Minority Stress as The Parent of a Trans Child

Minority Stress as The Parent of a Trans Child

I wonder how many of us can say we just woke up one morning as a minority. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of minority groups is race (thanks to white privilege); people are born with their skin color. Disabilities can come on quite suddenly and affect someone for the rest of their lives, but again thanks to my privilege, I never considered their perspectives. That was until I experienced my own minority stress.

Yes, me, the white, cisgender, hetero-presenting, able-bodied, neurotypical, middle-class, educated woman. Discrimination was a cold bucket of water on my face. I can only imagine the reality of being BIPOC, disabled or transgender.

My discrimination wake-up call

Initially, the stress showed up in little moments. For example, letting the receptionist at the dentist’s office know to use a new name and pronoun and not knowing if I would be met with an eye roll or more questions than I had answers for at the time. These tiny drops of stress could be managed individually, but I soon realized they added up as I went about life in our small conservative city.

Then I was hit with a much bigger wave of anxiety. I was brand new to volunteering for our local Pride association and put my hand up to attend a workshop on grant applications for local non-profits. Seeing as I knew nothing about the topic, I looked forward to the evening. Armed with my notebook and a new pen, I walked into a room with a dozen tables and small groups forming at each one. My friend from Pride joined, and we sat near the front of the room. Once the class started, the leader asked us to go around and introduce ourselves and what organization we represented. As I watched the other groups speak, I noticed a trend, many older people seemingly volunteering in their retirement years. We were the youngest and the only ones with a progressive organization. This would be the first time I said out loud to a group of strangers that I was with the queer community. Despite my decades of experience with public speaking, my heart raced, and my mouth went dry.

What is Minority Stress?

Minority stress refers to the additional stress experienced by individuals who belong to a minority group, such as a racial or sexual minority. This stress can come from various sources, including discrimination, prejudice, and social inequality. Studies have shown that minority stress can negatively affect mental and physical health, increasing the risk of certain health conditions.

Can a white woman face discrimination?

Yes, an otherwise privileged person can experience minority stress when raising a transgender child. I have lived it first-hand. Even if someone is privileged in other ways, such as being white, cisgender, and economically stable, they may still face hateful comments and targeted discrimination based on their child’s gender identity or expression.

Why we need to Talk About This

Our children will also face minority stress just as we do as parents. But, of course, we try our best to shield our kids—which is why I did most of the coming out in professional settings before introducing my child. So it’s important to know what we’re dealing with and how to bounce back ourselves and how to support our children. Minority stress can have a range of negative effects, such as an increased risk of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD, substance abuse and addiction, suicide and suicide ideation, cardiovascular disease and other physical health problems, developing chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and of poor sleep quality, which can lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes.

That’s not a very rosy picture now, is it?

What parents can do

It’s essential to seek professional help if you or someone you know is experiencing trauma or mental or physical illness symptoms. A mental health professional can help you understand your symptoms and develop a plan for coping and healing. It’s also important to seek out a provider who is sensitive and knowledgeable about the specific needs of transgender individuals and families and willing to work with you to ensure that you receive appropriate and affirming care. And, though I might sound like a broken record on this, practice self-care. This is our lives now, and we need to train for a marathon of advocacy, not only a sprint. There is still a lot of work ahead, so find a way to manage your stress long-term.

What can allies do

Recognize that others might be fighting a battle you cannot see. Take the time to educate yourself about the challenges faced by Transgender people and their affirming families. Listen to their stories and experiences and offer support. This can include providing emotional support, helping them to access resources and services, and advocating for their needs. Challenge your own biases by actively working to become more aware of how your actions and words may contribute to minority stress experienced by gender-diverse people and their families. And finally, stand up for trans rights and help to create a safe and inclusive environment, including policy change at the local, state/provincial, and national levels. By definition, minority groups are too small to make sweeping electoral changes—they need allies to fight for their rights.

