You Don’t Have To Be A Gender Expert To Be A Supportive Parent
Dec 04, 2017
Not long ago, I was with a parent of a child who had recently changed their name and pronouns. She was clearly tired, so I asked her what was going on, and she told me, “I’m just exhausted from answering so many questions from my family and friends.”
This conversation made me think what a common experience it is for parents of Transgender, Non-binary or otherwise Gender-expansive kids to be expected to be an expert on all things related to gender. This can be especially hard when you are new to the journey and just learning about gender yourself! Not only are you trying to learn everything you can in order to support your child, but you also need to convince skeptical loved ones and even strangers that this is real, assure them that you are doing the right thing for your child, and also stay up-to-date on all of the politics around gender across the globe!
Needless to say, this is an impossible task, and one you should not even try to achieve. In fact, trying to do all of the above distracts you from doing the jobs you actually need to do as a parent of a gender-expansive child: educating yourself on gender so you can understand and support your child, learning the best parenting practices around raising a gender-expansive child, and helping pave the way for your child to be successful in school and family life.
To stay sane, you can give yourself permission to not engage in every conversation around gender, especially if you are feeling fragile. You are allowed to set limits on your interactions, just as you set limits on what people can say to and ask of your child. You are allowed to say “I’m just learning myself, but here is a great resource…,” or “I understand you have questions—I had questions too. Here is a packet of information for you to read.”
Also, just as you intentionally protect your child from the negativity going on in the world, you need to intentionally protect yourself. Tune it out—don’t read the comments on social media posts and articles about gender! It takes its toll on your psyche and your energy needed to actually help your child. It may also intensify any fears you’re carrying around at the moment (and parenting from a place of fear is not at all helpful to you, or your child).
In the midst of all the noise, try to remember that the larger social conversation that is happening today around gender is incredibly powerful and a reason to be hopeful, regardless of any negative or hateful comments. Overall, the world is changing for the better. Most youth think about gender in completely new and different ways that we do as parents, and that is the world our children are growing up in—not the world of your childhood.
So when you find yourself overwhelmed by all you think you should know and do and understand about gender, take a deep breath and give yourself a break. Focus on your child and your family, and you’ll be doing enough!
For more resources, see our Tips for Communicating with Family and Friends about Your Child’s Gender and much more information on our parent and family resources page.