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.

 

Finding a Psychologist for your Trans Child

Finding a Psychologist for your Trans Child

The first thing I did when my son came out to me as transgender was to Google Trans Affirming Psychologist near me. I was raised in an era where being gender diverse was considered a mental illness, so I automatically focused on that outdated belief. I quickly learned that not all councillors are created equal, and not everything can be “fixed” by a psychologist.

Your child may not need a psychologist

Sometimes, a transgender child does not need to see a psychologist. It is crucial to assess the child’s individual needs. Hard truth warning: If you hope that putting your child in therapy will remove the idea of gender diversity or help determine if your child is “really trans,” you are acting out of fear of what others will think and not out of the best interest of your child.

If a transgender child is generally doing well, can cope with the challenges they may face, and has a supportive network of family and friends, they may not need to see a psychologist. Remember, being gender diverse is not a mental illness in and of itself. However, you want to be attuned to your child’s needs and seek professional support if your child struggles with discrimination or social expectations.

Reasons your child would need a psychologist

A psychologist can help your trans child process their feelings about their gender identity and provide support as they navigate the challenges and changes that may come with transitioning. The reality is that trans children may face stigma and other stressors that can lead to mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression. A psychologist can help to address these concerns and provide support to improve overall mental health and well-being.

Therapy and counselling can also help navigate social and emotional issues that may arise as they transition, such as concerns about friendships, relationships, and self-esteem. It can also improve skills like communication and mindfullness.

How to determine if a therapist is affirming of gender diversity

Look for psychologists, social workers, or clinical councillors affiliated with professional organizations that support and advocate for the rights of transgender individuals, such as the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) or the American Psychological Association (APA). Choose someone with knowledge and training in working with transgender individuals and who is committed to staying up-to-date on best practices and current research in this area. I would ask them outright how many trans youths they’ve worked with in the past five years.

Ensure that the psychologist respects your child’s gender identity and uses the pronouns and name your child has shared. While we as parents might struggle and mess up, the mental health professional cannot be allowed to misgender or deadname. They must be sensitive to the unique challenges that transgender children face and be committed to supporting your child’s well-being.

Questions to ask the reception

Here are some questions you may want to ask a psychologist’s receptionist before booking an appointment:

  • What are the psychologist’s qualifications and areas of expertise?
  • Does the psychologist have experience working with transgender children and adolescents?
  • Does the psychologist use evidence-based practices in their work?
  • What is the psychologist’s approach to treatment?
  • Are there any insurance plans that the psychologist accepts?
  • Is the psychologist available for phone or video appointments?
  • Is there a waiting list for appointments, and how long is the wait?

Overall, having your child do well in therapy will give you a sense of relief that your child is making progress and that their treatment is helping to address their needs and challenges. You might also get a sense of hope for the future and feel more optimistic about their prospects. Finding the right psychologist is worth the effort once you see your child thrive.

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. 

Grandparents of Trans Children

Grandparents of Trans Children

No matter at what age our children come forward with their truth about their gender identity, once we start affirming them and supporting a social transition, we eventually must have conversations with extended family. I have dedicated a whole chapter around this in Beyond Pronouns, focusing mainly on the need to let the child take the lead, the parent’s experience coming out to service providers, and especially how to protect the transgender person from microaggressions and outright transphobia.

Since writing the book, I have had some excellent conversations with grandparents of trans children about their experiences. It was pretty enlightening to hear their point of view. There is a unique quality of love felt by a grandparent, but it is love just the same. So let’s look at the nuance outside the binary of being a perfectly affirming grandparent and a transphobic one.

No control

Many self-aware grandparents understand their place in the pecking order of decision-making with children in the family. Many a mother-in-law over history has been told to keep her opinions to herself. Because of that, grandparents have said to me that they feel lost and have no control when they are told about their grandchild dealing with gender dysphoria. I could relate to that loss of power as a parent myself. Still, at least I was in the doctor’s office and making therapy appointments and had some sense of participation and immediacy in the process. In contrast, grandparents often hear about it after the fact.