In the end, if you have ever felt anxiety or stress around raising a transgender child, you are not alone, and your feelings are entirely valid. Seek support and practice self-care. You want to be your best self as you support your child on this unique and rewarding journey.

Download the ebook Defining Transgender here to stay in touch through my newsletter and don’t forget to grab your copy of Beyond Pronouns: The Essential Guide for Parents of Trans Children. 

5 things people get wrong about Trans Children

5 things people get wrong about Trans Children

Trust me, one doesn’t get to write the essential guide for parents of trans children and avoid the misinformed rhetoric from keyboard warriors on the internet. Some comments I’ve received are clearly dog whistles and a rallying cry for hate, while others seem to beg for clarification. So, I figured I could debunk the top five myths that get shared about transgender youth in one post and maybe enlighten a few people who are open-minded enough to read this entire blog.

1. Sexualizing Transgender Kids

The sexualization of children refers to the inappropriate portrayal of children as sexual objects or the imposition of adult sexual norms and desires onto children. This narrative comes from conflating sexual orientation with gender identity. Transgender individuals have a gender identity that does not match the sex they were assigned at birth; it’s not related to their sexual orientation or sexual behaviour. Being transgender is not a form of sexual deviance; it’s a natural and valid aspect of human identity. Sexualizing transgender people, especially youth, is harmful and reinforces harmful societal norms. It objectifies transgender individuals and reduces them to sexual objects rather than treating them with respect and dignity as whole individuals.

When certain people in society reduce transgender kids, or any youth for that matter, as sexual subjects according to their body parts, it has a lasting harmful impact. These harms include damaged self-esteem and body image, prematurely exposing children to adult sexual norms, reducing them to sexual objects rather than treating them with respect and dignity, normalizing harmful behaviours such as sexual violence, exploitation, and harassment, and finally, reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes, such as portraying girls as passive and submissive and boys as aggressive and dominant.

2. Trans Children are too young to know who they are

The myth that trans kids are too young to know their gender identity is based on a misunderstanding of gender identity and its development. Gender identity refers to a person’s deeply held sense of their gender. This sense begins to develop in toddlers and preschoolers and solidifies at various ages for different people after that. Research has shown that transgender individuals can know their gender identity from a very young age, and it is consistent and persistent over time.

Gender identity is a complex and individual experience, and people of all ages can know and understand their own gender identity. No magical knowing happens when a person turns 18 years old. It is crucial to provide a supportive and affirming environment for all individuals, including children, to explore and understand their gender identity in a safe and healthy way.

3. Trans kids are following the group

The myth that being transgender is a social contagion suggests that transgender identities are spread through social influence rather than an inherent aspect of a person’s identity. This idea is not supported by scientific evidence and is a harmful and stigmatizing belief. Transgender people have existed throughout history and across cultures, and their experiences and identities are not a trend or a fad. The reason more people are sharing their gender diversity is the same reason we are hearing of more people diagnosed with ADHD—more awareness and better testing.

The idea that being exposed to transgender people or information about gender diversity would “contagiously” make someone transgender is ridiculous. However, it’s also important to note that the idea of a “social contagion” is being used to justify discrimination and marginalization of transgender children and used to prevent them from accessing vital resources and support, such as healthcare and mental health support.

4. Transgender children are confused

Transgender children, like all individuals, have the right to self-determine their gender identity. They are usually very sure about not aligning with the gender they were assigned at birth and have a strong sense of self. They may take time to explore their gender identity, try on different names or gender expressions, and make decisions about their transition, but this doesn’t mean they are confused or uncertain about what feels right to them.

