Should a transsexual parent and her teen daughter relocate?

Q:

I am a male-to-female transsexual who underwent surgery last November. Since my transition, my 13-year-old daughter is having some issues with the kids at school. They have started asking her about me on a daily basis. She is very upset about it.

The school social worker says we should move to a new community where they don’t know us because she thinks that it will get worse when my daughter enters high school. What do you think? Should we move?

A:

I would not be so quick to assume this is an issue that can only be solved by leaving town — and I’m giving the social worker demerits for offering such an uncreative, unresourceful, throw-up-your-hands “solution.”

Ask yourself this: Have you given your daughter the emotional tools and communication strategies she needs to weather your transition?

Of course it’s uncomfortable for your daughter to be confronted with questions about your gender, your sexuality and (most likely) your genitalia. Isn’t it understandable, however, that kids would have questions? Kids being genuinely curious is not the same as harassment.

How have you prepared your daughter to answer those questions? It’s likely the questions are not stopping because she is either not answering them, or not answering them sufficiently. Have you helped her practice her responses to intrusive questions? Have you given her permission to talk about you when people ask (or even when they don’t)? Find out exactly what questions they are asking, and brainstorm ways to answer them in matter-of-fact ways.

I imagine it took you a number of years to adjust to the fact that you needed to transition. Allow your daughter and your community some time to adjust to this fact as well. Moving to a new community should only be used as an absolute last resort, especially since it doesn’t guarantee things will be any easier. Unless you and your daughter feel you are facing harassment and discrimination, stay put.

Transitioning is challenging for transparents and their children, but you will get through this. In the meantime, don’t confuse feeling uncomfortable with being victimized.

8 thoughts on “Should a transsexual parent and her teen daughter relocate?”

  1. I guess a question I would have is whether her appearance is one in which people can tell right away that she is trans, or whether no one would have any clue if they did not know her. Kids can be particularly cruel in middle school and one needs to be sensitive to that. If it is known that she is trans not because of appearance, but because of disclosure then a move may not be a bad idea if the questions the daughter is receiving are cruel or intrusive. I do not necessarily advocate moving but I also could see in some situations that there could be some benefit. Also, can she stay in her current home and her daughter just go to a different school. I live in Colorado and we have “school choice” here, where we can go to any school (space dependent), and if one’s neighborhood school does not have adequate test scores, they cannot turn you down–even if they are “full.” Another idea is to have a social studies class (or some class) invite a guest speaker to come in and provide education on trans issues. The daughter may not want someone to come into her class or she may think it is cool to have someone come in and talk about it, but I think the lead will need to come from her. The daughter may even want to stay home the day someone comes in and talks.

    In terms of high school, it seems to me from hearing the teen panel at Family Week, that teens in high school who have a Gay or Lesbian parent says that it gets easier not harder in high school. That has been my son’s experience too around those issues. I would hope that would be true as well for the children of trans parents. There is also the Gay Straight Alliance at many high schools and they often will deal with trans issues there too.

  2. The advice offered to the TG parent is excellent based on the information given about the situation. Transition is many things aside from surgery.For me it has been the opportunity to interface and educate all of the people in my community with whom I have had contact over the years. And most naturally they have questions about a lot of things as most of them have never had the experience of knowing a Transgendered individual first hand.

    It has been most interesting when I am faced with a meeting of former middle school students, most of whom have been very respectful. Their question have been polite and reasonable. I defer any questions on sexuality,etc as being private information, but freely reply to questions on gender, life and my future role as a teacher. While most of the young girls start giggling as they walk away looking back at me SMILING at them, the boys seem frozen in their tracts with looks of awe which is amusing knowing their propensity for using the adjective awesome to describe things that impress them.

    In addition to fend the questions poised to her the daughter ell prepared by the parent has a wonderful opportunity to grow and mature as she learns how to handle such a life situation. It can also be a bonus in the development of the parent/child relationship.

    Like all life situations that require change we have to give time for the effect to be realized. While most middle school students are aware of the need for diversity and tolerance in our society they don’t always have the opportunity to practice it on a real life basis. Here is one for them.

  3. I agree, moving is not the answer. Since we don’t know the facts relating towards the birth mom, we don’t know what sort of questions are being asked, but I’m guessing some of them are around that.
    The who is your mom. I know I did work with my youngest about various things that might be said, or asked. She hasn’t had to deal with those ones, but has had to deal with the moms issues.

    I’m also not sure what was talked about at the beginning of your transition, which clearly began years before now.

    Schools need to be better prepared, and they are mostly doing a horrible job, dealing with transexual parents and youth. It sounds like this in school support is uncomfortable and would rather not have to think, let lone look for creative ways to help your child through this. That’s too bad since schools have become better at helping kids deal with lesbian and gay issues.

    It`s time you and your child sit down and really talk about what’s going on, I’d suggest it also might be time for you to find her someone she can talk to. She feels very alone and needs to know she isn’t.

  4. I totally agree with your responses, that moving is no solution nor will there be any guarantee of no discomfort. We, unfortunately, still live in a society that makes judgments. Having a good, daughter-focused talk is great and important advice.

    No matter how well the trans parent might “pass”, if the child is still transitioning, questions, many of them quite normal from their peers, will be or may be uncomfortable. The teen years, just by themselves can be challenging, the desire to fit in, be like the other kids.

    There are no easy answers, and no running away. Have patience and lot’s of understanding. Do find someone to talk to, that your daughter can become comfortable talking to.

  5. Shame on the social worker!

    In addition to the excellent advice given, I would suggest joining TransFamily of Cleveland’s TransFamily elist. – accessible through http://www.TransFamily.org. There you will find lots of ts folks in all stages of coming out and dealing with their children’s concerns.

    One of the best things about this list (and the others under TransFamily) is your ability to listen to others and learn alternative ways to deal with issues.

    You also should join your nearest PFLAG chapter. There you will find parents of GLBT kids as well as GLBT adults all offering emotional support and guidance in dealing with problems related to GLBT issues. You can find your nearest chapter at http://www.pflag.org.

    Dave Parker
    PFLAG Transgender Network

  6. Relocation should not be the immediate reaction, but neither should the burden be on an 11 year old to handle this on her own. Her parent should meet with school staff to strategize ways in which teachers and counselors can ease the transition, and the parent should consider coming to the school meet with students (and perhaps other parents) to answer their questions directly. To take the focus off the daughter, it might best be done in the context of a panel discussion about different kinds of families (gay/lesbian, foster families, adoptive families, grandparents as parents, etc.).

  7. I think the school should recognize that the barrage of questions the girl if facing is a result of their own failure to teach them anything factual about transgenderism. They resist because of pressure from homophobic societies that still cling to outdated perceptions of what is right and wrong. America is being smothered by religious zealots, all the while trying to hold the image of a “land of the free”, where “all men are created equal”.
    Sure, they could move. but unless they plan to live in secrecy, a whole new group of uneducated people will pick up where the rest left off. I wish they would stay where they are, and that the transgendered woman should fight to have a qualified person teach a couple classes at the school. It’s not going to be easy for her or her daughter, but like any family, they should support and lend strength to eachother. They should not be ashamed and they should not run away. Don’t expect politicians to solve the problem. If you expect to live in a free country, expect to defend it.

  8. You guys rock! Seriously, my husband now is trans and it’s still fresh and new for me and our 17-year-old daughter. I am choosing to stay of course and we will I’m sure soon be facing stuff like this. It’s helped to know we won’t be alone:}

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