Transitioning from one gender to another can be an exciting and stressful time. When someone we care about is going through this experience, we want to be as supportive as we possibly can – but we might not be sure how to do that. Here are some ways to support your loved one during their transition.
Transitioning from one gender to another is a complex process and it takes time. If someone close to you is going through this, the first step for being able to support them is to do your research and understand what transitioning entails. This doesn’t mean that you must have every single one of your questions answered through your research, but it will give you a head start and will also mean that your loved one will not have to explain every little detail repeatedly.
Even though you can research and learn about the medical and practical side of transitioning, you can only truly understand your loved one once you listen to their story. If your loved one chooses to open up to you and express what they are feeling and what they’re experiencing, show them that you are listening to them in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Stay away from giving them advice or your opinions on things unless they specifically ask you for this. Providing them with a safe space to be seen and understood is one of the most supportive things you can do.
Listening to what your loved one is telling you is extremely important. However, it is also important for you to let them know that you are there for them and that you want to support them in any way you can. Verbalize these intentions, even if you feel they are clear simply through your actions. Hearing words of love, encouragement, and support can make a world of difference for someone who is transitioning.
4. Use the Right Language
When someone is transitioning, this usually means that gender-specific language will need to be changed, and in some cases even their name. Ask them what language they would prefer for you to use and try to remember to do so. At the same time, don’t be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake here and there. This is an adjustment for you too, so you will need your own time to get used to things. If you do make mistakes, talk about it with your loved one to make sure that you clarify what your intentions were.
5. Gather Resources
A practical way that you can offer your support is to help them find out what resources are available to support them further in transitioning. Maybe you can help them find a support group or trained professionals that can provide their services. Join them for a shopping trip so that they can buy clothes that match their gender identity, or offer to go to appointments and consultations with them if they want you to.
With all the above being said, it is also important to make sure that you take care of your own mental health and well-being during this time also. Depending on what your relationship with the other is, a range of different feelings and thoughts can be brought up for you too. Remember that you can also reach out for support from a mental health professional if you need it.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Lisa Laspina is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist who is currently working with Willingness. She is reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy.