Dear Abby: My Parent is Transgender

Even as voices from the transgender community slowly become part of the ongoing conversation about inclusion, there’s one set of voices rarely heard — kids of trans parents. We’re proud to bring you this piece as part of our series for Transgender Awareness Month.

Creative Common / zacharmstrong

Creative Common / zacharmstrong

“Bella,” the thirteen-year-old daughter of a Jewish trans parent, generously offered to answer some questions, Dear Abby style. (“Bella” is a pseudonym that she chose.) We asked Bella to imagine herself several years ago when her parent came out as transgender, and pose those questions that plagued the younger her. She answered those same questions, older and wiser, and we hope you find them as powerful and inspiring as we did.

Q: My life feels like it’s falling apart – splitting at the seams. My family, my rock, my safe loving home, is changed. Not gone, exactly, but like a puzzle with the pieces shoved into the wrong holes. Will it ever get any better? How can I learn to deal with my new life?

It does get better – I promise! This is something you’ll probably have to deal with your whole life, but it becomes less of a constant struggle, and more like an occasional passing wave of emotion that swells, carries you for a minute, then breaks and crashes into the rest of the ocean. As for learning to deal with your new life, I’d suggest taking it one day at a time – you don’t need to adjust in the blink of an eye, and in fact that might be bad for you because things are likely to change more than once right now. Just remember that it does get better, when it feels really bad.

I’m proud to have a trans parent, because I’m an ally to all, but I occasionally find myself in some way ashamed or not quite comfortable with the idea of people knowing or seeing us, worrying about having to explain whom I’m with. Then, when I catch myself with these feelings, I am tempted to make myself feel bad for having had the thoughts at all. How can I just feel and think the way I do, without feeling guilty? Or is there a way not to think these thoughts at all?

There is no way that you can prevent these thoughts, and no reason to. I think you should try to find out what your feelings really are. You don’t want to go out with your parent because you’re worried people will see you?

What are you afraid of exactly?
Are you scared because you think they will judge you?

Think about it, and maybe talk to someone who can help you figure it out who isn’t your trans parent. When you realize what you’re really feeling, you might realize that it’s totally irrational, or that there’s something you can do to make the situation more geared towards your comfort. It might be that you just become more aware of your feelings, and that can only help you.

There are other resources available for kids of trans parents (and their parents, too!).

  • TransParentcy has educational and legal resources, as well as a long list of local organizations you can connect with.
  • LambdaLegal has a guide for trans parents, with some pointers from kids.
  • COLAGE, an organization for children of LGBTQ parents, has a “Kids of Trans” guide, which is aimed at kids.
  • Watch Transforming Family, a snapshot of current issues, struggles and strengths of transexual, transgender and gender fluid parents (and parents to be) in North America today.

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