So your teen is transgender. We’ve spent the last 3 posts talking about what that does and does not mean. But what do you do now? What does your teen do now? How do you make sure that your transgender teen is able to continue living their life?
Let’s start with the basics.
Home: You need to ensure that your home is a safe haven for your teen. Depending on their gender expression and your community, they may be stared at, made fun of, or shunned in school or public places. Talk to them and let them help you make home a completely safe space. Find out what that means for them. Daily check-ins on how they are doing emotionally? No talking about transgender topics unless your teen brings them up? Motivational notes and pictures all over the house? No matter what you decide, home should be a place where your teen can express their gender in a way that is comfortable for them.
School: Depending on the environment, your transgender teen may be accepted and supported at school, or they may be ostracized and made fun of. Usually it’s somewhere in between. As we discussed in my posts on lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens, bullying is illegal and the school has a responsibility to stop it. If the school doesn’t respond effectively, there are steps you can take to ensure that they do. In the meantime, hopefully your teen has one or more close friends whose support can help them get through a hard day. Encourage them to focus on the positive people at school, travel around school as part of a group, and seek help from school staff.
Physical Health: Whether or not your teen plans to undergo hormone treatment or sex reassignment surgery, they need a primary care provider who is comfortable dealing with transgender teens and issues. Everything from their office space to their communication style should display acceptance. If your current primary care provider isn’t well-versed in transgender care, ask them for a referral to someone who is. Or you can search on the Gay& Lesbian Medical Association website for providers who list themselves as LGBTQ friendly. Keep in mind that someone who has male or female organs will need certain sex-specific health care exams regardless of their gender identity- but these can be done in a very sensitive and respectful way for transgender patients.
Emotional Health: Unless they strongly object, your teen should see a counselor, at least a few times. It is hard enough to be an adolescent and go through the associated physical and emotional turmoil, without the added social and psychological complications of being transgender. Transgender teens are at a very high risk for low self-esteem, substance abuse, and other emotional and mental problems, particularly depression. Look for a counselor who is trained in working with LGBTQ clients. I haven’t been able to find a great website for searching out transgender-friendly therapists, although some are listed on the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association website linked above. Try Googling “[your area] + transgender + counselor” and see what comes up.
Dating: It’s rare for teens not to be interest in romantic relationships. If your teen feels socially ostracized and “undateable”, they might settle on someone who doesn’t treat them as well as they deserve, or who they don’t enjoy time with as much as they could. Make sure you talk to them about respectful relationships. Remind them that if the dating pool seems like a puddle full of worms right now, in the future they will have a chance to date people they truly admire and are attracted to, and who treat them with the love and respect they deserve. Depending on your teen’s peer environment, they may have no trouble finding a healthy romantic relationship, which gives you one less thing to worry about!
What other basic issues do parents of transgender teens need to address, or do you have questions about?