There’s a lot to consider when your child is questioning his or her gender. Since 2016, I’ve been researching, learning, and speaking about the best way to support gender-questioning kids and here, I would like to share my thoughts with you. Below are some of the most common topics I’m asked about by parents. I’ve provided some thoughts about each and helpful resources for families who want to learn more about these complex issues.
1. My daughter says she’s trans / My son says he’s trans. What should I do?
2. A gender therapist told me that if I don’t confirm my child’s new gender identity, it means I’m not being supportive and that this will increase my child’s chances of suicidality. Is this true?
Unfortunately, this idea is often used to pressure families into affirming a child’s new identity. There are several reasons I view this as an unfair and damaging ultimatum.
- Suicidal thoughts can have many contributing factors, and there is no evidence that gender-questioning alone causes thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Similarly, there is no evidence that affirming a child’s new gender identity reduces the risk of suicidal thoughts.
- There is no evidence that medical interventions, sometimes called “gender affirming care” reduce suicidal thoughts. See also here.
- There is some long-term evidence that after medical transition, adults have a rate of completed suicide 19x higher than the general population. This implies that transition itself doesn’t necessarily reduce suicidality.
- Therapists have decades of experience helping young people to better manage their thoughts of suicide. Therapist and parents can use calm, compassionate, and curious approaches to help stabilize and improve the mental health of the young person. Validating a child’s self-loathing or self-harm should never be part of a stabilization or safety plan.
There are so many other ways to support exploration without confirming or rubber-stamping your child’s identity experiments. Visit https://www.subscribestar.com/sashalpc.
3. I am struggling to use my child’s new pronouns because it feels fake and inauthentic. Do I have to keep doing this?
I believe that honest communication with your child is important. Pretending, lying, or otherwise misleading your child may seem to reduce tensions in the short term, but ultimately, this erodes trust and creates an atmosphere of “walking on eggshells.” Though adolescents may act assertive or even desperate for you to call them by a new name, teens actually need parents to create clear boundaries, set the pace, and offer guidance.
I invite parents to think carefully about new names and pronouns. It seems that social transition can put a child on a pathway that solidifies the transgender identity and subsequent leads to medical interventions. If you feel uncomfortable using the name and pronouns, have a discussion with your child. Use warmth and kindness, but also remain calm and confident while clarifying what your family will or won’t do.
One of my most popular video series addressing this question is called “Responding to Your Child’s Trans Announcement + Setting Boundaries.” You can find it in my Parent Membership Group.
4. We started down the medical pathway because we wanted to support our distressed child. However, we no longer think this was a good idea and would like to get off the conveyor belt of medicalization and walk things back. Is this even possible?
This is one of the scariest questions a loving parent can ask: “did we do the wrong thing?” Whether your child is 4 or 14, this can be a daunting fear. It is unbelievably painful to regret past decisions about your child’s social and medical transition. But this is not an isolated experience, and many families wonder if they were lead in a dangerous direction by medical or mental health professionals.
In addition to cultivating self-forgiveness and processing your complex emotions, parents like you have also found effective, practical ways to “walk it back.” Stella and I expanded on this topic on this episode of Gender: A Wider Lens and I also cover this in my Parent Membership Group.
5. I have not talked to any of my family or friends about our child’s gender struggles. I feel very isolated and scared. Is there anyone I can talk to who will understand my hesitations?
When you have a strong intuition that something is wrong, but everyone around you thinks you’re exaggerating and blowing things out of proportion, it can be a crazy-making experience. Many parents who attended our Wider Lens Renewal Retreats reported that they’d never spoken to anyone in their lives about their child’s gender-questioning before coming to our event. They were afraid of having their parental decisions judged and criticized or losing important relationships. Finding other likeminded families who understand your concerns and parenting decisions can be a huge relief.
In my Parent Membership Group, we host a robust private discord channel for parents to connect with each other, share resources, and even develop friendships “in real life.” Other parent groups include GDSN, PITT, Our Duty, Genspect, and PEC. Two of the most well-established parent-focused online blogs are 4th Wave Now and Transgender Trend.
6. It feels like we’re walking on egg shells. I’d like to have more conversations with my kid about gender, but I don’t want to say the wrong thing or damage our relationship. What should I do?
Have you ever had this thought: If I had no clue my kid would ever question her gender, what else am I in the dark about?
