How do I respond to and serve a young person going through a transgender experience and their parents are rejecting them?
The first and most significant thing you can do to help respond to and serve a young person in this situation likely feels almost like an overly simplistic answer: you listen.
If they have asked to be called by a new name and/or new pronouns, use them. If they need to let out frustrations or just their emotions, listen. The reason for this is oftentimes, when their parents and family reject a transgender youth, they find themselves without anyone to listen to them and hear them.
The following steps will depend, but find out their specific situation:
- What help do they need?
- What are they lacking at the moment because of this rejection?
- Are they homeless or at risk of being kicked out?
- Are there avenues that their parents are pursuing potentially regarding conversion therapy?
- Can they find a place to support them if they need it in a crisis?
Services exist for youth in a crisis like this, often depending on the person’s age and location. Look into your specific area; some resources may be available, and some might not. Places like thetrevorproject.org offer online, call, and text helplines specifically for LGBTQIA+ and transgender youth in crisis and can help them get resources targeted for their area.
On a more active level, if the youth is comfortable and their parent’s rejection comes from a place of faith (most of the time, rejection of transgender identity is due to the idea that transgender is somehow sinful or against biblical teaching), ask if they would be open to you speaking to their parents about it. This could be done either with the youth present, and you acting as a mediator or without them there. Some might be comfortable with this; others might not.
If you aren’t sure what to say to common talking points or where to start for your own knowledge on transgender experiences within the concept of faith and Chrisitanity, welcomingresources.org has an excellent pdf guide for those in faith communities, and this article from Queer Theology also offers some great insight.
At the end of the day, all you can do is listen and try to offer transgender youth the best support you can through that listening. Sometimes, that might mean that all you can do is be a shoulder for them to cry on and a safe adult to go to. Make sure they understand that they are safe and respected with you.