Shame: a painful feeling of humiliation or distress
When I asked my son (who is transgender) what kind of impact our support had, he looked me straight in the eye (which teenagers generally don’t do) and said, “I don’t feel ashamed of who I am.” Several years later and I can still feel the power behind that statement that he uttered with such conviction, not a moment’s hesitation.
If you’re a parent and grappling with the news that your child is now identifying as transgender or as a gender other than the one assigned at birth, I want you to think back to your childhood…elementary school, middle school or junior high as it was called when I was in 7th and 8th grade, or even high school. I bet you can come up with at least one instance where your eyes stung with tears and your cheeks burned red-hot because another child taunted you about your weight, your hair, your glasses, your braces, the way you ran, or some other comment meant to bully, put down and ultimately shame. All that humiliation comes flooding back, doesn’t it?
Learning that you have a transgender child can shake your world. The knowledge that your son is your daughter or that she is now going by they is life-altering. Without your support, not only will the instance of shame and humiliation increase, but 57% of youth who don’t have their parents’ support will attempt suicide. When I first heard the news from my younger child that he identified as a boy, I didn’t know anything. What I did know was that I would support him in any way that I could so he had every chance imaginable to lead a happy, healthy, productive life. When trans youth are supported, not only don’t they feel ashamed of who they are, they are less likely to be the target of harassment. They feel more confident and can hold their head up high. The message received from home is that they matter, they have value. This support validates them as a person.
The shame I felt when kids mocked me for wearing glasses (many moons ago a kid wearing glasses was in the minority) or called me names like chubby or four-eyes, penetrated me to the core. I could get contacts, or lose weight or wear different clothes. A transgender person cannot change who they are. Their identity is hard-wired.
So, the next time you hesitate when your child asks you to change pronouns or buy them different clothing or a chest binder, think about those moments when you were a child and what it felt like to be shamed or humiliated. Let’s give our youth the tools they need to succeed. We need to boost their self-esteem through acceptance. As a community we can educate others once we understand. As families, we need to celebrate these diverse, individuals who have so much to offer and such a unique way of looking at the world.
If you or a loved one needs additional resources, feel free to check out www.standwithtrans.org
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