For parents of transgender kids, love is all you need.
- There are about 1.4 million transgender adults in the United States
- Emerging science embraces a “gender-affirming” approach toward transgender kids
There is no rulebook for raising a transgender child. But every day, we learn more about what transgender children need to grow up safe and healthy. And thankfully, policies and attitudes are changing to better support transgender kids. A child’s transition can be challenging, but having support from relatives, friends and community members can go a long way to reduce the anxiety, fear and worry families face. For this edition of RCause in Conversation, we spoke with two parents of transgender children to discuss the challenges and rewards of their individual journeys. You can watch the interview here, or read on for highlights.
Liz Pedro, Head of Customer Advocacy, RingCentral
Deshanna Neal, Founder/Executive Director, Intersections of Pride Foundation and a founding member of HRC’s Parents for Transgender Equality National Council.
Tell us about your journey so far.
Liz Pedro (LP): “I’m raising three beautiful, Native American children, one of whom is transgender…it’s not easy. My child attempted suicide twice due to gender dysphoria* Once he turned 18, my child became Scotty Oliver Snow. I read, I asked questions, I prayed, and I finally realized – the most important thing I could do was offer support.”
*Discomfort or distress caused by a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and their sex assigned at birth.
DeShanna Neal (DN): “I have four kids, two of whom are transgender daughters. One of my kids transitioned in the early 2000s at 4 years old—the state of Delaware’s first documented transgender youth. (Raising a transgender child) is still a tough process today, but back then? There were no resources for raising trans kids. My other child came out as trans on Christmas Eve of 2019 – she had no idea her older sister was also transgender.”
What are the biggest challenges you face?
LP: “One big loss was feeling like I lost a daughter. I’ve experienced 3 miscarriages and only had two boys, my husband wanted to keep trying for a girl. Now I’m just happy I’ve gained a son. But it’s never easy – I was told by a family member they thought my child should be checked into the psychiatric ward, simply because he came out as transgender.”
DN: “When you don’t have society’s support, it’s hard to carve out a place for yourself. Trying to ensure my child had the basic right of education has been a full-time job, and an unpaid one. Being black and queer myself, I already knew the lack of support/safety. I decided early on that if I ever had kids, I would never be the first bully they encounter.“
Tell us about the rewards of parenting a transgender child
DN: “Trinity’s one of my best friends, and she trusts me beyond a lot of even her own girlfriends. I love seeing how she’s so filled with love. My favorite quote of hers is “It costs $0 to become a decent person.” Everyone who meets her is inspired by her, and by our story. Now we’ve co-authored a book with Penguin, My Rainbow.”
How do you deal with non-allies?
LP: “It’s really rare and really hard to change someone’s mind. What I can do is put love, kindness and acceptance out into the world. It’s what works at home, and it’s the best way I’ve found to deal with conflict outside the home.”
DN: “I founded Intersections of Pride to capture, recognize, and celebrate the wholeness of our identities. The more we’re able to do that, the less of an issue gender identity can become. At least that’s the hope.”
On the challenges trans kids face.
LP: “In 2018, there was a study that showed 30% of trans girls and over 50% of trans boys have thought about committing suicide. That number only increases with specifically Hispanic and Native American youth. It’s so important to be supportive of your kids; to make the choice to build them up, not break them down.”
DN: “Every time a trans person is killed or dies by suicide, the community loses a mentor – a person who could have made another transgender person’s journey a little easier. That’s why my promise to my kids is to not only be supportive, but to be safe. It’s important to recognize the difference there.”
What else should we know?
DN: “People ask me what the difference is between raising a transgender child vs. a cisgender child: for me, there isn’t one, at least at home. Raising my cis kids is the same as my trans kids. Out in the world, however, I’m constantly fighting to make sure the world knows—my daughter exists and deserves dignity and respect.”
LP: “Our experiences are our own, and I really want to make it clear — there’s no way either one of us could speak for the whole trans community, or their parents. But what we’ve found is, unconditional love has a lot of layers – including quite a few you never thought you’d encounter. The harder we love our kids, the better their lives – and ours – become.”
Growing up transgender can be difficult. By supporting families, sharing the facts and practicing gender-affirmative attitudes with all children, each of us can make life a little easier for these beautiful kids, and make the world just a little brighter along the way. #RCPride
Keep up with RCause in Conversation on the Youtube page here.
Originally published Jun 24, 2021, updated Jul 11, 2021