Gender diverse youth face a multitude of challenges. One challenge they should not have to face is losing the support of a parent, but this is often the case; only a quarter of transgender youth report having a supportive family system – a figure that is dangerously low.
One of the most loving and courageous things a parent can do is accept your transgender or gender diverse child and give them the room and space to grow. Parental support decreases the risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts and strengthens resiliency in the face of adversity. Transgender and nonbinary children report higher self-esteem and better mental health when they have parental support. This is why it is so important for parents to get connected to resources.
As an educator, I have been advocating for LGBTQ+ students and providing programming in colleges and the public schools system for over a decade. I have seen first-hand the despair of children and young adults that do not have the acceptance of a supportive adult. When someone I love came out to me, I turned to a local LGBTQ+ community center support group so that I could understand this journey from a parent’s perspective. I learned that parents go through their own process of adjusting to and incorporating the changes this news brings into the family system.
Many parents are frightened for their children and do not know what to do. This is understandable because it may be difficult to find the necessary resources, including other parents, who can be role models. Because I have a role in education and a background in psychology, people from many professions come to me for information. I wanted to make it easier for parents and professionals to find the information they need to support the growth and development of gender diverse children. I decided that an important next step was to help educate other parents who are concerned and confused about how to support their transgender or nonbinary child.
Parents do not always know where to turn for help. When they begin to look for resources, they don’t know where to start or what questions to ask. Starting thetransparentproject.org was a way to direct parents and professionals to quality online resources. This project is an evolving collection of resources that have been compiled for parents who are in the beginning of this journey with their child. If we can reach out to parents that may not have local resources, are not quite ready to talk to someone, or are trying to educate themselves, this is a good starting place.
There are many great organizations that can be accessed on the internet but finding them when you are not sure what you are looking for can be overwhelming. I want to make that process a little easier, especially for reluctant parents. In the course of my work as an educator and as a volunteer facilitator for the local LGBTQ+ community center, I found organizing and disseminating resources overwhelming. Keeping track of the resources and finding an efficient way to deliver this information became a primary goal for me. I wanted people to have easy access to the most talked about and widely known organizations that support the gender diverse community. I wanted to include videos of parents talking about their concerns and experiences. I also wanted parents to hear from transgender youth telling their stories.
The first thing you see when you access thetransparentproject.org are the colors of the trans flag and the tagline “Creating a Path of Learning, Supporting and Protecting Trans Youth”. The relationship with a supportive parent can help protect the child as they become confident in their identity. This is followed by a humble mission statement to compile “information with the intended purpose of offering a collection of resources to support parents of transgender children”. Next there is a series of videos starting with a parent video from the Human Rights Campaign followed by videos of trans youth speaking to parents. In addition to videos there are links to other organizations. There are downloadable guides and links to articles that provide guidance on finding a therapist and more. As you continue to explore you will see an additional resource page that lists books and TV shows that might be helpful.
Recently I took this a step further and invited parents to anonymously submit their stories to share with other parents in what I call a parent-to-parent blog. The first blog I wrote, “What does it mean to support your child”, addresses the almost universal concerns presented by parents: wondering if it is a phase, not knowing how to help, and being afraid for your child. I want to continue to highlight stories of parents of transgender children and young adults to form a much larger voice of courage and advocacy. My hope is that this will have an impact on the more reluctant parent. I also hope that this will be a resource for professionals that work with parents. Parents need positive role models and support just as much as the youth do.
I cannot say this enough: transgender youth are a vulnerable population. They need caring, supportive, and knowledgeable adults in their lives. This project is a resource to the parent who doesn’t know where to start or is reluctant to show support because of misconceptions about what it means to be transgender or nonbinary. Professionals must also have this information so they know how critical their role is, especially in the absence of a supportive family system. Each of us has an important role to play in the lives of gender diverse children and young adults.
This is just the beginning of thetransparentproject.org. Depending on the need and success of the site, other initiatives may be possible. Perhaps in the future, parents of transgender children might volunteer to maintain the site and give it a more professional look or develop original content as we evolve and grow.
What we need are more people leading with knowledge and an open heart. Our voices need to be louder and stronger than the voices that are committed to misunderstanding. It is easy to work with the people who already support our LGBTQ+ community. It is more challenging to reach the people who are not on board. I am aiming to reach “the moveable middle” – people who need a little nudge from someone who has traveled a similar path.
(It is important to note that this site is for educational purposes only. The information provided is not intended as legal, therapeutic, or medical advice. The transparentproject.org site provides links to third-party sites and has some original content. For information about the project and how to support its work, visit the site at thetransparentproject.org/contact-us.)