Is Your Child Struggling With Their Gender, And Feeling Suicidal?

10/09/2017 09:40
John Howard via Getty Images

Dealing with a child who is feeling suicidal due to their gender identity is unfortunately very common, with shockingly high statistics for suicide attempts by transgender young people. When talking to young people about what triggers these feelings, a common theme is rejection, hate and prejudice. To start, I have pulled together some of the words from a parent with a much better skill with words than I do, plus linked to their blog so you can read other posts they have put together....

'First, consider how scary and isolating it must be for a child to be repeatedly told that something they feel so deeply is unacceptable to those who love them mostly dearly. Listen to your child. Let them know that you love and accept them whatever. Let them know that you stand by them. Let them know that there are other children in the world who feel the way that they do. Let them know that some children feel like this when young, then grow up and don't feel like this so strongly. Let them know that other children feel like this when young, then grow up and continue to feel like this and live like the gender they identify with. Let them know that both groups can grow up to have happy and well-adjusted lives. Let them know that either is ok with you. Let them know that they are not alone.  
 
Secondly, find out more about the subject. Read as much as you can. But bear in mind that there is a vast quantity of material on the internet that is immensely transphobic; that is misleading, and even outright lies, and that may make you feel desperately scared for the future. I'd suggest reading some blogs by parents who are supporting their child in their gender identity, to understand that the worst-case scenario that you are fearing for your child really isn't as bleak as you may be fearing. Our child has gone from a deeply sad to one of the happiest children you could meet since we told her we accepted her as a girl. 
 
Thirdly, get some support for yourself as a parent.
 
For us, the best source of support by a mile is other parents of transgender children. Find a way to reach out to other parents, for us it was through the charity Mermaids. Channels such as Mermaids provide a secure forum for parents to speak directly to each other, to provide a non-judgemental ear, to share experience, to be a shoulder to cry on. Many parents describe coming to terms with a child being transgender as a form of grief. Parents are often completely ignorant of the issue, and often have bleak views on the prospects for their child having a positive future. 
 
In time, in person or virtually, parents come across remarkable trans young people and adults, and learn that with acceptance and support the outcome for trans children today is bright and hopeful. But that doesn't immediately negate the very strong emotions that parents and young people go through, particularly when they are doubting how to proceed, and particularly when they are facing judgement, criticism and hate from a wider society - including their own friends and family - who may not be willing to understand. Finding a support network, particularly if your own friends and family are not supporting you, is extremely important.' Read more from these parents on their blog https://growinguptransgender.wordpress.com/
 
Unfortunately, even with supportive parents, society can be a very hostile place for young people struggling with gender dysphoria. Remember that if school or college are not supportive and your child is being bullied, you can do something about this. There are a number of organisations including Mermaids (www.mermaidsuk.org.uk) that will help you to ensure that school take this seriously and deal with it correctly. Whether in or out of school, hate crime must never be tolerated. Empowering your child with the knowledge that this is not ok may help.

Finally, try to find your child other young people that they can connect with, friendship and reduction of isolation is a key factor for reducing suicidality. They need to know that they are not alone; on the contrary, they are part of a wide ranging and diverse community, with some amazing young people as part of that community.

Being transgender is not a life sentence for misery, reach out both for yourself and fro your child to connect with others in the same situation. You will not regret it.

Useful websites and helplines:

Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 UK and ROI (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill)

Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393

The Mix is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@getconnected.org.uk

HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41

Maytree is a sanctuary for the suicidal in north London in a non-medical setting. For help or to enquire about a stay, call 020 7263 7070

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