My daughter is struggling with her sexual identity and I am not sure how to handle the situation. I worry about her safety later in life if she goes through with the transition. I'm a little upset with her decision. How do I deal with this?
I am so glad you reached out with this question — it reflects the care and seriousness with which you are taking your child’s struggle. Your willingness to reflect on your own feelings and reactions is a tremendous gift to your child, and by extension is also a gift to other parents who need good role models!
Women, people of color, members of the trans community, and members of the LGBTQ community have always had to navigate their safety in the larger world. There is no shield from violence or oppression that guarantees safety, but historically the best protection has been in being surrounded and supported by allies. You have an opportunity to lead the way in being your daughter’s staunchest ally.
It might help to move this challenge out of the “decisions they make” category and into the “this is who they are” category. Sexuality and gender identity are part of the fabric of who we are and our decisions — our choices — are how to honor or subjugate the truths of that fabric.
Part of what we’re learning is that those cultural and societal things that “come naturally,” like gendering our babies from the moment the ultrasound gives us data, are constructed and imposed on babies and children. For people considering transitioning, it’s a decision to be free of a set of choices others have made. Coming to a decision to transition from daughter to son, or to exist anywhere on the gender spectrum, can be understood as a setting aside of those unnatural constructs.
In essence, your child’s job is to become who they truly are, and any decision they make down the line will be an embracing of that true self.
It’s understandable to be upset when our kids are facing challenges like being safe and doing things we might consider as moving away from what’s considered a norm. Consider this: if we parents (aka members of society) include gender diversity in our own understanding of what’s just "regular," we take a necessary step in making the world a safer place for our kids.
Since one of your child’s challenges will be dealing with people who are anything from uncomfortable to hostile, it is essential that you, as their parent, attend to them with unabridged acceptance. Be with them like they’re the child you love because they ARE the child you love. The rest of the world may not see that, but if you don’t, they definitely won’t.
Finally, if any of your upset is leaning towards disapproval, consider how that might inadvertently contribute to the lack of safety they feel. Feeling safe in our parent’s embrace is the right of every child, and that embedded sense of safety will go a long way towards giving them the feeling inside that they’re strong enough to take on the challenges.
It’s a cause for celebration that your child is coming into themselves. You can either celebrate with them or skip the party. If you’re planning on being the leader of the ally pack, start celebrating. You can certainly explore your own discomfort, but your number one priority is supporting your child.
You may need some help with that, and there are resources to support your efforts. But whatever you communicate to your child (and if “she” is no longer the appropriate pronoun, start there) it must be unconditional love and acceptance.
Know that you are in good company and that you have allies in parenting. Here are a couple of resources I encourage you to check out: