by Linda Herzer,
Transformation Journeys Worldwide
This has been a tough year for the family members of trans, gender nonconforming and non-binary people. In 2021 alone, over 100 anti-trans bills were introduced into state legislative sessions. Think about the debilitating impact that news of these bills would have on people you know who have gender diverse loved ones:
- 29 bills that would prohibit trans and non-binary youth from accessing gender-affirming medical care
- 69 bills that would prohibit trans youth from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity
- 43 bills that would allow people to assert a religious belief to deny services to people with whom they disagree
- 15 bills that would prohibit gender diverse people from having access to restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity
Fortunately, many of these bills did not pass and some that did are now being successfully challenged in the courts. Nevertheless, having your family member’s basic human rights debated in the public sphere takes its toll.
So what can you do to support colleague’s, clients, patients or congregants dealing with attacks on their loved ones?
First Way to Support Family Members of Trans, Gender Nonconforming and Non-binary People: Reach Out and Let Them Know You Care
When you see or hear news about gender diverse people, whether the news is encouraging or alarming, reach out and let them and their family members know that you’re here for them. Celebrate, for example, the number of trans and non-binary athletes in this summer’s Olympics. Mourn another heart-breaking murder of a Black transgender woman.
Second Way to Support Family Members of Trans, Gender Nonconforming and Non-binary (TGNCNB) People: Remind Them of All the Professional Associations Backing Them
Let’s face it. The perspectives on gender that support the well-being of gender diverse people are relatively new, historically speaking. These perspectives include the understanding that:
- while one’s sex is determined by their anatomy, one’s gender is determined by their gender identity, that is, by their internal knowing of their gender
- there are more than just two genders, more than just man or woman, boy or girl, and
- gender can be fluid, not fixed
Because these three perspectives are so historically and culturally new, many people have not yet accepted them as true. Consequently, we are living in a time when there is much public debate about the basic rights and mental competency of gender diverse people—and also of the parents who support their TGNCNB children.
You can support these parents and other family members by reminding them that major US health, education, and child welfare organizations issued a joint statement in opposition to this year’s anti-trans legislation. You can also let them know that throughout the last decade, medical and mental health associations throughout the world have issued position statements in support of gender diverse people. For example, in April of this year, the American Medical Association sent a letter to the National Governors Association urging them “to oppose state legislation that would prohibit the provision of medically necessary gender transition-related care to minor patients.” The letter stated, “Empirical evidence has demonstrated that trans and non-binary gender identities are normal variations of human identity and expression.”
It can be so encouraging to family members of gender diverse people to know that medical and mental health associations across the globe are on their side. That’s why we suggest you also share these affirming statements from the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the World Medical Association, the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatricians.
Third Way to Support Family Members of Trans, Gender Nonconforming and Non-binary People: Remind Parents that They Didn’t Cause This
If a parent of a gender diverse child is struggling with the question, “Did I do something that caused my child to be trans?”, assure them that they did not. Share this quote from pediatrician and child psychiatrist, Dr. Jason Rafferty: “There is no evidence that parenting is responsible for a child having a gender identity that is not in line with his or her gender assigned at birth.”
Fourth Way to Support Family Members of Trans, Gender Nonconforming and Non-binary People: Share Religious Resources with Them
These days, gender diverse people are not only being debated in the political sphere; they are being heavily discussed in the religious realm as well. Some take the view that their sacred texts indicate that gender diversity is sinful or not part of the Divine Design. This leaves many of the parents and spouses I’ve coached in the highly stressful position of having to choose between their loved one and their faith community.
One way you can support a patient, colleague, client or congregant experiencing similar struggles is by referring them to our list of Faith-Based Resources. There they can find links to affirming organizations and perspectives found within the five major world religions, including a link to my book, The Bible and the Transgender Experience: How Scripture Supports Gender Variance.
These are not easy times for those with gender diverse loved ones. Some days, they may come to work, or into your practice or faith community burdened by the weight of debilitating public debate. But you can help ease that burden by letting them know you care, by reminding them that major health, education, and child welfare organizations are behind them, by assuring parents that they didn’t cause their child’s gender diversity and by offering affirming faith-based resources, if needed.
Thank you for your willingness to be of support. Please be in touch if there is anything we can do to help you help others.