Research Examines Parental Acceptance of Transgender Kids

Silhouette of child running toward parentGender-nonconforming children—including those who are agender, transgender, bigender, gender fluid, or have other identities—are often met with parental rejection. A new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association explored the process through which parents may come to accept their gender-nonconforming children.

Exploring the Process of Parental Acceptance

Researchers from the University of California, Davis, followed 29 mothers and seven fathers with gender-nonconforming children. The study included 33 children between the ages of 5 and 16. Fourteen were trans girls, nine were trans boys, and 10 were gender-diverse boys.

Parental acceptance of transgender kids is often a slow process, the study found. Parents were quicker to notice gender nonconformance in children designated male at birth (DMAB) than children designated female at birth (DFAB). DFAB children were more typically labeled tomboys when they did not conform to gender stereotypes.

Parents of gender-nonconforming boys often attempted to set limits on when and where their children could present as girls, fearing discrimination and bullying. Parents often explained these guidelines in terms of practical rules, such as the weather being too cold to wear a dress. Parents were more likely to eventually relax these rules when they realized how unhappy their children were, researchers found.

Researchers also found many mothers play a vital role in advocating for their gender-nonconforming children. They often will work to educate themselves on the subject, and many become experts on gender diversity to better identify resources for their children. Perhaps because more mothers than fathers participated in the study, researchers did not address whether fathers acted the same way.

The Effects of Parental Rejection on Transgender Children

Research consistently points to the damaging effects of rejection and stigma on gender-nonconforming kids. Half of transgender adolescents attempt suicide by their 20th birthdays, and 41% of transgender adults attempt suicide at some point in their lives. Harassment, isolation, and bullying all figure prominently in suicidal thoughts and actions.

Statistics show transgender children whose parents reject them or try to “fix” them are especially vulnerable to mental health conditions such as depression as well as at a higher risk for suicide.

References:

  1. Statistics about youth suicide. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.yspp.org/about_suicide/statistics.htm
  2. Study examines families’ journeys to accepting transgender children. (2016, August 23). Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/asa-sef081616.php
  3. Ungar, L. (2015, August 16). Transgender people face alarmingly high risk of suicide. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/08/16/transgender-individuals-face-high-rates–suicide-attempts/31626633/

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  • Marcie

    Marcie

    August 30th, 2016 at 11:22 AM

    The rejection of any child, trans gendered or not, is simply wrong. Not every child is going to fit into some cookie cutter mold. You should love them in spite of that

  • Dell

    Dell

    August 30th, 2016 at 2:23 PM

    It takes being able to look beyond what you think will make you happy as a parent and instead focus on what would make your child happy. I think that for most children, young or adult, what makes them the happiest is knowing that their parents will love and support them no matter what. They don’t have to worry about saying or doing the wrong thing because there is a part of them that feels safe and knows that their parents will always be there for them.
    Every child, no matter your age, deserves to have a loving relationship like this with a mom and dad.

  • Jonathan G

    Jonathan G

    August 30th, 2016 at 3:05 PM

    Bigender agender are in the word transgender

  • Trina

    Trina

    August 31st, 2016 at 2:26 PM

    I am not yet a parent but hope to be one day. Look, kids are going to be kids and I would much rather them be what feels right to them instead of constantly trying to live up to expectations that someone else has for them. That is not fair, it is not what we ever wanted for ourselves and I sure as heck don’t want my children to be free to be who they want to be. I guess that once I have children of my own I could feel differently, but I hope not. I hope that I am able to maintain the open mindedness that is clearly lacking in so many homes.

  • Becca

    Becca

    September 6th, 2016 at 4:50 PM

    I am sure that there are many people who never fully come out to their parents because they are afraid of losing them in their lives if they do.

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