I made the mistake of watching a piece of Dr Phil on You Tube about a trans teen and her mom. Irritating to say the least. Where do they find these people. However, I do know that the drama I saw plays out all the time.
This is in two parts. First to the parents, then to the children.
You decided at some point, or perhaps you simply decided to not to decide or had an accident, to have a child or children. As parents we don’t get a guarantee with our children that says “This child guaranteed to have perfect mental and physical health and will grown up with no behavioral issues.”, quite the opposite. On top of that, our control starts to loosen around middle school years as the child becomes an adolescent and starts down the road to independence.
We have a mandate as parents. Outside of truly dangerous behaviors that threaten our lives and our health, we are responsible to make sure our children have both emotional and physical support. That they have food to eat, clothing to wear and people they can go to that will always have their best interests at heart.
We also have a mandate to not do hurtful things to our children and to keep them as safe as we can while still allowing them the necessary and ever increasing freedom needed to become independent people. We have succeeded if they don’t need us as adults. They should be able to stand on their feet.
As tempting as it might be when your daughter go gets a mohawk and starts dressing in bizarre biker gear to scream back at her, it is your job to continue loving her and just talk with her about it. Your job is to explain consequences and your job is to comfort her when the school sends her home for wearing inappropriate attire.
Your children will test you in many ways, they will accuse you, scream at you, cry, tell you how you don’t understand, slam doors, and so on. Your job is to not lash out. You can be human, we can’t be more than that.
If you aren’t nodding right now go call a therapist.
I’m going to say that the most horrible example of parental neglect and irresponsibility is the turning out of minor children because they are gay or trans. This is unfortunately not uncommon.
If you do this, and you are lucky enough to have a brother or sister who’s accepting and will take your child in then the harm to the child may “only” be the damage of losing her parents. Remember that even if you come around years later you will almost certainly never be forgiven, at least not completely.
You might also be lucky and your child might have a close friend and be taken in by the friend’s family.
But if one of these things doesn’t happen, things can get very dicey for her. She has few if any marketable skills. She doesn’t even have a high school diploma. She will likely make her way to a large city where there is a culture for LGBT people. Needing money and not having skills there aren’t many options. Two of the likely things she’ll end up involved with are the sex trade and illicit drugs. If this is the road she ends up on it could be a short road.
If she ends up dead then don’t believe it when you tell yourself it will be her fault. You know in your heart that it isn’t true. If that’s the path she takes and manages to remain ok she may still contract Hep-B, Hep-C or HIV.
If she’s really smart she may find a group and get some support and manage to finish high school. She’ll be independent and might manage to get a college education paid for through scholarships.
When your child actually talks to you about being depressed and symptoms like cutting, don’t ever think that this is manipulative. You need to hear this. This is a cry for help. This is a really serious problem going on. The next problem could be a suicide attempt.
Depression is probably not going to resolve on its own. Get your child to an appropriate caregiver. Depression is not a sign of weakness. Most of the time it is because of a chemical imbalance. It can be aggravated by stressors.
Listening to Caregivers
Kids with sexual orientation and gender identity issues are really alien for a lot of parents. Some parents are really religious and it conflicts with their religious views, others feel it conflicts with their sense of morality, some are “creeped out” by it.
In religion, at least the ones I’m aware of, the basic tenants are more about treating people well rather than focusing on sex and gender. I’d posit that you certainly owe your child to fully understand all there is to know, even the science, before listening and following the words from a 3 thousand year old document. Your child is a living breathing being.
As part of that you need to listen to what the therapist of psychologist tells you about your child. It really isn’t some new age theory going on here. Every indication is stronger and stronger that the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity is baked into the brain. The studies are starting to pile up.
Adapting and Understanding
You also need to realize, really realize, that your child would probably like to be normal more than anything else in the world. No teen wants to be different. The statistics of gay teens dating the opposite sex is pretty high, I think that is a clear indicator of how important teens see being part of the crowd is.
Being trans is even more disruptive to a teen. This is a very confusing thing and not at all what you think. Get over any thought that this is anything but a problem for him or her. If you haven’t already heard, trans children have a 40% attempted suicide rate. Don’t let your children fall into that statistic.
Actually making a transition at that age requires your help. Whatever you are thinking, please try to be understanding and supportive. Engage your child in meaningful conversation. Be open about your concerns and listen to the answers you get. Make sure it is a true dialog. Make sure they understand that it’s concern and make sure that’s what it is and not just an unthinking hatred of the unknown.
As a last note. This is going to happen, with you or without you. If it happens with you being angry and unsupportive or worse actively trying to sabotage things, don’t expect much of a future relationship of any kind.
You are at a difficult age. Adolescents have many challenges going on and being LGBT on top of that is pretty unfair. Then you have your parents who probably don’t have much to relate your situation to. However, there are things you can do to make things be as good as they can be.
The first thing is a matter of empathy. Empathy, that ability to view the world as if through the eyes of another, is generally difficult for teens and even into the early twenties. The frontal lobes of the brain, where the most advanced thinking goes on, don’t fully develop they say until around twenty five.
From a parent’s viewpoint, they see you slipping away. You’re becoming someone or something they no longer recognize as their child. Adding anger makes it even harder; where is the six year old that wanted to be carried, tired after a long day at the park? You see, for us parents those years went by in a blink, and for you they are half of your life or more.
It is tempting to be angry when we are not understood. Anger does not serve us well because anger does not encourage understanding or cooperation. Instead, learn to keep your cool, learn to accept the small victory one and allow the other battles to be fought another day.
Your parents normally really do understand what you are going through. Our memories are not all that dim. With being gay, bi or trans they may well not have that direct experience. This is where patience and calm explanations can really help.
When you do explain, only explain what you have to.
Keep a Loving Relationship
Your parents appreciate your love and respect. As parents that is about all we are looking for back from you as our children. Having children is not a money making endeavor. Remember that you are not then entire world, and that as much as your life may have pain, that we also feel your pain as well as our own. We will not complain much if ever.
An advantage of having lived decades as an adult is having lived through many kinds of loss, grief, happiness, and joy. It brings a sense of how bad and how good things can be. It let’s us know what is truly worthy of condemnation or of praise. That’s why we often don’t make a big deal of minor things (our viewpoint) even though you think they’re big.
The other part of perspective is understanding how changing the world can be. How priorities change on the world stage have changed, what is real and what is just the result of a more global consciousness.
The single most important thing you can do to promote your parent’s acceptance is to keep reminding them that you are the same child that they raised. They may be feeling loss and grief because Sam is Sally, and that they are willing to do anything to prevent that. Instead help them to see you have always been Sally, they have always loved Sally and now she’ll just be there in front of them and not hidden.
Nobody out there is going to do this for you. You have to work together and take responsibility to head the disasters off at the pass. If you don’t things will get bad rapidly. There’s a lot at stake. Do right by each other. Love one another.