Parents and (Chosen) Family

Trans and Family

Family as a safe space

Everyone requires a family environment that provides safety, love and support. Family can have a great impact on the development of young people, their self-esteem and self-confidence. 
The concern of being “different” and therefore rejected often preoccupies adolescents. If they are queer, it plays an even bigger role for them. Therefore, it is even more important that non-binary and trans children and adolescents are seen and understood by their own family.

Young trans and non-binary people may have been dealing with their inner coming out for a long time before they talk to and trust their parents, siblings, or friends with such a personal part of themselves. Some develop a clear understanding of their own gender identity that does not match the gender assigned at birth as early as kindergarten age. Others only become aware of this later in life. Each journey is equally valid. Each person has their own unique timing and biography.

If you keep an open mind and heart, your support will be of great value to trans and non-binary children in your family. If your child comes out to you as trans or non-binary, you can assume that they trust you. Your child chooses to let you into their personal life, offering you a relationship and seeking your support.

Act responsibly with regards to this leap of faith the young person has taken:

  • Encourage them to go their own way.
  • Ask clear questions about what they need and how you can help.
  • Accept and respect boundaries: everybody is different. There are many ways to be trans or non-binary.

Learning from each other

After trans and/or non-binary children and youth have chosen to share their identity with their family, a period of learning with and from each other begins: some things might work effortlessly, while other aspects could create the need for family dynamics to rearrange. 

It is helpful to communicate with each other on a regular basis. Make joint agreements in the family that correspond to the wishes of the child or young person: 

  • What name and pronouns should be used? Some people do not use pronouns for themselves at all.
  • What type of clothing feels right for them?
  • Who should be informed (if anyone) outside the family (day care, school, etc.)?
  • How do we deal with mistakes? For example, who corrects whom if an undesirable pronoun has been used?

These kinds of agreements may also change over time. Make sure to check in on a regular basis with each other and, if necessary, change the agreements.

Being aware of your own feelings and thoughts

You may be dealing with feelings of insecurity and fear when it comes to trans and non-binary issues. It is important to create space for these thoughts and feelings, however, be careful not to burden your child or family member with them.

→ Dealing with your own thoughts and feelings 

One's own negative feelings or inner-family conflicts should never be carried out on the backs of young trans and non-binary people. Instead, outside support can be helpful, for example through a counselling centre or a family or parents’ group. There you can exchange information and network with people who have had similar experiences. 

Being mindful of trans issues in everyday family life – what you can do in practice:

  • Listen to and accept what the child or young person has to say. They are the experts: they know best about their gender identity and their gender expression.
  • Accept the name and pronouns the family member has chosen.
  • Practise addressing them as often as possible, even when they are not present and you are thinking about them.
  • Have the courage to correct yourself if you make a mistake when addressing them. This will signal to your family member that you respect their desire to be addressed correctly.
  • Never out a person without their explicit consent. However, if appropriate, offer to assist or accompany them during conversations regarding their identity.
  • If desired, accompany the person in finding a gender expression that is consistent for them, e.g. in selecting makeup, new clothes, or by assisting with the purchase of a binder, packer, or other aid.

    → Trans* und Medizin
  • Look for queer and trans services, groups and associations in your area. Offer to go with them, if desired.

    Liste Queerer Jugendtreffs in NRW (Fachstelle Queere Jugend NRW)

Additional reading tips:

Talking to children about gender diversity or gender identity in an age-appropriate way: book recommendations for all ages are available, e.g. in the brochure Trans* mit Kind (Kalle Hümpfner, Bundesverband Trans*, Dec. 2021).