Whether socially, or medically for older youth, transitioning is a personal and complex journey involving various steps. Each stage has its own set of considerations and can take time. It’s a process that requires careful thought, planning and support. It’s also important to note that not all transgender children will choose to transition in the same way or to the same degree, and that’s okay. Gender identity is not a choice. It’s not a decision a person makes one day. Being transgender is not a phase. Gender identity and expression can be complex and fluid, and not everyone fits into a binary gender system. People may identify as non-binary, genderfluid, or agender, and some individuals may not need a medical transition. Gender identity is a deeply ingrained and stable aspect of a person’s identity.

5. Parents are making their kids transgender

The myth that parents are making their children transgender suggests that transgender identity can be imposed or induced by outside influences, such as parents or friend groups, rather than being an inherent aspect of a person’s identity. This is not true.

As I’ve mentioned, gender identity is a deeply ingrained and stable aspect of a person’s identity. The idea that parents can make their children transgender is not supported by scientific research and is considered a harmful and stigmatizing belief. Transgender children are often aware of their gender identity from a very young age and may express discomfort or distress with the gender they were assigned at birth. Parents and caregivers do play an essential role in supporting and affirming their child’s gender identity to relieve that discomfort and distress. But the idea that parents are “making” their children transgender is often used to blame and stigmatize them, preventing them from accessing the support and resources they need to understand and support their child.

I know I am biased when I think that my transgender children are phenomenal human beings, but the truth is that through my work and volunteering in the community, I have met many amazing trans kids. They are bright, creative, kind and the most self-aware people you might ever meet. I dare you to get away from the negative online narratives and see the humanity within transgender children.

Download the ebook Defining Transgender here to stay in touch through my newsletter and don’t forget to grab your copy of Beyond Pronouns: The Essential Guide for Parents of Trans Children. 

The financial reality of raising a trans child

The financial reality of raising a trans child

Long story short, raising a transgender youth is expensive. Whether it’s affirming your child with a social transition, addressing your child and your mental health, or later on supporting your youth or young adult with medical care, the costs quickly add up.

I purposefully chose not to dive too deep into this topic when I wrote the book Beyond Pronouns: The Essential Guide for Parents of Trans Children for two main reasons. First, I didn’t want to discourage parents from affirming and supporting their gender-diverse youth. While this can be an expensive journey, there are supports available. Also, I wanted the book to focus on that initial stage of social transition, and this blog will take a deeper look past those first 100 days.

Social Transition Costs

Socially transitioning refers to the process of publicly presenting as a gender that is different from the one assigned at birth. It involves changing one’s name, pronouns, clothing, hairstyle, and other aspects of their appearance to align with their true gender identity.

Here are some items that you as a parent or caregiver may need to purchase to support your child socially transitioning:

Clothing, hair care and grooming products, makeup, and voice training: Depending on the youth’s gender identity, they may need to purchase new clothing and accessories that align with their preferred gender expression. They may want to dress, groom, or speak more femininely, masculinely or androgynously.

Legal name change and ID documentation: Some youth may choose to change their name legally, which can involve court fees and other legal document expenses. You may also need to register for new ID documentation, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate or passport that reflects your child’s new name and gender marker.

Gender-affirming gear, such as packers or breast forms, are prosthetic devices that can be worn in underwear to give the appearance of a bulge. They can be made of silicone or other materials and come in various sizes and shapes. Stand-to-pee devices allow trans masculine people to stand and urinate. Gaffs are undergarments that can be worn to flatten the genitals, and binders are compression garments to help flatten the chest or create a more masculine or androgynous shape.

The cost of socially transitioning can vary greatly depending on the youth’s needs and your financial resources. Some people may need to purchase all of these items, while others may not need to buy any of them. The tricky part for a parent is to be able to budget wisely because buying everything at once may not always be possible.

Mental health support

In my blog on finding a gender-affirming psychologist, I cover that not every trans person needs a therapist. But if there is a need, the cost of seeing a psychologist can vary greatly depending on several factors, such as where you live, your insurance coverage, and the specific type of services you seek.

Generally, the cost of seeing a psychologist can range from around $75 to $250 per hour. Some psychologists charge a flat rate for each session, while others charge according to a sliding scale based on the client’s income.

