Full text for What do you do when your kid says they’re trans?

“When your kid tells you that they’re transgender, what do you do?

41% of transgender adults have attempted suicide, mostly as a adolescent or young adult. [7][9] Parental support can dramatically reduce the risk of suicide, by 3.5x [3][2]. But many parents are terrified of doing the wrong thing. So. What should you do when your child tells you that they are transgender?

The first thing to realize is that there is a very good chance the child is right.

In nearly all of studies I am aware of, NO child regretted transitioning. [1]

I’ve spoken with two nationally recognized endocrinologists that work with trans kids, and they are aware of only one case of regret in the thousands they’ve treated.

Additionally I’ve never met a single person who has transitioned and regretted it. I’ve never met a parent of a trans kid who regretted letting their kid transition.

I’ve only ever met parents who regretted not letting their child transition sooner.

Regardless of their identity in the end, you have two choices — reject or accept their declaration.

If you reject them, no matter the end result, you will contribute to their harm and increase the risk of mental illness.

Studies have shown that, regardless of what happens outside the home, familial support can literally save your kid’s life [2][3]. Familial support reduces suicide by 3.5x and substance abuse by 2.5x [3]. If you as the parent reject your child’s identity, you are the largest and most negatively impactful bully in your child’s life, more so than any and potentially all of the bullies at school.

That is, when your child says something to you about their identity and you say ‘no’, you are telling them that they cannot trust how they feel, they cannot trust you to listen to and hear them, and they cannot trust themselves. That creates an invalidating environment, and invalidating environments are hotbeds for the formation of many serious mental illnesses that last a lifetime [5][10].

If you choose to affirm their identity, no matter the end result, you are telling your child that they can trust you. That they can confide in you. That they are allowed to trust themselves and their own feelings, and that you trust them to learn and figure themselves out. This is a part of building a healthy parent-child relationship [5][10].

A reminder that up to 41% of trans adults have attempted suicide at least once [7][9], mostly as kids. If you reject their declaration of identity, you increase this risk of this suicide. If you affirm them, you reduce the risks — and so much so that in one study, socially transitioned children with supportive families reported depression rates indistinguishable from cisgender youth [1].

It is also important to keep in mind that by the time your kid brings this to you, the parent, they have probably spent months or maybe years crying themselves to sleep at night, wondering if you will still love them. This declaration to you is not a whim, this is well-thought through statement, and in this moment, you have a rare opportunity to show your kid they can trust you, that they can confide in you.

In the end, you as the parent have the choice: You can either increase the risk for harm and suicide by rejecting them, or you can dramatically reduce that risk by affirming their identity. It is your choice. Don’t be your child’s first bully.

SOURCES:

  1. De Vries, A., Mcguire, J., Steensma, T., Wagenaar, E., Doreleijers, T., & Cohen-Kettenis, P. (2014). Young adult psychological outcome after puberty suppression and gender reassignment. Pediatrics, 134(4), 696-704.
  2. Schmitz, R. M., & Tyler, K. A. (2018). The complexity of family reactions to identity among homeless and college lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer young adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47(4), 1195-1207.
  3. Klein, A., & Golub, S. (2016). Family Rejection as a Predictor of Suicide Attempts and Substance Misuse Among Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Adults. LGBT Health, 3(3), 193-199.
  4. Espelage, D. & Holt, M. K. (2013). Suicidal Ideation and School Bullying Experiences After Controlling for Depression and Delinquency. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53(1), S27-S31.
  5. Linehan, Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder Guilford Press, New York (1993)
  6. CDC, NCIPC. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2010) {2013 Aug. 1}. Available from: www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars.
  7. James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.
  8. (2010). Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. American Journal of Public Health. 100(12), 2426-32.
  9. Herman, J., Haas, A., & Rodgers, P. (2014). Suicide Attempts Among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults.
  10. Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment. New York: Basic Books.
  11. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/children-and-gender-identity/art-20266811.
  12. Zelazo, P., Blair, C., Willoughby, M., & National Center for Education Research , sponsoring body. (2017). Executive function : Implications for education. Washington, D.C.]: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.
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