When you have a transgender child

how to treat the transgender child - Zenparent

A big thanks to parents with a transgender child who gave valuable inputs to help write this article. Their identities are anonymous to protect their privacy*.

India is conservative. Sure, things are changing but there’s no doubt a large part of gender identity or anything do with sexuality is still considered taboo. A transgender person has always been referred to as hijra. This has taken a derogatory connotation over time. But what many people fail to realize is that this is how transgendered people are – they’re born. It’s not a choice.

Says Kamna Khanna*, “By the time Abhay was three, I knew he was different. He hated trucks and buses, and gravitated to dolls and princess things. I never even knew that gender identity could become obvious at so tender an age. But now when I look back, I can see that it was not really shocking when at eight, he told us that he was really a girl and wanted to grow his hair out.”

What then?

“I didn’t know what to do! I thought he had psychological issues. We saw one child therapist after another. And finally, one doctor in Kolkata told us what we needed to hear. That he was transgender and the only reason we were shuffling from one therapist to another was because we couldn’t accept it. That’s when we decided to relocate to the USA. I couldn’t imagine what might happen to him in this society if we continued here down the path god had chosen for us.”

The stories are different. Yet all too similar. Parents may want to be accepting as shocked as they are. Yet, they simply don’t know how to go about it. How do you explain to everyone in your life that your son is now your daughter? What about school? What about being bullied? Things are different now. Transgender people across the world are establishing their own and are not relegated to the shameful leftovers that yesteryear society seemed to offer – begging, demanding money and flashing on trains. Now the Indian government offers reservations and opportunities like never before. That doesn’t make it any easier for transgender kids who have parents who think they can “medically resolve the issue” or “pray the problem away”; or for parents who want to accept it but don’t know what they should do next.

Here’s some advice from the parents of transgender children:

  1. Is it a phase? No one who conforms to their birth gender (they’re called cisgender) has been asked this. Is your being born a woman a phase? Just like that, if your child is confessing to you that they might be the opposite gender, understand that it must’ve taken a whole lot to even approach you with the topic. So, try and get as much information from them as possible.
  2. Fear: Will my child be safe? Will she be bullied? Will he find happiness in this choice? All these are totally valid questions, and the answers to them might be terrifying. But it’s your child’s choice. With the help of a qualified therapist, you can “live” the entire experience of transitioning with them and get all your concerns addressed. Living it, of course, is a different thing. The transgender community clocks some of the highest rates of suicide, depression and violence. This is terrifying.
  3. Accept: “The biggest problem for me was to call my daughter my son. The pronoun change is only part of it. The rest is the actual morphing of the physical identity. It felt like something very familiar to me became a stranger in front of my eyes. But once I saw how happy he was in his skin finally, it was all worth it. A big weight lifted off of his shoulders. He transformed from a depressed young girl to an outgoing charming young fellow. As for the rest of the world, it isn’t as close to home as it is for me. So if we can deal with it, they should be able to as well.” – Unnathi Krishnan*.
  4. How to go about it: Cross-dressing is usually the first stage. The kids try on the clothes from the opposite gender. Sometimes, it can be just that. Having siblings with strong personalities of the opposite gender might arouse curiosity about heels or boxers, as the case maybe. And just trying them on can satisfy their curiosity and they may go back to being their old selves. But if the cross-dressing doesn’t stop, only escalates and they seem in their element only in the other gender’s shoes, metaphorically, it may be time to see a gender specialist therapist and explore things further.
  5. Any more tips: Don’t shut down on your kids. As parents, you are the biggest support system for them. And if they can’t communicate with you, then they’re pretty much on their own in this long, very difficult path to their gender freedom. Try and be the best parent you can be to them.

as a parents support to transgender child - ZenParent

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And what about Abhay?

“She goes by Abhinaya now and is enrolled for University starting next fall,” says Kamna.

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