It’s also worth noting that while seeing a psychologist can be expensive, it can also be a valuable investment in one’s mental health and well-being. In some cases where there is a co-occurrence of a severe mental illness, mental health is essential and not optional. Therefore, it’s important to consider the potential benefits of therapy when evaluating the costs.

Medical care

I could write an entire book on what it’s like to parent a child through a medical transition (and I’m strongly considering it), so I will briefly explain it here. Access to health care varies widely according to the country and province or state you live in. They can include hormone blockers, puberty blockers, cross hormones, hormonal replacement therapy, and surgical procedures on the face, chest, genitals and more. (Quick side note for any misinformed doubters: surgery is not performed on 8-year-olds! There are scientific international standards of care.)

Generally, medical interventions are typically covered by Canadian public healthcare and private health insurance when prescribed as part of a gender-affirming therapy plan. However, out-of-pocket costs can still be high, particularly if a person does not have insurance coverage or if their insurance has a high deductible. An American coaching client of mine shared with me just last week that for her insurer hormone blockers are billed at 8 times the rate when the child is under 18 compared to over 18! And the medication is four times the cost in the US compared to Canada. Mindblowing. Therefore, it’s advisable to check with your healthcare provider and insurance provider for specific cost information and to explore options for financial assistance if needed.

Here are a few examples of extra medical costs that your provincial health care or insurance won’t cover. Some families may need to travel to a different location for medical interventions, which can include expenses for transportation, lodging, and meals. You may need to take time off work before and after, which can result in lost wages or income. Also, you may need to arrange for childcare or eldercare during medical appointments, especially if travelling. Finally, deductibles or choosing providers who your insurance company does not cover will also result in paying out of pocket.

Self-care for parents

I am a massive advocate for a parent to prioritize their respite and self-care. I wrote a blog here with several ideas of how you can fuel your resilience to stay the course. Some ideas are reasonable, such as taking a bath or walking in nature, while others are more costly.

If you need a mentor coach for a personalized plan, a therapist to work through childhood trauma, or a couple’s therapist to avoid an even more costly divorce, please work caring for yourself into your budget for caring for your child. This is an enriching journey this raising transgender youth. The sense of pride and joy and connection and authenticity is beyond measure. But we must make it through the stressful parts first, which can only be accomplished if we put on our oxygen masks as parents.

Many of these financial realities are unavoidable and can vary according to your family’s resources and your trans youth’s needs. My best advice is to go into affirming your trans child as an informed parent or caregiver with a clear plan of action, including a workable budget.

Download the ebook Defining Transgender here to stay in touch through my newsletter and don’t forget to grab your copy of Beyond Pronouns: The Essential Guide for Parents of Trans Children. 

7 Mistakes Parents of Trans Children Make

7 Mistakes Parents of Trans Children Make

I have been around other parents of transgender children just like myself for over six years—from peer-led support groups to coaching clients and consulting with organizations. I made these mistakes. I am by no means pointing fingers. And I have seen how these mistakes hurt youth when their closest ally unknowingly messes up.

Read this list with a gentle heart and if you feel frustrated, ashamed, or a desire to defend arises, sit with that feeling for a minute and ask yourself what it’s trying to tell you. This isn’t a list to point out what we do wrong; it’s meant to show how we can help our uniquely wonderful kids.

1. Conflating sexual orientation with gender identity

Sexual orientation refers to a person’s emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people. Examples of sexual orientations include gay, straight, bisexual, and asexual. Gender identity, on the other hand, refers to a person’s sense of their own gender, which may or may not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. Some examples of gender identity include man, woman, non-binary, and transgender.

One of the most frequent misunderstandings I hear from parents, and strangers, is the assumption that gender identity is sexual—probably because many of us were raised to use sex and gender as synonyms. Gender develops and is understood by preschool and has nothing to do with who a person loves. You can learn more about Understanding Gender at my next webinar here.

