Explaining Your Child’s Transgender Identity to Others

If your child or another young person in your life recently came out as trans, non-binary, or gender expansive, you might have questions about how to navigate their gender transition. There is a lot to think about, and this page will help answer some questions around how to talk to family and friends about your child’s trans identity. To see our FAQ on trans identity and youth, click here, and to find more resources aimed at supporting parents and family like yourself, click here.

An important first step is having an honest conversation with your young person about what they want and need during their transition. You can find a guide to help you make gender transition decisions with your child on our parent journey page.

How to talk to family and friends about gender

As we’ve said, before taking it upon yourself to talk to family and friends about your child’s gender identity, you want to make sure you have permission from your child to have those conversations. Of course, you might need to do your own processing before your child gives the green light to discuss their trans identity with others. It’s best to find a confidential outlet, such as a licensed therapist, to have these conversations with so as not to violate the trust and guidance of your young person.

If and when your child is ready to open up to family and friends about their gender, it’s essential to move forward with these conversations with care and patience, with attention also given to specifics that might be necessary given your family’s unique circumstances in mind. Maybe you and your young person decide together that there are certain family members or close friends who you are going to leave out of these conversations because they might have a harmful reaction. Or maybe you decide to have these conversations one at a time in order to slowly move through this process. Whatever you decide in partnership with your young person will be the right decision for you and your family.

Gender Spectrum has a guide on how to talk about gender at family gatherings (their article talks about gender conversations during the holidays), but their guide can be used to help you navigate talking about gender to family in any context.

How to talk to young children about gender

Because lots of folks ask about how to have conversations with young kids about gender identity, there are many resources available on this topic. Planned Parenthood and the Huffington Post both have published resources about how to talk to children about gender identity. Additionally, Gender Justice has resources and a book and media list for how to talk about gender with young kids. These resources include information on how to explain trans identity to young children and how to talk to kids who might be experiencing gender dysphoria,discomfort, or gender creativity. We also recommend the short documentary film entitled A Place In The Middle about how a community in Hawai’i uses traditional Hawaiian cultural values to rally behind a young person’s gender identity.

Language recommendations for talking about a trans loved one to others

  • Model language, be an example:
    • What we mean here is that when having conversations about your transgender child, either on their behalf or with them present, we recommend that you use the appropriate name, gender pronouns, and any other language that your child requests. Set the tone for the conversation by modeling how your child wants to be referred to, and keep the conversation open.
  • Ask questions:
    • Everyone has a gender journey, and everyone has had a moment in their life when they discovered things about their gender that they love and appreciate. Feel free to ask questions that bring up these gender memories for whomever you’re talking to. Examples include:
      • Do you remember a time when you felt conscious of your gender identity?
      • What moments have you felt comfortable in your gender?
      • What was your gender like for you when you were younger?
      • What messages about gender have you received from family, the media, your job/school, etc., and are those messages you want to pass on to others?
  • Read up!
    • There are multiple resources linked on this page above, and we encourage folks seeking more support to take a look at them. Know that many people have had conversations like these and that there are lots of articles and support groups out there to help guide you. For more resources, please view our parent journey page.

In Summary

  • Wait until your young person has given the okay to have conversations about their identity with friends and family, and find confidential ways to process their transition if needed.
  • There are several resources out there to help you have conversations about gender with young kids and family of all ages. This page has a lot of them, but there are many more out there.
  • When talking with others about trans identity, model the appropriate language for your young person. Ask them if they want to be present, and if not, ask them how they want to be talked about.