My daughter is considering changing her gender, I don’t agree with her decision, but I want to support her because ultimately it’s her life. What else can I do?
To be clear, she likely isn’t considering changing her gender, but whether the gender she was assigned is accurate. It might seem like that is the same thing, but it isn’t. For the former, there’s an implication that one can choose their gender, but for the latter, there’s an acknowledgement that gender is what it is, and we can only work with what we discover and determine about ourselves.
So she might not be a girl. It isn’t the end of the world, not for her, and not for you.
Remember that this isn’t about you – she isn’t doing anything to you; she’s simply letting you in on her own experience. That’s a privilege for you – not all parents are offered this opportunity. The fact that she’s opening up about this means you’ve likely done something right – she’s comfortable enough with opening up to you, when this information is so often met with open hostility. Kids have been kicked out of homes for things like this. Yet she trusts you with this information. Don’t overlook this fact.
Let her know that you love her, and that nothing could ever change that. Then show her that you mean it.
Listen to her. Really listen. And believe what she tells you. If she says she’s a boy on the inside, believe him. If she says that the dysphoria hurts, believe that (because it does!). If she says she isn’t sure, believe that too, but don’t use that as an opening to try to convince her of anything. If she expresses being unsure, she needs help with finding a way to determine her own answer; she doesn’t need anyone else providing the answer.
Offer help. Offer to help her find a good therapist who she can work with to find her way through this experience. Offer to help her try out new names, new pronouns, new clothes, new behaviors. There’s a good bit of just trying things out to see what works; some will work, and some won’t — the best thing you can do is just be supportive and help her try these things out.
If she uses a new name and/or pronouns, use them even when you don’t think she’s listening. This helps you to get them right when she is listening, and that helps her to feel heard and seen, and affirmed.
Be honest with her. You’re probably going to have your own struggles with her journey. That’s valid. It’s ok to share your struggles, as long as you don’t make them into a burden for her to carry. “I’m having a difficult time adjusting to your new pronouns, but I want you to know that I know it’s important to you for me to get them right, so here’s how I’m trying, and please be patient when I don’t succeed.” “I don’t really care for those (men’s) pants and here’s why… (they don’t fit your body very well, they don’t fit with the outfit). Let’s see if we can find another pair which work better.” If sharing your struggle is going to increase her burden, try to keep it to yourself – she has enough on her plate.
Be honest with yourself. If you’re struggling, own it. Seek help for yourself – you’re allowed. Find support groups (I’ve heard good things about PFLAG), or find a therapist for yourself. Find other people dealing with similar things – it helps to know you’re not alone in your struggles, and who knows – maybe someone else has found a way through your particular struggle and can offer some guidance.
Love her. Listen to her. Believe her. Support her. Affirm her. Help her. Pretty much all the things that you’re probably already doing, since she’s trusting you to tell you about her feelings.
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