A Path For Parents From Confusion, Fear, And Doubt To Clarity And Confidence
We at the TransFamily Alliance want to welcome you to the TransFamily Gender Journey. No doubt, the fact that you are here means that you’re already somewhere on this path and hoping to learn more about what this journey involves, and what your next steps will likely be in helping your transgender, nonbinary, or gender expansive child live a happy, healthy, well-adjusted life. We know how important finding accurate information is when supporting your kids as well as finding the support you need on this journey. We hope you find this booklet helpful wherever you find yourself on your own TransFamily Gender Journey.
Our understanding of the TransFamily Gender Journey is based on over 20 years’ experience collaborating with caregivers raising transgender, nonbinary, and gender expansive kids to navigate their own journeys’ while helping their kids and their families live authentic lives.
The Journey is made up of six phases and presented in the order they commonly occur, but we have learned that this is not a linear journey, but a circular one. As one mom expressed, she sometimes felt she “could experience all six phases in a single day!”
As you move forward, you’ll see that it’s common to circle back to a certain phase when needed or even to skip one and come back at a later time. That’s all part of the journey, but over time you’ll eventually land in the later phases.
Each phase has a specific set of tasks and milestones that are important to navigate on your journey. The TransFamily journey often involves an unlearning and relearning process for everyone and it’s ok not to know everything at once.
Finding authenticity as a gendered being for those not aligned with their assigned sex can have many layers that may not be apparent in the beginning. While it may seem confusing at first, your child really is the expert on their gender and as parents and caregivers we have to learn how to listen and understand our kid’s messages so we can help them find authenticity.
It’s important to know that you are not alone on this journey, nor should you be. The most healing thing you can do is surround yourself with a team of gender experts and a supportive community of other parents already on this journey.
A Quick Overview of The TransFamily Gender Journey
Phase 1: Gender Awareness
In Phase One of the Gender Journey, you become aware that gender is an issue for your kid. They may have told you on their own, or you may suspect it from their behavior. It’s common during this phase to experience intense, or possibly mixed feelings. You may likely feel confused or wonder ‘is this real?’ You may feel a heightened concern for their safety. It’s also not unusual to feel anger, grief, or denial, hoping this is only a phase or the influence of peers. Regardless, as you move through this phase, you will recognize that, although you aren’t responsible for your kiddo’s gender identity, you are responsible for their gender health. It’s at this point you may realize you need more information.
Phase 2: Gender Informed
In the second phase of the Gender Journey, you may find you want to become better informed about gender. You may feel like turning over every rock to find accurate information that is necessary to understand your kid’s experiences and learn how to recognize what they need. In this phase you will realize how much misinformation is out there and how much unlearning you may need to do. You will need to differentiate between accurate scientific information and opinion based on unsubstantiated cultural narratives. This can be a difficult process, in which you may need to deconstruct beliefs that have been unquestioned for a lifetime and open your mind to what we currently know about gender identity & expression based on scientific data.
Phase 3: Gender Healing
The first two phases are often filled with confusion, fear, doubt, and grief, leading caregivers to feel overwhelmed. By the time you reach Phase 3 of the Gender Journey, there’s a lot of healing work that you’ll need in order to reconcile feelings from Phases 1 and 2 and gear up for what may lie ahead. This is where you take the time to put your own mask on first so you can better help your kid and your family. It involves reaching out to other parents, support groups, therapists, and a community, like the TransFamily Alliance. This is where you learn that you are not alone. This is also a phase that many parents bypass, but is absolutely necessary in their ability to be the best parent they can be to their gender expansive child.
Phase 4: Gender Transitions
Gender Journey – Phase 4 is about making transition decisions based on the needs of your kid. Again, this will show up in very different ways for each kid. As you explore with your kid their needs, you will learn more in depth about the social, medical, or legal transition decisions that are necessary for your kid’s gender authenticity. The support of professionals and other parents will help make decisions clearer and give you confidence should any of these transitions be necessary for your child. All types of transitions are generally gradual and their necessity will become clear to you should one be required. If your kid is in crisis you may land in this phase before you are ready! In fact some parents find themselves pushed into this phase right away because of the urgency of their kid.
Phase 5: Coming Out
Phase 5 of the Gender Journey is about “coming out”, or openly disclosing to others that you are the parent of a gender diverse kid. This is often a dance between you and your kid as to who to tell and when. You will be best prepared if you’ve gone through the previous phases, but you don’t always have the option to wait. If your kid is going through a social or medical transition, the noticeable changes and need to honor your kid’s identity will require coming out. Preparation and an unapologetic approach is key to better outcomes, but there’s no guarantee how others will react, so make sure you have a supportive community behind you. Again, since the journey is circular this phase could also happen earlier. Truth be told, this is a phase that you will return to time and again as new people need to know about your kid, or you feel the need to share about it.
Phase 6: Gender Warrior
Most parents will land in Phase 6 and become Gender Warriors after navigating their Gender Journey for a while. Although you may wind up in this phase early because you need to advocate for your kid at school, with medical providers, or insurance companies, the full experience of Phase 6 usually comes after being on the journey for some time and watching your kid blossom. At this point you’ll realize how you have changed and how amazing your kid is, not in spite of being gender diverse, but because of it. You may even feel called to advocate on a larger scale for other parents and the transgender community as a whole. Gender Warrior parents may find themselves leading the fight and making other people conscious of trans rights as they go, or quietly donating to causes that better the lives of all trans people.
The TransFamily Gender Journey never ends and each phase has particular challenges and rewards. The most important gift is experiencing your kid’s happiness and watching them come into their own, which is often the result of you taking action by affirming your kid’s authentic sense of identity. The result for your kid will be improved physical and mental health, greater success in academics and career, and a better quality of life. When you learn to see the journey as a growing opportunity for your kid and for yourself, the lessons learned will bring about a feeling of increased resilience and pride.
So, let’s dive into where you landed on your own Gender Journey and explore what steps you may need to take in this phase to move you to the next phase and to understand what the overall process may look like for you and your family.
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