Every teenager navigates a maze of schoolwork, family, relationships and emotions. Transgender teens face the added challenge of trying to match how they feel inside with how they look outside. After a childhood spent feeling like they are in the wrong body, some transgender people decide to disclose their gender identity in adolescence. Transgender teens need to decide how to express their identity, in whom to confide and how they will navigate the world as the other gender.
A teen who believes she was born in the wrong body can feel confused and alone and may be afraid to share her feelings with you. Once she commits to a transgender identity, she may want to change her name and be called "he" instead of "she." She may be conflicted about which public bathroom to use or which gender to check on her college application. Parental support and acceptance is critical as transgender teens explore their identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Helping your teen find a support group and a therapist who specializes in gender issues can ease her way during this challenging time.
While some transgender people choose to keep their gender identity private, many choose to live publicly as the other gender. Teens who transition publicly may begin with "social" transition. Changing a name, wardrobe and hairstyle are public, yet impermanent, ways of announcing a new gender identity.
Some transgender teens will want to transition medically, to permanently transform their anatomy to match their identity. Hormone treatments and surgery can be used to change a teen's physical appearance. Medical transitioning can be extremely costly and take years to complete.
Whether teens choose to hide or disclose their gender identity, they face consequences, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Teens who keep their identity a secret and lead "stealth" lives may feel the stress of being unable to relax and be themselves. They may feel they are lying to family and friends. Teens who choose to disclose themselves as transgender may be relieved to have honest conversations with close friends and family. However, not everyone understands or is comfortable with the concept of being transgender. Teens risk rejection and the possibility that some relationships will change after their disclosure.
Being transgender is not a type of sexual orientation. Transgender describes a teen's relationship to her birth gender, or her gender identity. It does not express an attraction to people of the same sex, or a sexual orientation. Transgender teens can be straight, gay or bisexual, according to child development experts at the Kids Health website.
Unfortunately, transgender teens commonly face misunderstanding, discrimination, harassment and even violence. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths are at high risk of attempting suicide, and 92 percent of LGBT teens say they are aware of disapproval and negative attitudes about their gender identity, according to a 2012 survey by Human Rights Campaign. On high school campuses, bullies often target anyone who is different. A supportive family and clear communication with school administrators can help prevent your transgender teen from becoming a victim of bullying.
- Lambda Legal: LGBTQ Risk Data
- National Center for Transgender Equality
- Human Rights Campaign Foundation: Transgender Visibility; A Guide to Being You
- Kids Health: Transgender People For Teens
- Kids Health: Sexual Attraction and Orientation
- Kids Health: Transgender People For Parents
- Kids Health: Supporting LGBT Kids
- Photo Credit Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images