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Accepting the new mother in your life means mourning the loss of a father. It is a transition into confusion – do I now have two mothers? Is she still my dad? What do I call her? How can I know what masculinity is without a dad?

Many children with trans parents experience bullying and discrimination and, therefore, they attempt to conceal their trans parent’s gender identity (Imrie, Zadeh, Wylie and Golombok, 2020). The minority stress model (Meyer, 2003) states that being part of a minority group tends to lead to psychological stress both because of external stressors, such as experiencing discrimation, and due to internal stressors, such as fearing or anticipating discrimination, irrespective of whether it actually happens in real life. This distress impacts the child/ren of the trans parent as well, either by creating more stressors out of the original stress which then goes on to affect people close to them – stress proliferation (Pearlin, 1999) – or even through a lack of adequate parenting skills.

Despite all the turbulence and hardship, the parent’s transition is actually beneficial for a number of reasons. Remaining closeted puts transgender people at a high risk of suicide (Wiepjes et al., 2020). Living their authentic lives gives them more space to focus on making this change as easy as possible for their family. Moreover, they have shown you how to be honest and how to be your true self despite struggles and difficult times (Reese, 2019).

How can I deal with such a change?

  • Keep in mind that they are still your parent

Letting go of who used to be your father is not easy, but remembering that they are still your parent might help you adjust better. Gender identity and sexuality are fluid, even though a person can experience them as fixed. However, irrespective of whether they are your mother or your father, they are still your parent and you can still go to them for support

  • As always, communication is key

Do not be afraid to ask how they would like to be referred to. Getting used to your new mother might take time and it’s important that every family member is understanding, patient and supportive of each other

  • Consider joining a support group

Feeling alone makes it harder for a person to cope with stress. Getting to know other children of trans parents might help you open up to individuals who can understand better what you are going through

  • Take care of yourself

Self-care is not just taking a hot bath after a stressful day at work or having a glass of wine after a tough week. It’s also being there to pick yourself up when life puts difficult things onto you. Going to therapy helps you process and accept this huge change in your life. Moreover, you might feel like you cannot express your emotions fully at home because you don’t want to make your trans parent feel guilty. Therefore, therapy gives you that space solely for yourself to get rid of pent-up emotions.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Luanne Grima is a psychology graduate who works as a Childminder and Volunteer with WillingnessLuanne also forms part of the psycho-sexual education team at Sex Clinic Malta

References

Ehrbar, R., 2020. Strategies for transgender parents to support their children. American Psychological Association, Available at: <https://www.maginationpressfamily.org/mindfulness-kids-teens/strategies-for-transgender-parents-to-support-their-children/>.

Hewitt, J., 2016. When my father came out as transgender, the realisation that he was gone hit hard. The Guardian, Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/08/when-my-father-came-out-as-transgender-the-realisation-that-he-was-gone-hit-hard>.

Imrie, S., Zadeh, S., Wylie, K. and Golombok, S., 2020. Children with trans parents: Parent–child relationship quality and psychological well-being. Parenting, pp.1-31. Available at: <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15295192.2020.1792194>.

Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129(5), 674–697. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.129.5.674

Pearlin, L. I. (1999). The stress process revisited: Reflections on concepts and their interrelationships. In C. S. Aneshensel & J. C. Phelan (Eds.), The handbook of the sociology of mental health (pp. 315–415). New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Press.

Reese, T., 2019. Going from “daddy” to “mommy”: What will I tell my kids?. Family Equality, Available at: <https://www.familyequality.org/2019/10/02/going-from-daddy-to-mommy-what-will-i-tell-my-kids/>.

Wiepjes, C., den Heijer, M., Bremmer, M., Nota, N., Blok, C., Coumou, B. and Steensma, T., 2020. Trends in suicide death risk in transgender people: Results from the Amsterdam cohort of gender dysphoria study (1972–2017). Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 141(6), pp.486-491. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7317390/>.