Updated: Sep 3, 2019
When someone you care about trusts you enough to let you know that they are questioning their gender identity it can be a life changing event – for them and you as well. A natural reaction to this news can be to wonder how you can best support them.
In this post we are going to explore some questions you may have with regard to supporting transgender and gender nonconforming (GNC) friends and relatives.
What should I do when they come out to me?
While your first reaction may be to ask them questions, a better plan is to just listen. Often, people have not fully resolved what their gender identity is or what it means to them. Reconciling gender identity is a big deal and it can take a lot of time an effort. Therefore, they may not yet be able to answer all of your questions. The best solution is the practice good listening techniques and let them open up to you at their own pace while recognizing that they have honored you with their trust.
What can I do to support them?
As we just noted, being a good listener goes a long way as does being open and caring. If your relationship supports it, a hug can go a long way as well, but most critically, make sure you tell them that you are there for them and will support them unconditionally. This includes making every effort to use their chosen name and pronouns – a truly affirming step.
Where can I get good information on transgender issues?
There are many great sources of information on gender and transgender-related issues. If you want to curl-up with a good book, Renaissance has a recommended reading list. Our website also has links to articles and other resources. Other helpful sources are the Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG. But even with all of this education, there is one thing that you should remember that requires no additional effort – and that is to remember that, at their core, they are the same person with the same sense of humor and values that you have always admired.
Is therapy something that I should recommend?
While not a requirement, having a trained and impartial specialist who understands transgender and gender-variant issues can be extremely helpful for a trans or GNC individual. If you are intimately involved as a spouse or partner, couples therapy can also be of assistance. Lehigh Valley Transgender Renaissance has a comprehensive list of transgender affirming therapists who can assist as a person works through their gender questions.
What if therapy is not the right fit?
A formal therapy setting is not right for everyone. In some cases, it is not an affordable solution either. This is where peer-led transgender support groups come in. These are informal gatherings of transgender and gender nonconforming people who are dealing with or have dealt with similar issues. In many cases, groups like Lehigh Valley Transgender Renaissance offer other opportunities including social gatherings, discussion programs and education for trans feminine, trans masculine, and non-binary people along with spouses and partners.
At the end of the day, supporting trans and gender-variant people is not as complicated as one may think. They keys ate to keep an open mind, listen, and educate yourself.
Learn More About the Lehigh Valley Transgender Community
Would you like to write for our transgender blog or learn more about our support group for transgender people in the Lehigh Valley and eastern Pennsylvania? If so, please contact Lehigh Valley Renaissance or better yet join us at one of our monthly meeting!
Note: The views expressed in this post are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by Lehigh Valley Renaissance.