Back in 2015, Cosmopolitan released a powerful article and documentary about Jodie Patterson and her 8-year-old transgender son, Penelope. Of course, Jodie expressed fear of how society would accept Penelope. As a pre-pubescent child, he doesn’t have any issues. His friends and siblings all accept and love him. But Jodie is afraid of what puberty has in store and how the people around them will react. However, Jodie expressed unconditional love for her child and full support for his gender identity. Jodie is part of a growing number of parents who are working through the uncharted stages of raising a transgender child. If you’re a parent who’s raising a young child who might be transgender, you can get to Jodie’s level of acceptance.
This Isn’t A Phase
Between the ages of 5 and 10, parents don’t feel their children are cognitively developed enough to make decisions as big as a gender change. While they may not be able to voice it in modern day terminology, your child is emotionally intelligent and in tune with who they are. When your child expresses to you that they’re in the wrong body, take them seriously. Know that it isn’t a phase or a sickness. Your child is just as normal as all the other kids. They’re just a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth.
You’re Building A Better Life For Them
Parents.com reports that 45 percent of transgender people from ages 18 to 24 have attempted suicide. Undoubtedly, this is due to the lack of acceptance from society. And that unhappiness and self-hate can start as early as childhood if you deny your child the right to be who they truly are. If acceptance begins at a young age, your child can live a full life as the right gender and avoid the psychological pitfalls of long-term rejection.
Get Support At School
This isn’t a transition that your family is making alone. A huge part of your child’s experience will take place at school. It’s important for teachers and administrators to get familiar with your child’s journey. Everything from use of pronouns to spotting bullying to correct bathroom use is important. Often if kids aren’t ready to use a bathroom designated for boys or girls, the nurse’s office usually has a gender neutral bathroom they can use. The earlier you partner with school officials, the sooner you can make sure your child’s daily experience is a positive one. Supporting them isn’t just about home life. The book, The Transgendered Child, by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper is a great book to help you navigate the school system.
Shrug Off Criticism
There will be parents in your community that just don’t understand. These parents could be your friends. It will be hurtful if you don’t have their support. But your number one objective isn’t to please other people; it’s to make sure your child has a seamless transition and lives a fulfilled life. Your duties as a parent override any societal pressure to conform. Surround yourself with people in the community who are supportive. Don’t focus your energy on hate.
Helping a child transition is a difficult process. But it’s one that’s becoming more common. And as long as you keep your child’s needs first, the experience can be rewarding for all those involved. Please see the section of my website called “client corner” for some helpful resources. If you live in or around Long Beach, you can come in for an appointment to talk out ways to be the most supportive person you can be for your child. If you live in California, but not close enough to drive to my office, call to set up a phone/skype session.