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How Do I Best Support My Transgender Child?
Knowing how to support and advocate for your child when they’ve come out as transgender can feel overwhelming. One of our mums, Sarah, shares her journey – from learning about the trans community to helping her child feel comfortable in school, at the doctor’s and on social media.
Sarah’s story shows how important listening is when it comes to accepting your transgender child. Being patient, talking openly and checking in with them can help you to understand their needs at home and at school, especially if they’re feeling vulnerable or being bullied.
Coming out as trans is a huge step. It takes real courage and bravery. And the most important thing to remember is that you love your child for who they are inside.
Is being transgender just a phase for my child?
Learning that your child is transgender can bring up all sorts of feelings like confusion and grief, even fear and denial. Susie, our CEO, explains how important it is to listen to your child and believe them in the here and now – whatever their gender identity may be.
As the parent of a transgender daughter, Susie understands the importance of being open, accepting and supportive – especially when it comes to your trans child being themself. She explains how a variety of toy choices and playing dress up can help a child to explore, wear and do what makes them feel comfortable.
However your child decides to explore their gender identity, try not to focus on what the end result might be. All that matters is that they have your unconditional love and support, every step of the way.
Which terms should I use to make my transgender child feel comfortable?
Language surrounding gender identity changes rapidly and knowing what to call your child if they are transgender can feel like a bit of a minefield. Jake explains how regular learning, practise and open dialogue with your child can help you understand the pronouns or new name that make them feel most comfortable.
If you aren’t sure which pronouns to use for your child, the most important thing to do is to let them explain what they want to be called. Have patience, don’t feel pressured and if you get things wrong, simply apologise and correct yourself. Jake also explains why you should correct others if they misgender your child.
Knowing how to talk to your trans child about their pronouns and overcoming any miscommunication can feel daunting. But if you take the time to get it right, your child will see that you’re there for them and that they are not alone.
What should my transgender child’s school be doing to help?
Making sure your transgender child feels as supported in school as they do at home can really help when they’re transitioning. Faye, an assistant head teacher, talks about how staff training, gender neutral uniforms and putting gender identity on the curriculum can help create a safe environment for your child.
Talking openly to teachers about your trans child is important. What’s more, having a key worker or point of contact in place for your family will help keep everyone up to date on what feels right for your child, including their preferred pronouns. Faye also explains how communicating with the school about their toilet facilities and uniform policy is vital when relaying back to them what the best fit for your child is. Another important thing you can check is the school’s bullying policy.
No matter your child’s gender, no matter what stage of transitioning they’re at, it’s their school’s responsibility to support them and keep them safe.
Finding Mermaids, at a time when I was completely lost, felt like being thrown a lifeline when I was drowning! I learnt how to cope and support my child at such a vulnerable time.
All information provided by external organisations signposted on this page is for reference purposes only, and does not constitute any form of recommendation, endorsement or guidance by Mermaids.
Gender Variant Children & Young People in care
A Teachers Introduction to Diversity Role Models
Equality Act 2010
Equality Act 2010 and Schools
Fertility Preservation Factsheet
Fertility Preservation Guidance for CCGs
Gender Identity Guide – Action For Children
Gender Recognition Guide – UK Trans Info
Hate Crime – Pace Health
Name Change Guidance
Sandyford Gender Identity Services – Booklet
Support for Gender Variant Children and Trans Adolescents – Surrey NHS
Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit – Allsorts Youth Project
Your Rights At Your GP Surgery – Proud Trust – NHS
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Kelly, 40, is mum to Adam, nine and Evie, seven, who transitioned to live as a girl 2015. Here Kelly, who is married to Andrew, 46, explains how Mermaids have helped her family.
“From the age of two we started to notice that Evie didn’t quite fit in. I thought that my son was going to be gay, but it became apparent that there was something more than that.
“Evie always wanted to play with dolls, and never had any interest in traditional boys toys, like cars or dinosaurs. We had an older son and the two could not have been more different.
“Evie loved bracelets and constantly wanted to wear one, and when I bought the children Guess Who? to play she unclipped all the female faces and put them in a handbag to carry around with her.
“Evie would look longingly at other little girls who were wearing dresses or skirts, and every time I picked her up from the childminder she would be have raided the dressing up box for a princess costume. She would come to the door to meet me in a sparkly pink dress and a tiara with a big smile on her face.
“At other children’s houses she would love putting on the princess outfits, and would have a meltdown when she had to take them off as it was time to leave.
“I wasn’t sure how to cope with how Evie was behaving. Some family members said I should try and make her be a boy, get her to play with boys’ toys and dress her in boys’ clothes, but it became a daily battle. Every time we went to the supermarket she would make a beeline for the aisle with all the dolls and girls toys and get very upset when I told her they weren’t for her.
“I told myself it was a phase but the longer it went on, the more I realised that this wasn’t a temporary thing, it’s who Evie is.
“I didn’t know anything about trans children but I spent hours researching online. I found YouTube videos featuring trans children in America, and cried as I watched them. As a parent you don’t want your child to be trans, as you know the path ahead of them will be so much harder. They may well be bullied at school and discriminated against as they grow older, and they may need life-changing surgery to feel at home in their body. You worry about their future as other people may judge them and find them difficult to understand.
“From the age of four we started to let Evie bring girls’ clothes and toys into the house, and when she was five she told me her biggest dream in the world was to own a dress, so I bought her one and she barely took it off.
“It was around this time that I found Mermaids, and they were an incredible source of information and support. Suddenly, instead of being at a loss as to what to do I was in daily contact with other parents around the country who were in the same situation, who shared my worries and fears. But they also provided amazing support, and I know we are lucky that Evie identified as trans so young.
“Families who have teenagers who have just come out as trans face the trauma of puberty, but thankfully that is years away for Evie. We started seeing the specialist staff at the Tavistock just as Evie turned five, so hopefully the right treatment will be available if she decides to go down that road in the future.
“Mermaids have also helped Evie to meet other trans children by organising meet-ups in our area, and it’s been brilliant for her to see other kids who are going through the same things she is.
“As time went on Evie began to identify more and more strongly as a girl. By the time she was six she would come home from school, take off her boys’ uniform and put her dress on. You could see her visibly relax as she clearly felt happier and better in herself when she was wearing it. Soon after she told me she was a girl, and by May 2015 she asked if she could begin living as a girl.
“We informed school, who were slow to start with and struggled to get their heads around what was going on, but have been really good since then. Evie wears a skirt, uses the girls’ toilets and goes swimming with the girls. They all get changed in private so that hasn’t been a problem.
“Her classmates don’t have any issue with Evie, she’s always been one of the girls as far as they are concerned and now that’s just been formalised.
“This is just who Evie is, she’s my child, I love her and I’m so proud of her. I feel she was born trans, that it’s something that happens in the womb and no-one has any control over it. This isn’t something me or my husband can simply tell her to stop doing, as although she was born physically male, her gender identity is clearly female and that’s who she is.
“If she does change her mind and wants to go back to living as a boy in a few years then that would be great, as it would save her a lot of hardship. But as it stands I cannot imagine how that would ever happen.
“I know the future may be difficult for Evie, but I also know that someone from Mermaids will have been there before us, got through it and will help us to get through it too. Their support is so essential for families like ours. Mermaids mean we are never on our own.”