• Kathy Whitham

Helping Your Trans/GNC Kid Feel Safe

Updated: Feb 22

As I sit down to write this blog today, my heart is beating faster than it should be. It’s hard to concentrate and hard to breathe. I’m scared. How about you?


Today, the people of Massachusetts will decide whether to keep or repeal the non-discrimination protections currently on the books to protect our transgender men, women and children in public places like restaurants, libraries, and hospitals.


I and other parents with transgender and gender non-conforming kids struggle every day to keep them safe, not only from an unfriendly world, but safe from themselves. Feeling scared and out of control is kind of the norm.


And there we are. Caught between a rock and a hard place - between our own fear, and our compelling desire to help our child. The temptation is to lean forward toward our child. This can look like the following:

  • Blaming ourselves

  • Taking it personally

  • Walking on eggshells

  • Constantly asking them, “Are you sure?”

  • Rushing their process (because you want to support them)

You’re not alone in any of those.


But, here’s the thing. Fear gets in the way of relationship. It makes us hold on too tight, or defend and push away. It renders us unavailable for the connection your child needs most. Connection is required to build trust and I believe building trust is at the core of being able to be there for your child.


The first step to building more trust is to start calming your own fear. Here are some thoughts that may help you feel a little more in control. They and 2 of the 3 strategies that follow come to you straight from my adult trans child.


  1. They’re not doing this to you or because of you - i.e. It’s not personal.

  2. They didn’t tell you because maybe they didn’t know. It’s a big scary thing and they weren’t ready to tell you and maybe they were scared that if they told you, they’d lose you.

  3. Being trans is hard sometimes, but it’s harder to try to ignore or change it. Not being trans isn’t an option. It’s harder to pretend and not live your truth.

Here are 3 strategies to practice:

  1. Stop asking them if they’re sure. It’s such a hard question for them. They may not be sure. That doesn’t mean they’re not really trans. A better question may be “what do you need?” or “What do you want to do?”

  2. Give them the space to set the pace. Not the same as just letting them decide everything on their own. They don’t know what the f*** they’re doing either. Validate, join them, get curious, research, offer options. For example, “I heard you said ‘I’m a boy.’ Here are some options.” (Parents’ job is to go find out about options so child feels less overwhelmed.)

  3. (This one’s from me) Get support! You don’t have to be alone with your feelings. That’s not good for your child.

  • Contact PFLAG. I know of several PFLAG support groups in the Boston area specifically for parents of trans and GNC kids.

  • Talk to a therapist who is experienced in dealing with families like yours. (Email me for Boston area referrals or for how to interview a potential therapist.)

  • Talk to me about emotional support, anchoring strategies and parenting guidance through coaching. (kathy@parentingbeyondwords.com)

With love and support always

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