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  • Oct 27, 2021

Parenting a Child in Transition

A CHA family shares their journey with their transgender son

CHA employee Matt and his wife Sarah were stunned in January when their 12-year-old daughter Teagan told them she was transgender; she wanted to be identified as a boy and use he/him pronouns. While the announcement came as a surprise, Matt and Sarah knew they had to support their son in his transition, regardless of their feelings. They were still processing when their son’s school psychologist contacted them about his request for a name change to Kylo. "We struggled with acceptance," Matt said. "We were pulled along by his transition and it took some time to accept his wishes, retraining our brains to use his new name and overcoming 12 years of using the one we had chosen for our daughter. We felt lost."

The adaptations continued. They had a son, not a daughter. Along with a new name and different pronouns came a different style of clothing, hair, and room decor. Everything felt different. When Kylo came out, Matt didn’t know anyone who was transgender. His wife had met several transgender people through her line of work, but they never considered for a moment that their child would be transgender. They faced a steep learning curve.

Kylo Portrait
Portrait of Kylo

To better educate themselves, Matt and Sarah joined a monthly online support group for parents of transgender children. "We discovered a new community where we shared similar emotions and concerns," Matt said. "Supporting each other through what can be a difficult process for many allowed us to feel less alone. There are parents of transgender kids as young as four and as old as 40, providing us with a wide range of perspectives."

While Kylo’s school was eager to assist the family, many people were not as accommodating. Their biggest challenge was notifying friends, family and co-workers about their son’s transition, after which some pulled away. Matt explained, "We experienced complete opposite ends of the spectrum from family members. Some are going out of their way to ask us if we need anything and sending positive literature. Others are not accepting our son's transition and have been very vocal about it."

Matt says that Kylo’s transition came with challenges for the whole family, but the greatest reward was seeing his son live his true identity. The most important lesson he learned from Kylo’s journey? "Acceptance. Loving our child. The person you knew before they came out as transgender is still present, they just look a bit different."

Matt came forward to tell his story because of the high suicide rates for LGBTQ youth. While he can’t change everyone’s minds, he continues to do his best to speak up and educate others. For parents of transgender children, he recommends, "Be patient with the process. There are a lot of ups and downs. It's not overnight. It's ever-changing, especially when your child is young (dealing with puberty in addition to being transgender). Love your child unconditionally."

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