No room for grace

One grandmother told me she struggled with being told by her daughter how she was to feel when she learned that her grandchild was a trans girl. She was only to feel happy about the transition, not ask questions, and there was absolutely no room for occasional mistakes with chosen names or pronouns. Further, her daughter threatened to remove access to the grandchild if grandma couldn’t be completely affirming immediately. While I fully understand the want and need to protect transgender children from harm, this description didn’t sound very fair when I consider how I made my own mistakes early on in my son’s transition, and I am a fierce ally and advocate. Sometimes grandparents need to be seen for their humanity and given some grace.

No access to support

While extended family can easily read my book, the subtitle says specifically it’s for parents of trans children and most of the support groups out there are also focused on parents, even though we welcome all caregivers. Grandparents may not realize they are welcome to access those supports. Add to that the reality that grandparents come from a generation where gender diversity was never discussed or taught in schools. So they are coming at this completely in the dark. Further, they were mostly raised not to discuss this type of topic in polite company, and if the child has chosen to be stealth, they won’t be able to discuss the transition with friends. It is difficult to process a major life change alone.

Again, protecting trans children from painful rhetoric and microaggressions is very important. We also need to consider the perspective of grandparents who love their grandchildren and need more education and opportunities to practice using a chosen name and correct pronouns. That might look like sharing resources like an Understanding Gender webinar with the grandparent or going coffee alone as adults and having an open, loving conversation about the new terminology.

One last word for grandparents, I understand having a heart full of love and also feeling fear about something you don’t understand. Please learn as much as you can on your own from reputable sources such as Trevor Project, and be patient with your children as everyone is processing a significant change that can be stressful for everyone involved. You’ve got this. Just keep leading with love.

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. 

Surviving the Holidays as a Parent of a Trans Child

Surviving the Holidays as a Parent of a Trans Child

There is no doubt that the holidays are a nerve-wracking time of year, no matter your family circumstances. Filled with often unattainable expectations that stress us out, add a new announcement of gender diversity, and you have a recipe for added anxiety.

For many of us, this might be the first year that we are introducing our child as a different gender with a new chosen name or pronoun when we go to visit other families during the holidays. Maybe you are signing your Christmas cards or holiday cards with a new name. Because there can be many changes in the lives of families with gender-diverse individuals, I have four tips for you this holiday season.

Preplan as much as possible

Pre-planning is very important because you don’t want to come out to grandma on Christmas morning by showing up with a child who’s presenting as feminine using a feminine name and she/her pronouns if they were assigned male at birth and grandma has only ever known her as her grandson. It can be a shocker, and it’s unfair to grandparents or your child. So, preplan as much as you can. Call people, email people and let people know if your child is going to be presenting as a different gender than what your family or friends are accustomed to. If you are asking people to use a different name, let them know what the chosen name will be. If you’re asking them to use a new pronoun, let them know what the pronoun will be.

Yes, it is stressful. It is stressful to be coming out as a parent for your child. But avoiding difficult conversations doesn’t make it easier on you or your child. Doing so in advance also allows you to have bigger conversations explaining what gender diversity means and how it differs from romantic and sexual attraction. It allows you to offer them resources such as Defining Transgender and Beyond Pronouns.

Big asterisk here: all of this is under the assumption that your child wants everyone you will be visiting to know about their gender identity. Some families choose not to gather and not say anything. And that is important for you to discuss with your child ahead of time. Hence the pre-planning. These are not decisions you want to make 10 minutes before you head out the door to go and see family or 10 minutes before you get onto the zoom call with your whole family.

Affirm and advocate for your child

As stressful as it can be, if people continuously make mistakes using the wrong pronouns, you correct them. Every. Time. “Actually, it’s she,” or “Sorry to interrupt, it’s she,” or “can you please use she when you’re referring to Rose?” You don’t need to make it a loud scene. You don’t need to shame the other person. But you do want to be consistent and insistent. When you’re correcting people in front of your child, you are affirming them, making them feel safer.

Advocate for yourself

Realize that this is a lot. You are, as a parent, vulnerable every time you come out for your child, and it does end up being a lot of emotional labor. So, if you need to take a break, pass the buck off to another parent, aunt, cousin, or someone else in the family who’s affirming. Let them do some explaining or pronoun corrections for a few minutes. It takes a village, right? Take care of yourself, affirm yourself, and don’t feel like you have to back down and be someone different. Isn’t that what our children are teaching us, to be our authentic selves? If you’re uncomfortable in a situation, advocate for yourself like you would for your children. You matter too.

