By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Your preschooler has always had an active imagination. Flights of fancy and dress-up fill his days. Or she’s rough-and-tumble, a scrapper in her mind. Make-believe has always been a big part of your child’s life, but now you’re hearing something you know in your heart is not “pretend.” In the new book Raising the Transgender Child by Dr. Michele Angello & Alisa Bowman, you’ll find guidance for making your way through just such a scenario.
In retrospect, you might’ve seen it coming: your son told you once that he was really a girl. Or your daughter cried when you wouldn’t let her get a buzz-cut. You’ve suddenly realized, or your child has told you, that “zie” is gender-diverse. Either way, Angello and Bowman point out that few parents are immediately 100-percent prepared for raising a child like yours.
So you’re not alone: others have raised transgender children before you, and have already “blazed the trails.” Your feelings and worries are normal, and the confusion about gender dysphoria will “burn off.”
Dysphoria. Now, there’s a word you might have seen while doing research in print or online. There are, in fact, many terms you’ll want to understand when raising a gender-diverse child, starting with the difference between “sex” and “gender.”
And by the way, as for shaky “studies” and Internet myths, set them aside. There are many theories about what leads to gender diversity, and a lot of unknowns. Again, put arguments away and ignore negativity; all kids are different, and so are their gender experiences. Is it worth obsessing over?
Probably not; you love your child regardless, so prepare yourself for a toe-dip into “social transition.” Talk with teachers and neighbors, and take steps to make relatives aware of new pronouns and appearance. Educate yourself on public bathrooms, team sports, and other legalities. Know when to ask for help—both financial and emotional. Remember that grief is common, and that your child is also dealing with many issues.
Finally, dare to dream again. Zie will grow up one day and, as the authors say, will eventually fall in love with “someone wonderful and amazing.”
As a parent of a transgender child, you may think that this is all common-sense stuff you’ve heard before. That may be so, but there’s a certain calmness to be found inside Raising the Transgender Child that can’t be beat.
The other thing that sets this book apart is its comprehensiveness: authors Angello and Bowman seem to have thought of everything that Mom, Dad, and other caregivers could possibly need to know about present issues and what’s to come. It’s all easy to comprehend, too, and it covers children from small toddler to older teen. Particularly vexed parents will be happy to see that the authors even tackle the unpleasant situations and emotions that may need to be heeded along this journey.
Whether you need it now, or you sense that you might later, Raising the Transgender Child is a good book to have in your parenting bag of tricks. For questioning children and families, it’s more helpful, perhaps, than you can imagine.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old, and she lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.