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“My child says s/he is transgender, what do I do?”
Advice to parents from a gender critical therapist:
As you seek out support, I invite you to do something incredibly difficult: try meeting your daughter or son where s/he is right NOW. Rather than clinging to the memory of who s/he was last year, last month, or even last week, get to know who s/he is becoming right now, even if it scares you – even if you desperately miss the more familiar child from your memories.
Be patient, take it one day at a time, and remember that s/he is doing the best s/he can with the tools s/he has right now. By being open to your child’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings, you will help validate your child as a person, without having to validate the trans identity.
How to Find a Gender-Critical Therapist in your local area:
Due to the political climate, finding gender-critical therapists can be a challenge.
Below are suggestions to help you in your search.
1. Avoid “Gender therapists” and “Gender clinics”
Consider searching for experts in body image & eating disorders, self-harm, trauma, anxiety disorders, women’s issues, sexual abuse & domestic violence. You know your teen best. If they’ve struggled with depression their whole life, seek out an expert in teen depression. If they have obsessive-compulsive tendencies, seek out an OCD expert.
Therapists who practice Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) focus on helping clients accept natural emotions, like pain and suffering, and live value-driven lives. Jungian analysts, psychodynamic and psychoanalytic therapists may take a more nuanced and symbolic approach to your child’s declaration, viewing it as an attempt to seek meaning and validation in their life, or as a psychological defense mechanism. Somatic therapies are particularly adept at addressing dissociation which is a disconnected relationship with the body.
Seek out specialists like these by entering “[Type of therapist] in [city]” into your search engine. For example, “Jungian Therapists in San Francisco.”
2. Avoid / leave therapists who shame or blame your child.
One therapist asked a 13 year old, “Don’t you see how selfish you are behaving and how that is hurting your mother?” To the mother’s credit, she sought out a new therapist.
A moralistic, shame and blame approach is not psychologically helpful. Instead, it teaches the girl that she is bad and there is something wrong with her. Her belief or desire to dissociate from her sex is a psychological reaction to either objective or perceived trauma (shame, blame, rejection, attachment loss, social contagion). She is not consciously choosing to feel this way to spite those around her.
Therapy should seek to uncover what psychological purpose the trans identity serves; what possible events and/or relationships may be contributing to it. Sometimes parents’ well intended behaviors may have contributed to the daughter’s gender dysphoria. Some teen girls subconsciously reject their sex because they cannot live according to socially imposed sex stereotypes. Barring rare cases of objective abuse, therapists should not “take sides”. Good therapists will help parents and children better understand themselves and each other, improving family communication and family connectedness in the process.
3. Interview your potential therapist.
Ask them if they believe trans identities are innate, fixed, and treatable only with medical intervention. If they do, avoid them. Ask them directly about how they help children in your child’s situation. Therapists are ethically obligated to be transparent when describing their therapeutic methods. If a therapist ever pressures you with the claim that your child must “transition or else become a suicide statistic” leave with your child.
4. If you seek a Christian therapist, you may find one by visiting these sites listed below (but realize that you should also interview them as above).
5. If you need help finding a therapist in your area who espouses liberal values but is critical of the transgender movement, or if you seek a therapist who espouses conservative values, please contact us through our Contact page.