A child’s gender announcement can elicit self-doubt even if you typically parent with instinctive competence. Gender may also create a smokescreen, disorienting and confusing you about where to accommodate your child’s wishes and where to set limits.
Let’s consider some different scenarios without the distracting element of gender: If your socially vulnerable child was swept up in an unhealthy friend group or flirting with high-risk behaviors, what would you do? What if your daughter was restricting food or cutting? Or if your son had fallen down an online rabbit-hole of extremist groups or violent pornography?
In a less extreme example, maybe your daughter is adopting new mannerisms and interests that don’t really make her happy, just so she can fit in with her peers. And what if you could see that the deeper she goes into her new persona, the more unhappy, depressed, and self-conscious she becomes?
In these scenarios, would you lean in with guidance and instruction, or give your child space to “figure it out?”
For some families, these questions offer a different perspective and help parents re-connect with their instincts. My Parent Membership Group is a resource where I offer analogies and examples outside the gender realm that can help you clarify values, make decisions, and lean in with love.
7. Sasha, I like your therapeutic approach. Are you taking new clients?
I have a full caseload and have shifted my focus towards empowering parents. Working with families since 2016, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. If you want to be loving and supportive, but you also want to help your child think critically and avoid making permanent medical changes that may not serve him or her in the long run, then you should consider joining my Parent Membership Group.
Here I offer nuanced, thoughtful ideas and practical tools to help you feel more confident in parenting your gender-questioning child. I began building this Membership Group in 2018 and it has become a robust online resource with a vast library of videos, articles, and recorded conversations. You’ll also get access to new content that I post monthly, teaching you how to respond to your child’s gender experimentation with discernment, wisdom, and compassion.
There are two tiers of support you can join.
- Topic Videos Tier
Here, you’ll get access to monthly videos where I address common questions. Some examples of Monthly Topic Videos include:
- Responding to your Child’s Trans Announcement
- Sexuality + Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria
- What’s More Important: Taking Action or Communicating about Gender?
- Common Denominators + Themes in Desistance and Detransition Stories
- What to Expect in the Long Run: The Rise + Fall in the Arc of a Transgender Identity
- Live Monthly Q+A Tier
Here, you get to submit a direct question to me about your situation, and then join me and several other parents for our Monthly Live Group Session. We’ll briefly talk through your situation together and I’ll offer some feedback and ideas. I’ll also specifically tailor a set of further resources to deepen your knowledge and help you establish a plan of action. You’ll also have the benefit of hearing other parents talk through their questions with me: this process usually answers questions or sparks ideas that can help you with your own child.
*Everyone in the Q+A Tier also has access to all posts in the Topic Videos Tier.
Community on Discord
Both tiers have full access to our active private discord server! Here, parents can communicate with others who really “get it.” Build friendships, share helpful resources, and connect in a variety of ways based on geographical location, sex of your child, gender of your child, etc. There is even a discussion thread for fans of Gender: A Wider Lens Podcast.
8. I heard you conduct parent phone consultations. How can I set one up?
I offer 75-minute telephone consultations for parents of gender-questioning adolescents and young adults. Parents can use this time to think through specific concerns, decisions and questions. These typically revolve around:
- understanding your child’s identity development
- improving family dynamics
- managing peer and social media influence
- responding to school affirmation
- dealing with requests for new names/pronouns
- staying connected with university-aged young adults
- how to talk about gender when there is friction
- navigating dynamics when an adult child suddenly decides to transition
- To get on the consultation waiting list, please sign up here: https://inspiredteentherapy.com/thanks/
9. Where can we find therapists who approach gender issues with an exploratory approach (rather than an affirming one)?
I often say, “bad therapy can be worse than no therapy.” The psychiatric and mental health professions, have at times throughout history, become swept up in cultural currents and adopted practices which ultimately harmed vulnerable patients. Some of you might have discovered that therapists are often quick to affirm new gender identities, no matter how sudden, and no matter how complicated the situation.
On the other hand, many concerned therapists believe it’s our ethical responsibility to treat each client as an individual. Many such therapists had been contacting me, looking for ways to support gender dysphoric youth in a whole-person, and least-invasive-first manner. So, in 2021, some colleagues and I started the Gender Exploratory Therapy Association to help connect like-minded therapists, provide training and resources, and offer families and dysphoric individuals a directory of therapists.
GETA takes a psychological approach to psychological distress.
Please have a look at our website here.