2. Gatekeeping their child’s transness

I refer to gatekeeping as an exercise in raising the bar for “how trans” a person needs to be in order to be affirmed, or access gender supports. In other words, saying, “my child showed no signs before they came out. Therefore, they’re not really trans,” or judging that your child is not overly masculine or overly feminine in their gender expression. Such as a trans boy choosing to wear nail polish or a trans girl interested in video games. Putting conditions on accepting your child harms their well-being and erodes your relationship.

Some parents may not believe their child is truly transgender because of the lack of information and education about transgender issues and identities. I suggest you learn about the vast and varied experiences and realities of transgender people instead of stereotypes and misconceptions.

3. Not getting their own support

Let me get straight to the point, raising a transgender youth today is a touchy subject, and we face stigma and judgment as parents. We fear for our child’s well-being and are not sure we’re doing the right thing every step of the way. This a difficult road, only made worse by walking it alone.

You need support. Seek out accurate information and up-to-date education and join support groups for parents of transgender children so you feel less alone on this journey. These groups can provide emotional support and practical advice for navigating the challenges of having a transgender child. Sometimes you are not in a place where you can face a whole group, so it may be helpful to seek support from a mentor coach such as myself. I am a certified professional life coach with many skills to help you set goals for your family and find a deeper connection through a challenging time.

4. Continuing to deadname in the child’s absence

Deadnaming is when you refer to a transgender person by the name they were given at birth rather than the name they have chosen for themselves. This can be hurtful to a transgender person because it undermines their identity. Using a name that a transgender person no longer identifies with can also be a reminder of difficult experiences they may have had, such as harassment, discrimination, or abuse.

It is difficult for some parents to learn to use a new name and pronoun for their child when they’ve used the old name for years or decades. I know this all too well! The best way to learn to use the new name is to practice. Put the new name in your phone for texting, go to coffee with a trusted friend and use the new name on purpose. Don’t use the excuse of your child not being in the room to deadname them because you miss the opportunity to build on the new habit.

5. Oversharing

Every individual has the right to control their own narrative and share their own experiences in their own time and on their own terms, including minors. This is your child’s journey, and they are the drivers. You must always have permission from your child to share which details with whom.

Revealing private details about a transgender person’s journey without their consent can put them at risk for harassment, discrimination, and violence. It can also contribute to further misperceptions and stereotypes about the trans community and their experiences.

6. Moving too quickly

Not every trans person needs the same degree of social or medical affirmation. While some parents gatekeep their child and try to slow down any changes, other parents can be overzealous and create stress on their child who may want to transition more slowly. One reason that can be stressful is that some people may not feel comfortable transitioning in specific environments, such as at work or school, and may choose to do so later or in a different setting. In addition, some youth may want to test the waters, so to speak, by experimenting with other gender expressions or pronouns before committing to a full transition.

7. Avoiding their feelings

I started my book Beyond Pronouns: The Essential Guide for Parents of Trans Children, with parents addressing their feelings for several reasons. We tend always to put our children first, we tend to avoid talking about the hard parts, and we don’t want others to interpret our emotions to mean we aren’t supportive. Yet, how can we support our kids if we are numb or on autopilot?

Avoiding your feelings can cause strain on the parent-child relationship because of a breakdown in communication and trust. Avoiding guilt, confusion, and sadness can also impact your overall well-being. Tell me I’m not the only parent to stare at the ceiling with worry some nights! It’s okay to have mixed feelings and to take the time to process your emotions. Go back and reread point 3! If you need the support, schedule a free consultation call with me to see if we are a good fit for personalized coaching.

Raising transgender youth is a very rewarding experience. The sense of pride and joy and connection and authenticity is beyond measure. But there is a whole lot to learn and new skills to use. Do your best, and as Maya Angelou said, “when you know better, do better.”

