Supporting A Transgender Teen and Their Family in Transitioning
Part of our work at Life Coaching and Therapy (LCAT) is supporting transgender teen clients and their families to adjust. Coming out as a transgender teen is a process.
Often, it is complex for teens and their families, because it is a transition for the entire family system.
Identifying as transgender is when someone is born as male or female and ascribed a gender of boy or girl at birth based on their genitals. When someone is transgender it means that they do not feel the gender ascribed to them at birth is accurate.
Non-binary, gender creative, and gender expansive individuals are people who do not ascribe to the gender binary of male/female or man/woman. These individuals typically see gender as fluid or do not ascribe to one gender at all.
Dead name refers to the name the individual was given at birth, not the name the individual chooses as they come out.
Pronouns are the way a person identifies. The most common pronouns are: she/her, they/them, he/him, ze/zir. When someone misgenders someone it is when someone uses the incorrect pronoun. This happens often when people come out as transgender or non-binary. The deliberate misuse and misgendering causes significant harm to the individual coming out.
Due to our society adjusting our perspectives on the LGBTQ+ community, we have made head way in seeing the people are able to come out earlier in their life (usually in adolescence where identity is a primary developmental task) thus allowing them to lead healthier adult lives. I will say it 10000 times that these outcomes are based on how the community, family, and close individuals around the person coming out respond or react to them coming out.
If you are a close friend or family member of someone in the LGBTQ community, especially within the gender non-conforming or transgender population, it is incredibly important for you to learn and understand how your response can cause harm to the individual coming out.
Transitioning the Family
For the family, adjusting to their teenage family member using a different name and pronoun can be incredibly difficult. Even in the most supportive environments this is complicated. If you had any beliefs that may make the circumstance less supportive it can result in massive issues for the teen themselves and the family.
One of the most important things to do as a family member is to work through the grief you have. Grief is a normal part of any major changes in someone’s life, this is no different. What I see most in families is the need to grief what they expected and how to integrate that with who the teen is and the memories they have with them.
The most common thing I see in families is people not addressing their grief and projecting (putting it on) those around them, especially the transgender teen who is coming out. This looks like making it about themselves, arguing about what pronoun is appropriate, using the teens name vs. dead naming them, or misgendering. This makes someones coming out experience about you rather than the person coming out, which is a problem.
To be extremely clear, I am not saying you should not address your own personal feelings, grief, and experience – in fact I am saying the opposite. HOWEVER, this should be done NOT with the person who is coming out. The person coming out has enough of their own stuff to deal than trying to help you manage your experience and reaction to this. I would suggest finding a therapist or joining a support group where you can process your feelings and experiences safely without causing harm to the person who is coming out.
Progress not Perfection
It is okay if you are having a difficult time with your teen transitioning. However, it is not okay to take that confusion out on those around.
Family and friends do not have to be perfect. Yet, if you mess up – OWN IT. Owning can look like a simple “I am sorry.” Or owning it means asking clarification! Similarly, it could be learning more about transitioning through finding helpful resources.
This does not look like making it about yourself or justifying why you did what you did. Please, do not have the individual coming out teach you before you do research.
- taking accountability
- asking for clarification
- doing your research.
Please, try your best to respect someone’s name and pronouns.
Think about how as a culture we shift last names of those that are married or when celebrities change their name. Therefore, an individual can use the same cognitive shifts for those in their life.
If you are finding it challenging or difficult please seek support from a professional to deconstruct why that is.
You are not perfect, I do not ever expect perfection from my clients. I do expect progress tho. Progress not perfection.
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