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Most people don’t question why their gender identity does not match their body, but for those who do, this can either be a very difficult and confusing time or a very liberating and invigorating one.
There are many different ways to be transgender depending on how comfortable the person feels. As a parent, you may notice your child exploring their gender identity in a number of ways, including:
- Using a different name or pronoun (he/him – for a girl transitioning to a boy)
- Varying gender presentation – dressing in a more masculine way
- Changing grooming and styling – being tomboyish and preferring short hair
- Preferring “boys’ toys” like superheroes and trucks instead of things like dolls
- Preferring to pee standing up
If you notice these and other signs, and it does not seem like a phase, it is important that you consult with a gender specialist. While at it, keep in mind that your daughter or son will always be your child, and needs your love and support especially now.Although you may not quite understand what is happening and why, your effort to support your child will make a considerable difference to their health and well-being in the long-term. Here are some ways to offer this support:
- Talk to your child about medical intervention
- The extent of medical intervention that transgender people want varies widely. While some people opt to live as the opposite gender or somewhere between the two without medical intervention, others want to take hormones and seek extensive surgery. So, talk to your child about their feelings towards medical intervention, and help them deal with the medical system because it can be tough and daunting.
- Get your child the right kind of support
- During the transition period, or when your child is changing his/her gender, he is likely to exhibit some erratic or selfish behaviour owing to the associated mental and social challenges, as well as hormone treatment. But not all negative behaviour is due to the transition. So, if you’re concerned about your child’s behaviour, consider getting them the right kind of support via notable organizations.
- Practical help
- Your child may need help with practical elements of the transition, such as grooming or buying new clothes. Instead of imposing on your child that they behave in a particular way, ask them how you can help through material or moral support.
- Treat them as their preferred gender
- During the transition period, it is likely that your child will be sensitive about names and pronouns used to refer to him. So, treat him as the gender he’s presenting as no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it is for you.
Lastly, endeavour to provide a safe and supportive environment for your transgender child to be himself and reduce the unfavourable effects of any societal stigma or discrimination.