Messages to other parents and carers of trans and gender-diverse young people

The people we spoke to offered many different kinds of advice based on their experiences of having a trans or gender diverse child. They were keen to give messages that would reassure and give hope to other parents and carers in similar situations. One parent said: ‘Being trans is not a bad thing. And trans children can have really, really happy lives and normal lives.’
The key messages parents had for others were about:
  • Getting peer support from other parents/carers;
  • Being gentle with oneself;
  • Being there for the young person;
  • The importance of communication and not worrying about what others will say;
  • Gathering and filtering information; and
  • Dealing with everyday challenges.

Interview 1 talks about how parents and carers can help spot and challenge some of the barriers and discriminations faced by trans and gender variant children.

Getting peer support from other parents/carers

As well as supporting their trans and gender diverse child, people we spoke to encouraged other parents and carers to seek support for themselves too.

Josie encouraged other parents and carers to seek support for themselves if they feel they need it, and not to beat themselves up’ about feeling down at times.

Parents we spoke to emphasised the importance of looking for support and connecting with others who are facing similar issues. Joining support groups in person or online was one way to do this. Support groups can give parents and carers space to share and learn from others in similar situations. Most parents and carers spoke highly of Mermaids and other support groups they were able to attend locally, and advised others to find and join such groups. Andrew said ‘talk to other parents. Find out where your local support groups are.’

Lesley spoke about the importance of connecting to other parents of trans children.

Oonagh spoke about the importance of local support groups as well as about allowing the young person to lead the process.

You can read more about sources of support here.

Being gentle with oneself

Richard felt that it was important to be gentle with oneself when experiencing negative emotions or feelings of loss. Oonagh said it was sometimes hard to know ‘what the right thing is to do’, but her advice was ‘to be as open as you can’.

Richard talked about the need to be gentle with oneself.

It is not always easy for parents and carers to support their young person and in our interviews people spoke about making sense of their childs gender identity whilst doing their best to be there for their child.

Be there for the young person

Other common themes in the messages people had for others were focused on the importance of being there for the young person and giving them unconditional support. Mel said: ‘If you can support and understand your child and give them unconditional love and give them a place to feel safe when they can like really express and be themselves, I think they’ll be in a lot stronger position.’ Kate echoes this too: ‘Make sure that they know you love them and that you love them as your child, not as your son or as your daughter.’ Ross thought it was important that parents let their children know that ‘you’re there, I’m ready to talk whenever you are. If you don’t wanna talk now, I’m still here’.

Ross urged other families to take children and young people seriously and offer unconditional support.

The importance of communication and not worrying about what others will say

Another key message was that it is important to listen to the young person and take their feelings about their gender identity seriously. Ross encouraged others to ‘listen to them. Listen to em and take em seriously I think itd probably be the main thing.’ The need to listen and focus on the child was also something that Andrew talked about. He explained: ‘I suppose the number one thing really is just focus, on the child. Listen to the child. Listen to what they’ve got to say. Process it as a family and then try and seek some support.’
Many other parents also stressed the importance of communication and being able to discuss things honestly with children.
Both Mel and Kate spoke about how it is important not to worry about what others might think and focus instead on supporting the child.

Mel talks about not worrying about other people’s opinions.

Gathering and filtering information

Parents we spoke to also emphasised how important it is to find information. Some talked about the importance of the quality of information about health care and medical issues, as they thought not all information on the internet was good or accurate. Georgina, who is active in her local support group for parents, said: ‘my advice is always do some research. But be careful what you research, because there’s a lot of negative stuff out there.’

Kate speaks about the importance of communication, making the child feel secure and getting as much information as possible.

Everyday challenges

Parents we spoke to shared their experiences of everyday challenges and how to deal with them.
Lisa thought that as parents of a trans child, people should be prepared for a struggle. That is why she felt that parents needed to educate themselves. In her words: ‘There’s lots of different views about everything associated with caring for a transgender child, Well, read about it. Learn about it. Find out about it. What are the options, you know? And make a decision. As a parent you know your child better than anyone. And make a decision that’s right for your child, not just what society might tell you would be the easy path.’
To prevent bullying, Kate said she wished she had worked more closely with her son’s school. She said: ‘I wished that I had talked to the school more. I suppose when I thought perhaps things aren’t quite right.’ You can read more about experiences at school here [link to TS19]. D felt making sure the young person has someone else to confine in could help to support them.

D talked about making sure the young person has someone to talk to besides the parents, about the things that worry them.

When it comes to healthcare, Ali spoke about the need to be patient with the healthcare process. She said: ‘Try and be patient. Dont expect anything to move quickly.’ Lesley thought it was important to get referred to the Gender Identity Development Services early (see also section on Getting referred). Her advice was to ‘get yourself on the list to see the [Gender Identity Development Services ] as soon as possible, cause God knows how long it’s gonna be before you get seen.’

Jan felt that parents should be assertive in getting healthcare for their children when they face barriers.

You can also find out more in these sections about peoples messages to healthcare professionals and improving services.