us either. It is not difficult to find a person who doesn’t have any clue what being transgender even actually is.
Education about trans people shouldn’t be there just for trans people, either. The masses are very uneducated on trans issues, yet nearly everyone will meet several trans people in the world. Parents of trans kids don’t know anything when their kids come out to them, either, and as they end up googling about them, they possibly end up in anti-trans campaign sites or see other transphobic misinformation or disinformation. It shouldn’t take a genius to tell you that that’s harmful.
Forcing your child to not interact with any trans people is bad for everyone. Trans people shouldn’t be segregated from the rest of society or shielded from the eyes of children because we’ll spoil them or something. This exact rhetoric was used (and still is in some places) back in the day to justify excluding gay people from public life, and I would hope most people nowadays understand that people don’t just turn gay when they see a gay person.
At the end of the day, trans kids just want to be happy and themselves. Having a safe space to be yourself with your parents’ support can be life-changing. When someone comes out to you or tells you that they are questioning their gender, the biggest thing they need is your unwavering support. I haven’t told my parents anything of importance after my mother’s bad reaction to me being trans. How can I trust them to support me in anything if they won’t even support me in myself? How can any child trust their parents to support them if said parents won’t even see them as themselves?