Download the ebook Defining Transgender here to stay in touch through my newsletter.


Dealing with the stress of raising a transgender child

Dealing with the stress of raising a transgender child

After my youngest child also came out as transgender, I was hit with a wave of familiar emotions. While I had the experience of raising my trans son enough to write the book and regularly speak on the topic, I had a ton of trepidation about getting back on that rollercoaster ride again with my trans daughter. I tend to present the more positive experiences with Mitchell because the reality is that he is in a happy place, affirmed as the young man he is. But there were some dark days too. Bullying, hopelessness and suicidality, to name a few.

Every transgender child goes through their own journey, and not everyone feels affirmed to the same degree with the same efforts by a parent at the same rate. I knew this intellectually, and now I am living it.

As rough as things had been on that roller coaster with Mitchell, the ride seems rougher now with Rose. Is it because I’ve had several years of easy time with Mitch? Is it because being a trans woman is that much harder than being a trans man? And how much does personality play into how each trans person deals with life?

Long story short: I am utterly drained from this rollercoaster ride! Can you relate?

Can you also relate to being tired of all the well-meaning advice from friends suggesting you “take care of yourself” or “focus on yourself” or that ever-elusive to be defined practice of “self-care”?!

Because it is always my goal to help parents a few steps behind me on this path, here are some of the practices I have put into place to help relieve the stress of caring for a transgender child.

Set aside dedicated time for yourself

Yes, I know we have a lot on our plates and must also take care of our needs. No one can be in survival mode continuously. Schedule some Me Time, whether it is a few minutes each day or a longer block of time each week. Think about the activities that nourish you and make you feel good, and make a list of these activities. These could include exercising, spending time in nature, practicing a hobby like painting or knitting, or scheduling a regular massage or salon appointment.

Incorporate self-care into your daily routine

Try taking a few minutes to stretch or meditate in the morning, or take the extra 3 minutes to put on moisturizer—trust me, the world will survive the time you take to apply moisturizer and you will feel nurtured. Maybe take a relaxing bath before bed, practice deep breathing or read an escapism fiction novel. The point is that you can help calm your system with short self-care practices.

Seek out supportive relationships

Surround yourself with people who support and uplift you and make time to connect with these individuals regularly. Accept help when someone asks to help you. If you don’t know how they can help, ask them to grab your grocery order, have them come over and help you fold laundry or just sit next to you while you zone out on a streaming service. Connection and community are paramount to us social beings.

Practice gratitude

Take time each day to reflect on the things you are grateful for and make an effort to focus on the positive aspects of your life. Gratitude journalling can be something you add to your daily self-care routine, and it can be as simple as writing yourself a text. I know it can sound like a monumental task to find something to be grateful for when you’ve spent 6 hours at the emergency room with a suicidal teen but focusing on the little things that go right will relieve some of the stress.

Set boundaries

Setting boundaries around your availability for others and prioritizing your needs and well-being is essential. This may involve saying no to unreasonable requests or setting limits on your time and energy. Try scheduling respite and accepting help when it’s offered. Remember that No is a complete answer. You do not have to justify your no by sharing information about your transgender child.

Get a Mentor Coach

If you are struggling to practice self-love or are feeling overwhelmed with grief or fear about your child’s future, it may be helpful to seek support from a mentor coach such as myself, who has been on this path for more than six years. I am also a certified professional life coach with many skills to help you set goals for your family and find a deeper connection through a challenging time. If you need the support, schedule a free consultation call with me to see if we are a good fit for personalized coaching.

This is a very rewarding journey this raising transgender youth. The sense of pride and joy and connection and authenticity is beyond measure. But we must make it through the stressful parts first, which can only be accomplished if we put on our oxygen masks as parents.

Download the ebook Defining Transgender here to stay in touch through my newsletter and don’t forget to grab your copy of Beyond Pronouns: The Essential Guide for Parents of Trans Children.