If I was to turn back the clock 3-1/2 years and give advice to someone on how to support my transgender son, here is what I would say-
1. Call him by his preferred name. Do not ask him to use his old name EVER just because it makes you feel more comfortable- regardless of the situation. By refusing to use his name, you are sending a strong message that you do not accept him as who he really is.
2. Use his preferred pronouns. It is a serious lack of respect to misgender him. And use those pronouns ALWAYS- even when you are not with him. You are invalidating his existence by referring to him by the wrong pronouns even when not in his presence. You are telling others that you are not taking him seriously. Once again, you are not showing acceptance.
3. Continue to love him. If your love was truly unconditional before he came out, it still exists. He is still the same kid you loved before.
4. If I’m telling you about him, accept that he asked me to talk to you. The “coming out” talk can be emotionally draining and stressful. It is scary. He does not know if the person hearing his news will be accepting or not. The information is no less valid if given by me instead of him.
5. Let him know he is loved, accepted and supported. Let him know this over and over again. When people first find out this news, everyone reacts differently. BUT everyone offers words of support regardless of how they might feel. Many don’t know how they actually feel and those words of support fade away if they are feeling uneasy or well…..not supportive once they actually give it all some thought. IT SHOWS. The people who really do want to support SHOW UP. They don’t make excuses. They don’t disappear. The ones who want to be there are THERE.
6. While he is transitioning, the entire family is going to be going through its own transition process. Our transition will be very different from his. Moms, Dads, brothers and sisters might need that extra hug or kind word, too. People will be more prone to express their less than positive feelings and views to us, rather than him. Please be mindful of this.
7. If he is quiet or unresponsive, it’s not because he doesn’t hear you or want to hear you. It’s probably because he’s unsure if you are really there or not. Remember, there are many people who said the exact same things you are saying and now they are gone. He might need some coaxing. Actions speak louder than words.
8. Educate yourself but remember, every trans person’s experience is different. There is no right or wrong way to be transgender. Don’t assume you are an authority because you read an article. Talk to him about it but be respectful. Or don’t talk to him about it but TALK TO HIM.
9. Whatever he is doing to change his outward appearance, this is nothing compared to what’s going on inside him. He is feeling A LOT. The result of this might be that he appears to be unresponsive at times. Please understand that he spent years stifling emotions, responses and more in an effort to present himself as someone he felt was more acceptable. He might have a lot to work out for himself.
10. Give him a break. He’s going through a lot. He is showing his true self to the world. He is raw and vulnerable and he needs to know that nothing has changed. That whatever he shows you is okay. But to show him that it’s okay, you really do need to show it. Empty words will have a big, hollow sound to them but actions will come through loud and clear.
11. If you screw up, acknowledge it and move on. It’s natural to mix up pronouns or a name at first but with practice, it becomes habit. And there might be times where you say something before thinking and then realize it wasn’t right- just apologize.
12. Trans or not, he is still a person. He has feelings. He wants to know that his family loves him. He wants to believe that love is unconditional.
Yes, this is what I would say if I could turn back the clock 3-1/2 years. Now that I re-read this, I realize that this IS what I said. And if you read this and you have been doing these things all along.