The Voice Box

Three things to know as the parent of transgender youth



By Christine Pitts, Guest Blogger

On Mother’s Day this year, I was tucking in my transgender daughter, Lexi. She gave me an enormous hug and thanked me for being a great mom, and then she asked, “Will I get to be a mom someday?”

My stomach dropped, and tears came to my eyes. “Yes, of course you will, honey,” I told her. The reality: I have no idea what it’s like to become a transgender mom. Like many others, this moment makes me feel like I’m treading water in the middle of a vast ocean, with no life raft in sight.

When I share Lexi’s story and our family’s journey online, I receive a lot of private messages about similar stories or messages of support from other parents of transgender children in my network. It always helps me see that I am not alone in this movement to support my child’s livelihood and well-being. So, why does it feel that way?

Our entrenched ideologies and political grandstanding behavior today mean that, out of fear, we are keeping our stories private and missing an opportunity to humanize and validate the very messy, beautiful, human journey we are taking as parents of transgender youth.

Unfortunately, our trans children are going to bear the weight of our silence. In 2023, only 4 in 10 trans and gender-expansive youth were out to their parents and families, and only 16 percent of trans youth reported their family consistently using their correct pronouns. The same survey found that when families consistently used correct pronouns, fewer children were positively screened for depression and anxiety. We’ve made some progress in establishing openness and self-determination among our transgender communities within society, but it’s still not enough. Enacting a paradigm shift in society – where every transgender youth can walk safely and comfortably in their skin – is going to begin at home.

It’s been over a year since our daughter formally came out to our family as transgender. From day one, we were prepared to support her and one another on the journey. Within an hour of sharing that she was transgender, my husband took her to our local drag queen store to buy a pride flag. However, we’ve also made mistakes and learned to mend and heal.

As a way to open a radically transparent conversation about parenting transgender youth, here are three things that we’ve learned over the last year:

It’s okay not to know the answer. Lexi is curious about and proud of her identity within the LGBTQ+ community. Like any other kid, she is envisioning her future self. So, during this first phase of transitioning – name, pronouns, and clothing – she would ask a lot of questions about hormones, gender reassignment surgery, and whether she could do other things women do. Like many other questions we try to answer for our children, I was shooting from the hip day after day.

While we’d talk at length at the dinner table about how we thought these decisions might play out for her, we spent much time saying, “That’s a great question, and we aren’t sure. Why don’t we ask your doctor about that?” The most important thing to us is that our daughter knew that even if we didn’t have the information right away, it was still our priority to find the answer as parents, and she’d be included in our learning.

Families can use the unknown to forge a path collectively – being on the journey together and having candor when you’re confused will only strengthen the bonds within your family and the wraparound support for your transgender child.

Transgender children accommodate other people’s comfort levels, including yours. Early on in our journey, I saw Lexi accommodating her feelings for my comfort, and I knew that I needed to do better. In the first few months after she shared that she was transgender, I struggled to use her correct pronouns, instead opting for “they/them” as a compromise. I’d apologize to my daughter at tuck-in time, and she’d say, “It’s okay, mom,” and coyly smile. Her half-smile and tired eyes showed that it was not okay.

My husband and I made time during our daily dog walks to discuss our feelings about Lexi’s transition and our internal struggles (an essential space for parents of transgender children). When I explained how our behavior might be causing Lexi anxiety, depression, or hopelessness, we committed to having an open conversation with our entire family, including our other three kids. We boldly embraced her new pronouns and supported her on her name-change journey.

While we had considered many other potential names, we recently discovered the perfect name for her. Anticipating that some family members might be slower to adapt, I set high expectations to protect my daughter’s well-being.

Lexi and I drafted a text message we sent to a group chat with our extended family. She shared her coming-out story and introduced her new name and pronouns. When family members responded with messages of support, I had Lexi read them, and she replied to the whole group, saying, “Hey, it’s me, Lexi. Thank you for supporting me, and I love y’all.” A friend once told me that our transgender youth are wise not because they’re old souls but because they have to bear the weight of the movement they’re advancing.

Share your joy and grief openly. During an uncertain and insecure phase of being parents of transgender children, we went out for ice cream on a family date night. My husband casually asked, “What should our daughter’s new name be?” We spent the next twenty minutes proposing names, some serious and some fun, laughing and enjoying the process together. This collective love for Lexi became a defining moment for our family – a reminder that we’re all here for her, prioritizing her well-being.

About a week before formally adopting Lexi’s new name, she was sitting on my lap in my bedroom, casually discussing new names. It hit me like a brick wall: I had to release the visions of her future that I’d held as her mom – the ones from her birth. I burst into tears, explaining to Lexi that this process was like grieving and celebrating simultaneously. It was emotionally confusing, but I wanted her to understand that it had nothing to do with her incredible future ahead. It’s okay to feel all of the feels, and when you share openly with your family, it’s an opportunity to open the door for your transgender youth to share their feelings, as well.

I am, admittedly, not well-versed in language, theories, or science about being transgender yet. However, I am leaning into this journey as a parent and committed to pointing out how we can carve out safe, affirming environments for our transgender children and youth moving forward. 🏳️‍⚧️