A note for parents, friends, and loved ones of transgender

Several people have written to me who are the parents, friends or loved ones of someone who is considering transition, and are concerned about the idea and wondering what they can do. This is a complex issue. My own experience was that my parents did not take it well, particularly my mother. I have only seen her once in the last twenty years. Even though I eventually did resolve my issues in a different way and detransition, this was not helpful. Now we do get along better, part of it is time and part of it is my decision to detransition, but I still have some resentment towards her for not supporting me during that time, and it made it more difficult to detransition because I didn’t want her to be right. I do see that much of my own behavior at that time as selfish also. It can be a tricky question.

Still a few ideas:

Have compassion and love your child, and keep your door open to them. You do not have to approve of their actions, or pretend to, you have the right to your own integrity in that. However, it is important to continue to support them.

You can’t control the actions of your child, particularly if they are an adult child. They will do what they are going to do. If they are a teen, particularly a late teen they are soon to be adults and out of your control. You might be able to clamp down on what they are doing now, but in a couple of years they will be able to do what they want. Better that they explore their feelings while they still have your guidance, then do it when they don’t.

The issue of pre-pubescent children is a whole other issue. We know that historically most of these kids did not persist in their gender identity issues. (Around 84% in an older study) I worry a lot that transitioning these kids will increase the persistence rate. Also, I think the experience of puberty itself leads to the desistance as the biological instincts kick in, so preventing these children from experiencing at least some of this puberty might again make more of these kids transition than would otherwise.

This stuff is hard to deal with. I am critical of some of the ways the psychological community handles these issues and wish there were better alternatives to deal with it 20 years ago. I provide the ideas I have garnered through my experience and studies of psychology in the hope that others can be prevented from the suffering that I had. There are several people that have found them helpful, so I think I am on a good track, but I don’t think they will work for everyone. In particular these are deep-seeded issues that require more than blog posts to deal with. Some people will transition, and they deserve to have good lives. Much of the problems of transition have to do with social stigma associated with it.

Try to make sure they see a lot of different perspectives if you can. I do think there is a lot of groupthink happening currently, and I think it is important to counteract that. Do not trust any one authority on these matters, there are lots of crazy ideas going around, even in professional circles.

If you can meet them where they are, you should. If you don’t use their preferred name or pronouns it will just prevent you from communicating with them at all, and if you aren’t in their lives you don’t have any influence at all. Again this is a matter of your own integrity, but I think meet people where they are and giving them courtesy helps foster good communication.