Mom: I’ll post comments from readers who want to help. PFLAG immediately comes to mind, too: pflag.org.
You also don’t need to understand to accept. Sometimes the most loving act is to accept upfront, then work on the understanding on your own time.
· My youngest sister is a trans woman. She realized it when she was 33. So your teenager doesn’t and can’t have everything figured out yet, and that is okay. It was hard for our mother initially to accept that the child she had loved all those years as a son was a daughter. But she got there pretty quickly, because the fact is, that is your child. The child you loved and read to and played with and should be cheering on for every step of their life, whatever that looks like. You don’t want your precious child to live a lie. The most loving, fiercely motherly thing to do in this whole world is to want to know who your children are, and to love them on that honest and genuine basis.
· I’m almost 40. Trans/nonbinary. Only realized it about, oh, five years ago. When you’re a kid/adolescent/young adult, it’s hard to know anything other than your experiences. It didn’t occur to me that not everyone felt uneasy when asked to split up “boys vs. girls” in class or to fill in their gender on a doctor’s form (because it felt like an untruth). Obvious in hindsight, sure, but when something has always been that way, it’s easy to overlook it — especially when you have no other experience to contrast it with. It was like never realizing I was wearing shoes that were too tight. Once you realize you can live in a way that’s not forced and uncomfortable, the difference is night and day.
· Want to enthusiastically second Carolyn’s suggestion to check out PFLAG. Our 22-year-old came out as a transgender woman two years ago. We never had an inkling — and she says she didn’t know at a young age. My husband and I both found it very hard to understand/accept at first and now can’t really even remember why. It gets much easier — especially as you see your kid grow much happier.
· I’ve been nonbinary all my life, but I didn’t have a name for it till the past year. (I’m 69.) The few years leading up to puberty were terrifying, and I would have given anything to have had access to hormone blockers to give me a few extra years to think about things. Of course, I would have also given anything to have had understanding parents as well as societal awareness of the vast gender spectrum. I’m just now coming to terms with the hell I went through.
· TransFamilies, transfamilies.org, is also great. My trans/nonbinary kiddo is 5 and has clearly always “felt that way,” but there are many parents of teenagers in the group who were totally surprised by their teen coming out. And hell yes to Carolyn’s support-first-understand-later point. Your kid gave you a huge gift by trusting you. You need to protect that trust.