I would like to start this post by introducing (with permission) my transgender son, Elliot. In this post I will discuss our situation and how we have approached it, followed by tips for parents who are going through a similar experience. I have also included a glossary at the end as some of the terminology may be new to you.
Being a blogger for the last nine years means that I have always been very open and honest about our family life and my three daughters. My two older daughters (Lauren and Chloe) were only 18 months apart in age but their personalities were chalk and cheese. Faith was my final baby and ten years younger than my oldest. After already raising two girls I was happy to have a third.
However, even though Lauren and Chloe were very different they both displayed typical ‘girl’ behaviour. I noticed with Faith that they were very different. They would never want to wear the clothes I brought them, they would never wear tights and if they liked one item of clothing, they would refuse to let me wash it.
They didn’t like going to school, even nursery. Faith found it difficult to make friends and started getting bullied at primary school. I made the decision to home school when they were half way through year six. It was also around that time that their interest peaked in cosplay. When they were 11 they came out to me as pansexual.
I am not going to lie, I had no idea what pansexual meant at that point! However, I asked them to explain it to me and I think that helped as it showed that I wanted to understand. I have always been open to people being able to be who they are so it was not a problem for me at all.
One step forward, two steps backwards
Things seemed to improve greatly for them after that. They were being home schooled and they had made friends in the cosplay community and they dated a couple of girls. However, they started to retreat into themselves once more. The way they dressed changed and they started mostly shopping in the men’s section. They stopped wanting to go swimming and everything they wore had to be oversized.
Then last month we were talking at the dinner table and I joked about them being a good girl and they said, “yes, I am a good person” and something clicked in my brain. So I said, is there anything that you would like to talk to me about regarding your gender and they said “yes, I am trans”.
I was shocked
Even though in the back of my mind, I think I knew that it was coming, hearing those words were still shocking. They said that they wanted to be called Elliot and for me to use the pronouns he/him or they/them. It was difficult as I did not want to say the wrong thing. I knew that it was a really big deal for Elliot to say this to me but at the same time I had so many thoughts and emotions going around my head.
I knew that the main two things I needed to do at that moment was first to listen. Secondly, to make sure that Elliot knew that we loved him no matter what gender he identified as and that we respected what he was saying.
I am fully supporting Elliot as this is a big thing for an adult to deal with, so it must be even harder for a young person. I sat and thought how I would feel if I woke up in a male body but I was still me. It must be scary and as our world is socially constructed to categorise everything, it makes it even more difficult. Girls and boys toilets and changing rooms. Expectations for girls to like certain things and behave in certain ways and again for boys.
Reaction from family
Most of the family now know. It took a couple of weeks for Elliot to see and disclose to them all. Their reactions have been mostly positive. I think that as we have never met a transgender person before and Elliot is the first in our family that it can be hard to understand. That is why it is so important to educate people as people fear what they do not understand. I have been learning a lot over the last month. There is a lot that I did not know even though I thought that I was well educated on such matters.
I brought Elliot a binder after researching that they were safe to use and Elliot has said that it has helped with their dysphoria although they still want to look more masculine in the face. Sometimes, I make a mistake and say Faith or she but I quickly correct myself and apologise.
I think that it is important for parents to support transgender young people as the world can be very unkind to anyone different so why would we as parents want to add to that distress. Being on the same page with Elliot means that they are comfortable to come to me with any concerns or issues and that I can help and support them through difficult decisions.
Tips for parents
I am not an expert but based on my own experience and what I have heard from Elliot’s friends, here are some tips for if you have a child that comes out as transgender.
- Listen to them. Do not interrupt, or roll your eyes. Really listen to what they are saying and repeat a few words back to show that they have been heard.
- If you do not understand something, ask them to explain. They will be glad that you are showing an interest and trying to understand.
- Do not say things like it is just a phase or that they are too young as that is a red flag to a bull! We can not tell someone else how they feel inside.
- Tell them that they are still loved and that you support them. You may think that they already know this so you do not need to say it but they will need this reassurance from you.
- Let your child take the lead on moving forward. Who do they want to tell, do they need anything such as clothing or a binder. Do not jump in and tell them what to do, they need to be comfortable with moving forward.
- Ask what name and pronouns to use when taking about the past. Elliot wants me to say Elliot when talking about him as a baby rather than his birth name.
- You may need to grieve a little for the child you named and the ideas you had about them. However on the plus side they are still the same person, just with a different name and gender.
- Seek advice from the NHS on what to next.
- If you have access to Netflix I would highly recommend you watch the documentary called ‘Disclosure’.
The medical term used for someone who feels that they are not the correct biological gender, often leading to depression, anxiety and impacting daily life.
The term used for being attracted to people based on who they are rather than a set gender.
Trans daughter or female
A person biologically born male but identifying as female.
Someone who identifies as a gender which was not their biologically assigned gender at birth.
Trans son or male
A person biologically born female but identifying as male.
I hope that this post on my experience of having a transgender son has been helpful. If you have enjoyed this post then please do leave a comment or reach out on social media.