Family and friends’ responses to their child’s gender identity

There are a range of different responses to the news that someone is trans or gender diverse. Some responses may feel unhelpful and make things more difficult for the young person who is coming out and those who care for them. Other responses can feel more reassuring and show that the young person is loved and supported, regardless of their gender identity.

The support of family and friends was very important for many parents and carers we spoke to (see also Sources of support). Many parents and carers worried about how their families and friends would react to their child coming out and transitioning. Some chose to make an announcement on social media about it, whilst others didn’t overtly tell anyone, with people around them eventually picked up on pronouns and name change. Pronoun and name changes were sometimes difficult to get used to for parents, partners, grandparents, siblings and friends.

Lesley spoke about her son’s reluctance about telling other people, leaving her trying to balance ‘the need to talk to’ wider family and ‘respecting his wishes not to talk to them about it too much’. For people like Andrew, their family have been nothing but supportive and accepting. As he explained: ‘All my family are absolutely fine with it, which is so lucky… Only takes one member of the family to not deal with it very well and that can upset everybody, but we don’t have that. Everybody’s fine with it, absolutely fine and supportive.’ Some parents emphasised that their friends and family have been emotionally supportive, even if they might not fully understand the issue. E said about her family and friends that ‘they didn’t pretend to understand everything. But, they were quite understanding.’

For other parents we spoke to, the experience was more mixed. For many, like Georgina, some reactions were positive whilst others were upsetting. Oonagh suggested that although people could be accepting she worried what they might say to others: ‘all my friends have been quite nice and accepting and I just worry about what people are saying behind my back. I think thats what I worry about most.’

Ross’s family and friends have been largely supportive of his son’s transition but needed some time to get used to the new pronouns.

Lesley talked about her son being misgendered by his grandparents and the support she gets from her friends.


Most parents we spoke to were on the same page as their partners in supporting their child and accepting their gender expression. However, a couple of parents did not agree with their ex-partners or current partners about supporting their child’s transition. It can be difficult to manage a situation where parents or partners disagree on the best course of action.

Ross’s ex-partner (the mother of his son) was not particularly supportive. In Lisa’s case, her partner, who was not the father of her son, was not supportive. Lisa said: ‘Family members were really supportive, The only person that wasn’t supportive was my husband.’

Lack of acceptance for her son’s gender identity led to relationship problems for Lisa.


Parents told us how brothers and sisters reacted to their sibling’s coming out and transition.

People we talked to described the responses of siblings as overwhelmingly supportive and understanding. Ali said, ‘My daughter’s siblings were very accepting of when she finally told them, that wed been at the [Gender Identity Development Service] for about a year before she actually got the courage up to say, that was what she was going to [city] to see them about. But they were very supportive and they always have been’. Lisa and Mel said their other children were ‘very protective’ of their trans or gender diverse child, and Leigh’s son keeps an eye on how his trans sibling is at school: ‘he will see if anybody is being threatening towards him or he has made it known, you know, that hes there.’

Often, siblings were also the quickest to adapt to changes of pronouns and names. Leigh talked about how the siblings never got the name or pronouns wrong. She shared: ‘I was getting it wrong. I was saying, ‘she’ pronouns still, it took me weeks. The kids were instantly correcting me, They never got it wrong. They never said the wrong name. They never said the wrong pronouns from day one.’

Kate’s talked about her younger son’s reaction to his brother coming out as trans.

Not all siblings were as supportive as hoped. Lesley explained how some of her son’s older siblings were ‘still struggling to get their head around it and so as far as my son’s concerned his eldest brother …avoids him now. I don’t think he does. But it just feels like that.’

Mel and Richard both talked about how it is important to make sure siblings of trans and gender diverse children don’t feel overlooked, when a lot of the attention is focused on supporting their brother’s or sister’s transition and any issues that might arise with that.

Mel talked about how her younger stepdaughter supported her trans sister fully but also felt like ‘an extra’ in her older sister’s show.

Lisa recognised that siblings often have ‘niggles’ with each other, and developed an approach for the family of how to resolve whatever queries you have.


Parents and carers we spoke to told us how grandparents reacted to their child’s gender expression and transition. Grandparents responded to their grandchild’s transition in a variety of ways. Some were supportive and adapted to the change of the name and pronouns quickly, and were also an important source of support for parents or carers. Adele said, ‘I spoke to my mum a lot about this, she was giving me a lot of support anyway and sort of helping bring up the kids and she was really on board with it.’

Some parents spoke about generational difference that made it more difficult for grandparents to ‘get their heads around’ the change of pronouns and the idea of transition. While some grandparents took a while to ‘come around,’ others remained unsupportive of their grandchild’s transition.

Jan talked about how the grandparents struggled to get the pronouns right.

Mel describes how her husband’s parents took ‘a good year’ to accept their granddaughter’s social transition.

Not all the parents we spoke to had told the grandparents about their child’s gender identity. Elijah did not tell the grandparents, but told friends and some other family members who all understood. He said: ‘Grandparents don’t know. Friends of the family will know, aunties and friends will know.’


The parents and carers we spoke to had different experiences with how their friends reacted to their child’s transition. For some, friends were the main source of support from the ‘get go’ as one parent (Ross) put it. Others worried about telling their friends, but found friends to be accepting and supportive.

VM was concerned about telling her friends more than her extended family.

Not everyone we spoke to had a positive experience with telling friends. For Leigh the experience has been that she has lost contact with some family members and friends. However, for many people friends and family have been an important source of support. Many have also made new friends and connected to other parents who were going through the same thing via support groups, or online communities.

Leigh lost contact with her sister and many friends who did not agree with her supporting her trans foster son.

Uncertainty of others’ reactions and the impacts on relationships

Many of the people we talked to had initially been worried about the reactions of other people. For some, there were negative experiences and some had lost contact with other people or felt their relationships were. But others found that there was acceptance, support and understanding from important people in their and their children’s lives. Sometimes initially upsetting reactions evolved over time and as understanding developed. Mel, speaking of grandparents, explained: ‘I think when they saw this isn’t a phase and actually how important it was as a family to be supportive and to show love and to show understanding… Everyone’s really come on board.’

Mel had new family photographs taken and gifted these to grandparents. This was both to replace older photographs and to represent the family with the trans child being the person who she is.