My best secret trick to surviving the holidays

It’s easier to leave than to ask someone to leave. So, if you have a choice, go visit someone instead of inviting them over. And if they are misgendering and using the wrong name, and being completely rude around your child, you can leave. Or even if everything is going swimmingly, but your child is just getting overwhelmed by everything, you can leave. You can be honest and upfront, “you’ve misgendered Rose so many times today that I’m exhausted, and I just have to leave.”  Or you can offer an excuse for not feeling well if that makes you more comfortable.

I speak from experience when I say that coming up with those excuses to leave is way easier than asking belligerent Uncle Bill to leave after he spews hate about transgender people three glasses of wine into dinner. So as much as you possibly can, go visit other people.

Those are my four holiday tips: Preplan and advocate for your child. Always, always, always advocate for your child. It is what keeps them safe. Also, advocating for yourself, visiting others, and leaving if you must is much easier than kicking someone out. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season with few expectations, much spontaneous joy, authenticity and rest. Lots of rest.

Have you taken the parenting style quiz yet? Find out if you are the parent your gender-diverse child needs and get some tips for moving forward.

Children Transitioning at School: a teacher’s perspective

Children Transitioning at School: a teacher’s perspective

Because I am a parent myself, I have spent much of my time over the past six years advocating for parents and caregivers of transgender and gender-diverse youth. However, as I continue meeting people and doing training for different groups, I have heard a similar refrain from educators: Teachers and school staff also have to learn about gender diversity and how to affirm their students.

So, I reached out to an experienced and compassionate former schoolteacher and principal to get her perspective on what it’s like to have a child transitioning at school.

Learning What’s Involved in Transition

I sat down with Elizabeth Bennett, a recently retired educator with 35 years of experience and author of the book Courageous Conversations: a guide for parents to understand and connect with their teen. She shared the story with me of her first experience with a gender-diverse student. It was several years ago, and at the time, the family had to guide the school on how to affirm the child and what changes were needed in the classroom.

This was also my experience when Mitchell first came out as transgender in 2016. I wrote about the harrowing experience in an article for LGBTQ Nation, but essentially the school had pathologized and othered Mitchell because they didn’t understand what gender diversity meant. So today, when I do training for school boards and other businesses and organizations, I start with a clear explanation of how gender develops in children and that it is very different from sexual and romantic attraction.

Seeing the Person Instead of the Policy

Elizabeth shared with me that she made a concerted effort while leading her staff to focus on making their school a safer place and to be welcoming and inclusive. Understandably, any organization with a governing body must live and operate within a policy structure. But it is so important to be sensitive to the vulnerable children affected by those policies.

Another school principal once shared with me that it was more often closed-minded parents who took exception to the affirming actions the school had taken for transgender and gender-diverse students. But, for the most part, fellow students had no issues. When making decisions in schools, we need administrators to think first about the child and not the rigid or uninformed opinions of adults.

Gender Inclusive Language

Learning to say “everyone” or “friends” instead of “boys and girls” was a tricky one at first for Elizabeth. Schools are often set up for gender segregation, from pink and blue cubbies to gym classes. Further, teachers in middle and high school can attest to the difficulties of using chosen names and different pronouns with the students in class but then having to switch to the old name and pronouns when talking with parents as requested by the child if they haven’t come out to their parents yet.

While it can be challenging to learn new ways to address students, again, these kids are on an often difficult journey, and we adults with our fully developed pre-frontal lobes get to do the heavy emotional labour.

Being a Proactive School

Elizabeth’s final advice was that it is so important for schools to learn about gender diversity and how to accommodate transgender students early on. You don’t want to be constantly in a reactive, knee-jerk state. It’s imperative to be purposeful in our actions and conversations.

If you feel that your school, school board, or organization that interacts with children and their families could use more training on what transgender means and how you can accommodate and affirm gender-diverse youth, please reach out to find out how I can help.