My College:
Dear Adina

Concerned for My Daughter's Safety

Adina Glickman


Dear Adina,

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?


Dear Parent,

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:

Yours,

Adina Signature

Have a question? Ask Adina

Adina Glickman is the founder of Affinity Coaching, which offers academic, life and career coaching to young adults. She is the former director of learning strategies at Stanford University and is the co-founder and director of the Academic Resilience Consortium, an association of faculty, staff and students dedicated to understanding and promoting student resilience. Learn more at adinaglickman.com.

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    2 days ago
    CollegiateParent

    I have not seen my college student in 52 days.

    I expect to see her this weekend when she comes home for a generous week of fall break.

    But I’m trying to coach myself that I will not be seeing the exact same child I left on a college campus back in August.

    I’m remembering some wisdom I picked up during my own college days, when I took a trip to Germany the summer after my junior year. Our group was given a list of “The Ten Commandments of Travel.” I’ve forgotten all but one, but that one is serving me well on this 52nd day: “thou shalt not expect to find things the same as they are at home, for thou hast left home to find things different.”

    I’m recasting this a bit for the situation at hand: “thou shalt not expect to find thy college student the same as when they left home, for they have left home to find things different.”

    One of the things my college kid may very well already be finding different is herself. Different strengths she didn’t know she had (or actually didn’t have). Different interests. Different passions. Different mindsets. Different perspectives.

    My daughter is going to college in part to prepare herself for the rest of her life, which to some extent is going to mean becoming someone new. But that preparation and becoming aren’t going to happen in one fell swoop. They can’t, actually. They can’t wait until second semester of her senior year. They have to start now. I’m sure they have started now.

    I’ve missed my daughter for every one of the 52 days since I last saw her face to face. I don’t know exactly what variation of her might be coming home to me this weekend. But because some things never change, I do know this: I always love her.

    - Guilty Chocoholic Mama - Elizabeth Spencer
    ... See MoreSee Less

    I have not seen my college student in 52 days.  I expect to see her this weekend when she comes home for a generous week of fall break.  But I’m trying to coach myself that I will not be seeing the exact same child I left on a college campus back in August.  I’m remembering some wisdom I picked up during my own college days, when I took a trip to Germany the summer after my junior year. Our group was given a list of “The Ten Commandments of Travel.” I’ve forgotten all but one, but that one is serving me well on this 52nd day: “thou shalt not expect to find things the same as they are at home, for thou hast left home to find things different.”  I’m recasting this a bit for the situation at hand: “thou shalt not expect to find thy college student the same as when they left home, for they have left home to find things different.”  One of the things my college kid may very well already be finding different is herself. Different strengths she didn’t know she had (or actually didn’t have). Different interests. Different passions. Different mindsets. Different perspectives.  My daughter is going to college in part to prepare herself for the rest of her life, which to some extent is going to mean becoming someone new. But that preparation and becoming aren’t going to happen in one fell swoop. They can’t, actually. They can’t wait until second semester of her senior year. They have to start now. I’m sure they have started now.  I’ve missed my daughter for every one of the 52 days since I last saw her face to face. I don’t know exactly what variation of her might be coming home to me this weekend. But because some things never change, I do know this: I always love her.  - Guilty Chocoholic Mama - Elizabeth Spencer

    Comment on Facebook

    Dear CollegiateParent, thank you so much for sharing this! Here’s to all the parents who are counting days and looking forward. 💛

    Ah, this is so beautiful Elizabeth Spencer. You spoke straight to my heart. I don't know how many days it will be, but when mine comes home, I already know she will have grown and changed, I hear it in her words, her voice, her perspective. And my gosh, it's amazing and exciting and scary all at once.

    Gorgeous, Elizabeth Spencer!! And the core of her precious soul will remain unchanged!! 💗

    It does get easier but it’s never the same. Not that we would want it to be. We want them to spread their wings and soar but I’m always thrilled to have them home even just for a little while!

    So excited for you!

    I love this Guilty Chocoholic Mama - Elizabeth Spencer!!! 💜

    Elizabeth Spencer Your brilliant, sweet words touch every mama's core.♥

    Almost 2 years for me 😔

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    5 days ago
    CollegiateParent

    Help your student make it through College Application Season

    Get the Guide: www.collegiateparent.com/guide-to-applying-to-college/
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    Help your student make it through College Application Season  Get the Guide: https://www.collegiateparent.com/guide-to-applying-to-college/
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