“Daddy, I am really not a boy.” If your child does not identify with the sex assigned at birth, as a parent you will be suddenly confronted with many questions. We offer you some answers.
Is it my fault that my child is trans*?
While the formation of gender identity is not completely understood, what is certain though is that several factors come together. Being trans* cannot be elicited or ‘prevented’ by the way a person is raised. But you can positively influence the quality of life of your child. Trans* children whose gender identity is accepted by the people around them are psychologically just as okay as their peers.
How do I know that this is not just a phase?
Children who express discomfort with the gender they grew up with may pursue different paths later in life. It does not matter whether your child’s current desires will last their whole life or not. But in this moment in his/her life, the desires are important and must be taken seriously. Children suffer considerably if they are permanently not allowed to express who they really are.
So for now, just allow your child to experiment with their gender identity. Later, even if the child returns to his/her “old” gender role or chooses a completely different one – that’s okay too.
How can I support my child?
Taking your child seriously in the way they talk about themselves, their inner conflicts and desires is the first step and infinitely valuable. If you consider your child to be an expert of their own life, you will understand what they need from you. Maybe your child wants to wear a certain type of clothing or have a different name that they feel more comfortable with. Or they want your support when expressing their gender identity outside the comfort of the family circle.
No minimum age is required to change one’s name and gender. Kindergartens or schools are allowed to refer to your child according to the child’s chosen gender and may also register them with their desired name.
You cannot make any decisions about medical interventions, until your child hits puberty. Options for gender-affirming surgery or hormone treatment might be interesting for your child to explore at a later stage in life.
Who supports me?
Many parents of trans* children are worried that their own child might not be able to be happy. Some experience sadness, helplessness or shame. Parents might themselves be conflicted about how to react appropriately to their child’s wants vis-á-vis the other parent, relatives or teachers.
Specialized counselling centres or leisure activities for families with trans* children offer spaces and support structures where parents can ask questions, raise their concerns and also express their support for their child. Parents also hear encouraging stories of children who start blossoming when they finally feel understood.