A Parent’s Guide When Their Child Comes Out as Genderqueer
I have recently seen an uptick in clients reaching out looking for a therapist that specializes in gender identity issues. It’s often the parents that reach out to me first and I hear their lost, confused, scared voices not sure what to do next. As such, I often spend the consultation phone call empathizing with the parents and validating their feelings. So as a parent, what do you do? What is your role in this process? Below is a list of 5 things you can do to help your child, as well as, yourself.
- Love your child. I cannot stress this enough, your child is not crazy, they are not evil and they are often just as scared and confused. So love them, wrap your arms around them and tell them you love them and you aren’t going anywhere.
- Research, seek to understand. There is a lot of information on the internet highway regarding the process of transitioning. I encourage you to do your own research to help you understand more of what your child is feeling. For your child, this is not a choice. The number of people that “change their mind” or “regret their decision” is incredibly small. The actual steps for full transition are several and it takes many months to years to go through the entire transition. It is not a rush process and there are many options in how one transitions.
- Join a support group. As gender identity and gender fluidity becomes more recognized, socially accepted, support groups have been formed to help family members process the changes their child, sibling, grandchild, etc will be going through. These groups also help you to process your own feelings: the sense of loss for losing a son or daughter, the helplessness, the fear and offers a sense of “you are not alone” in this.
- Go to family therapy. You are not wrong in wanting your genderqueer child to go to therapy. Not only is this usually a requirement for doctors that might be doing any hormonal or surgical changes, but is important to make sure your child is progressing in a healthy way. Many genderqueer persons struggle with anxiety and depression as a symptom of their body not matching their inside. However, I recommend family therapy and not just individual therapy for the one child. This is important for all of you. The dynamics within your family will most likely change, between child and each parent; child and each sibling; between parents, especially if one is more accepting than the other. This is also important in helping continue to keep everyone educated as the various milestones of transitioning are reached. Please do not seek conversion therapy of any sort, as this type of therapy is denounced by the mental health community as not only ineffective, but incredibly harmful. Look for a therapist that is accepting, knowledgeable and experienced in working with genderqueer persons and their family.
- Breathe. It is a scary world, but if your child feels supported and loved by you, they will be okay. So take a deep breath, manage your stress levels and reach out for help when you need.
Written by: Jennifer Reeves, MA, LMFT, CST
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