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Posts tagged ‘coming out’

On someone ‘influencing’ a child’s gender identity

I’d like to offer a few thoughts on an issue of concern to many parents of  children that may be gender variant – that the child’s gender identity has been influenced by: a friend, a group of friends, cosplay, anime, the internet or some other person or group.
The basic question is can one’s gender identity (i.e. that inner feeling of maleness or femaleness or something in between) be at all influenced by an outside person or institution? My feeling and experience suggest that – no it’s just not possible.

Why then is this such a common concern of a parent who has been newly come out to?
I think one of two things are happening (or a combination of both) and those are:
1. Your child has encountered a new person who is exhibiting some level of “outness” as gender variant, and has, naturally enough, begun to ask themselves if they are similar in some way – and have found that they are.
2. Your child has gravitated towards a group of friends/city/college/group that is accepting of gender variance because they know internally (and perhaps unconsciously) that they have some gender dysphoria and they need a supportive environment in which to deal with it.
Now let’s look at two possibilities: 1. The child is truly gender variant or transgender and 2. The child is not truly gender variant or transgender.
In the first case of a truly gender variant child – I think this move toward an accepting group is a much needed step in the total journey of self-acceptance and social and physical change.
In the second case where the child is not truly gender variant – I think this can be understood as another of the many phases of self-exploration that young people go through trying to figure out who they are. And if no physical changes are taken in this case – then really what’s the harm in it? If the child is truly not gender variant then they will more than likely put it aside and move on to other things in due time.
Whenever there is doubt a general rule of thumb is to hold off on any physical interventions.

Thoughts for Parents of Transgender children

I had posted before about some ideas of how to come out to family, and I recently had the opportunity to be the guest speaker at a support group for parents of transgender children (part of New York City PFLAG). The following is a handout I used.  They are mostly talking points, but I think they can still be useful, so I’m posting them here.  Note that it is aimed at parents that have been newly-come-out to by mostly teenage and older children.

Thoughts on Parents coping with Transgender children

  • Keep the long term goal in mind in all communications

The long term goal is maintaining a relationship with your child.


  • Allow yourself time to process your feelings.

There can be pressure for immediate acceptance.
You are entitled to all your feelings about the situation.
Your child has had much more time to think about this and accept it than you have.


  • Communication

Listening: Don’t interrupt, don’t tune out, and don’t plan what you will say next, make eye contact, pay attention to the speakers feelings, before you give your opinion reflect back what you are heard in a non-judgmental way so that the speaker knows they have been heard or ask for clarification if you didn’t understand something.

Speaking: If you’re too angry or upset take a 20 min. break. Try to avoid blaming, ultimatums, attacking, insults, large proclamations or hurtful speech. Say what you feel clearly, don’t assume people know. (people are not mind readers). Say what you feel rather than acting it out, ex: “I’m confused and angry…”
Say where you are, example: “I don’t completely understand it but I’m listening and working on it”
Don’t triangulate; focus on you and your child not other people.
Don’t shut down communications or avoid your child


  • Telling Other family/friends

This is often the largest fear.
Let it happen when you’re ready.
Let others have their own feelings and reactions about it, don’t try and dictate.


  • Understanding and reframing

Educate yourself about transgenderism.
This is an opportunity for a more authentic relationship with your child.


Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.

The Need for Post Transition Support (Part 2)

A follow up to the Mike Penner/Christine Daniels saga.

The LA Times posted a long follow up article on the suicide of Mike Penner/Christine Daniels, the late LA Times sportswriter who transitioned on the job (and which I wrote about in a previous post)

A few things stand out as contributing to the suicide:

  • A very painful separation and divorce from her wife.  Complicating matters was the fact that they worked in the same office and wife expressed her wish to avoid all contact with Christine. (I’m certainly not blaming the wife for contributing to the suicide; I’m just saying that the separation and circumstances were painful for Christine.)  There was also the loss of the wife’s family, who Penner was close to.
  • Being a public figure, she got some harsh (and ignorant) public criticism of her ability to “pass”, which was hard on Christine.
  • Christine being thrust into and accepting the role of spokesperson for transgender issues when she probably wasn’t ready or personally strong enough to deal with the media scrutiny.  Then having disagreements with trans activists who objected to Daniel’s emphasis on appearance in her blog.
  • Daniels withdrew from friends, church and public appearances.
  • Daniels’s mother died.
  • Daniel’s focused on her transitioning as the root of all her problems and tried to de-transition in hopes of reuniting with his wife.

What are the lessons that can be gleaned from this?

  • There is a great need for support during and after transition.  Don’t underestimate the need for supportive people and institutions.  Including friends, family, support groups, therapy, religious institutions, knitting circles, etc…  Its like drinking water in the desert – you have to do it even if you’re not feeling thirsty – if you feel thirsty its too late – you’re already dehydrated.
  • Withdrawing is not the answer.  It will only make things worse.
  • Very often when people find themselves a part of a new group they feel they have to be a spokesperson/activist/possess complete knowledge of said group.   That’s great if you want to do that, but it should be a conscious choice and not an obligation.

Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.


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