"Just Love Your Child"—Parents of Trans Kids on Empowering the Next Generation

by Danielle Directo-Meston

It's impossible to count the joys of parenthood, but one thing that's truly rewarding is seeing our children being unapologetically true to themselves. Whether we empower them to eschew "traditional" gender norms or pursue every single one of their passions, part of what makes being a parent so exciting is experiencing the world through our kids' eyes as they discover their own identities and lead happy, fulfilling lives. But imagine having a child who knows their true gender identity with such a strong conviction, yet feels trapped by their body's biological sex. How do you help them find happiness when you're not even sure—or aware—of the resources to do so?

That's the challenge many parents of transgender kids have faced. "I would venture to say that all parents want their kids to grow up and be happy and healthy and well-adjusted contributing members of society, and they want them to find love," says Roz Keith, founder of Stand With Trans and a mother of two sons, one of whom is transgender. "The statistics have been very clear: When they have the support of their parents, their mental health and self-esteem improve significantly. The rate of depression is no more than any other peer; the attempted suicide rates dropped to almost nothing."

"It's really critical that parents support their children and find a [supportive] community because that is the key to this child's success," she tells MyDomaine. "It takes a really special human being to overcome all the other controversies and push back and just rise above it with only parent support. And because being transgender is not a choice, we need to learn how to understand it and accept it and embrace it. That's who this person is."

Father of two David Strah, a pre-licensed psychotherapist based in Los Angeles, explains that it's important to think about gender as being on a spectrum: "You have the binary on either end, but most people fall somewhere closer to one end or the other," he tells us. "Nowadays, people are being allowed to be much more genderfluid or neutral." But even open-minded parents can experience their own personal challenges during their children's journeys. When his son came out as transgender at 14, Strah tells MyDomaine that he had conflicting feelings. "On the one hand, as the therapist I was being trained to be, I wanted really to support him. And then as a parent, I want to support him too, but I also grieved for the daughter I had lost," he explains.

Judi (who prefers not to publish her last name for privacy reasons), a speech pathologist based in California, tells MyDomaine that everything changed when her transgender daughter attempted suicide. "We had gotten her a dog," Judi explains, with the idea that her daughter would think, Who would take care of my dog if I killed myself? After her child's suicide attempt, Judi decided it was time to address their gender dysphoria or face life-or-death consequences. Today, her daughter is a happy young woman who's finally enjoying the possibilities of life. "We're finally watching her become a whole person. We couldn't be happier or more proud," she says.

Below, read each family's inspiring story, the advice they have for parents of all children, and the steps we can all take to help empower the next generation to embrace their true identities.

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