So there’s no one size fits all, but I thought I’d share some suggestions on how to support your gender expansive, trans, or queer teen since parents and experts have been reaching out for some specific guidance in this area. We know that it takes some families time. If you’re reading this for yourself or to support others by learning more then I want to tell you something personally. I truly appreciate you. You’re in the right place and doing the right thing. There’s a lot of aggressive, hateful information out there.
When I went back to my childhood home a previous neighbor asked me what I was up to with work. When I explained to him that I serve adults and young people he made a transphobic comment about how difficult it is for young people with all the “deciding of gender out there.” What?! This makes no sense. Gender has been expansive throughout time and cultures since long before colonialism. It serves White supremacy and the patriarchy to perpetuate the misconception that there are only two very binary genders. All this to say I, as a cisgender psychologist, serves within these oppressive systems. I believe that when we talk about how to support young LGBTQ people, we talk about supporting everyone. When we learn how to support these young folks we also get a chance to explore our own gender journeys and sexuality.
What was it like growing up being in the way you were assigned? So if you identify as a woman and were assigned female at birth, what has that been like for you? If for example you were assigned female at birth and are nonbinary, what has that been like for you? What did you see in your neighborhood, culture(s), family, linguistically, what were roles like for you? Spend some time reflecting on what it was like for you then and now. For me, I think of my aunts and mother and different ways I saw gender roles growing up. I think of several people coming out and what it was like in high school for the first time seeing a same gender couple. I think of various cultural messages I was exposed to regarding assigned worth of masculinity and femininity and all the limitations and hurt that come with that. I think of male cousins who were regarded as more valuable than I. I think of various stories and memories that come throughout a timeline. You can take some time to journal or imagine what it was like then and now for you around various understandings of gender. Please do so gently and if you have a safe person or grounding strategy please enlist those after or during these reflections.
Now I want us to reflect on what we know out there. We know that young people who are supported around their gender and sexuality rather than rejected, belittled, or silenced actually have reduced chances of substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and suicide. Through the Family Acceptance Project San Francisco State University identified how young LGBTQ people have less risk of these health issues such as suicide and substance abuse when we don’t ask them to change how they look, when we don’t ask them to lie to family about who they are, and when we do things like hug them when they come out. Can you imagine being welcomed in for who you are by a warm, safe hug? Can you imagine what it might be like to be that person for someone else?
If you’d like more on exploring how you see and experience gender and sexuality and to support those around you reach out today! For a FREE BONUS PDF of reflective questions you can use to explore things and help you understand, learn, and become more supportive of young LGBTQ people email Dr. Joharchi by July 1st (2022).
2 thoughts on “How to Support Your LGBTQ Teen?”
Thank you for this wonderful post. Sharing your personal story and developing the questions to ask of ourselves helps me to take a path I never would have thought possible or (sadly) thought necessary. The truth is that to engage my child, I first need to engage myself and your post has help me to start. ❤️ Many times I have (callously) started a conversation with good intentions but the discussion turned negative or unhealthy. I look forward to having a healthy conversation with my teenager because I have put in the thought and have some context. Thank you again Dr. Joharchi
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You’re so welcome and I’m really SO grateful for your authenticity! It opened my world to explore my gender journey too. Thank you so much also for being a parent who is looking within to connect to and engage their child. That touches my heart and makes me think of all we can do to support young people so again thank you too.