A 10 STEP GUIDE TO SURVIVING YOUR CHILD TELLING YOU THEY ARE A BOY (or a GIRL – whatever you have been thinking all along that they aren’t.)


1. It is bone crushingly hard, at first. When your child first tells you, your head will spin, your heart will ache and you will feel overwhelmed. You will realize that you have absolutely no idea what to do. You will feel a tsunami of responsibility. You will be scared out of your mind for them.  Know you are not alone in this and that it will ease.

2. There may or may not be a lot of crying on your part. There was for me. I did it in the shower and put on a brave face for my kid. This is an okay part of the process. Don’t beat yourself up. Your world has been rocked and you deserve many good cries.

3. Acknowledge the courage of your child, and believe them. They were incredibly brave to offer you this most important part of themselves. Hold it, nurture it and honor it. They’ve given you something big and are trusting you with it.

4. Acknowledge your own grief. It feels like you are losing a daughter (or a son) and even though they are still right in front of you, you are allowed to grieve them. It is different and it is hard to let go of the story that you told yourself from day one. We all tell ourselves those stories, no matter how gender-evolved we are. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself time to edit and re-write.

5. Reach out for support. Talk to your pediatrician, your therapist. Google. Find blogs, support groups, information. Email bloggers. You will find someone to connect with who has travelled a similar road. It feels awesome to talk to someone who gets it. Help is out there.

6. When people act like they totally relate because every child has their issues, try your best not to haul off and clock them.

7. When people act like they love you and your kid for exactly who you are, treasure them. If they are just willing to listen and let you wonder and wish and worry and cry, keep them close. They are true and you will need them.

8. There are times when you are going to feel completely lost. This is unchartered territory. We are pioneers. Remember to let the love of your child be your compass. That will guide you.

9. It helps to look at your child and remember that that person will still be there. This is a physical exercise; actually do it. If tomorrow you are calling your child by a different pronoun, it is still the same human being who will bug you and thrill you in all the same ways. There will be many changes, but the essence of your kid, the truth of the matter, will still be there. In fact, that essence will be more fully actualized.

10. This is first and foremost their story. They get to drive this one. Figuring out who they are is not your job. Your job is to get them support, get yourself support, and love them. Your job is to make their home an unshakeable arena of love and security. Your job is to pave the way and make sure the road is as safe as it can be, but it’s their feet on the path. Let them walk it.

8 thoughts on “A 10 STEP GUIDE TO SURVIVING YOUR CHILD TELLING YOU THEY ARE A BOY (or a GIRL – whatever you have been thinking all along that they aren’t.)

  1. Thank you. We are just getting started on this journey. Although I don’t actually feel like I’m losing a son (maybe I’m just in denial), it is bone-crushingly hard. And my child is fond of tsunamis. And earthquakes and volcanoes. Maybe that’s what it’s been feeling like all along for her.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Newbie. It’s hard to know exactly how it feels for these kids, isn’t it? I just really admire their courage and honesty. Good luck as you navigate and stay in touch.

    1. This article explains exactly how I feel. My daughter is 13 and I have always considered us close, I was completely blindsided when she said feels like she is a boy on the inside. We never had any indicators when she was younger. She dressed girly and played with girl toys. I have always held liberal world views and have raised my children to have the same. I actually just had a full crying session with my husband, telling him I feel like the daughter I’ve loved and tried to guide is gone, and I’m devastated. I hate my personal pity party, but the pain is deeper than I could have imagined. I’m scared for her, I miss the old her (she hasn’t been asked to be called him yet, says she knows she is a girl, but will now be dressing like a boy and has cut her hair short)…And I hope to get ahead of my emotions soon.

      1. Hi Also a Newbie, I think just about every mom who has faced that moment can relate to your devastation. I know I can. It is really hard to let go of those stories that you start writing from the moment you hear “it’s a girl.” You don’t even know you are doing it! That love for her that you have will dig you out of the darkness, but it may take some time. Let yourself process it and trust her. It will get better. Hang in there and stay in touch.

  3. My 13 yr old granddaughter who has always been a tomboy informed us she is a boy inside. Her mother died when she was 6 yrs old and her father is in prison, she never met him. She was raised up until 2 mos ago by her grandfather who is a narcissist and who NEVER disciplined her or created boundaries etc… she was allowed to play video games 24/7 when not at school. She was never required to do chores and he did not interact with her very much at all. When she talks to me about being a boy, I do not judge, just try and help her sort out her feelings. She gets VERY emotional and cries and claws at herself screaming WHYYYY do I have to feel this way??? I had her assessed for counseling 2 weeks ago and am just waiting to be assigned a counselor for her (insurance issue). Is it normal for her to get hysterical because she feels like she is a boy? I feel so bad for her and whatever she decides to do is OK with us… I just am ill equipped to know what to do.

  4. grama, it sounds like you have a lot on your hands. The counselor for your granddaughter will be helpful to you in assessing her. I think you have the right idea in just loving her and following her lead. Reach out for help as much as you can. She seems to have had a tough life and is dealing with a lot, so your support is the best thing for her. Hang in there.

  5. My oldest “daughter” has been talking for a while now about being “gender fluid” and pansexual. Recently she asked me to try not to use gender specific pronouns. All of this is difficult for me. In my mind & heart, she is my little girl. I feel like I have failed her, but I know that this has nothing to do with me specifically. I find myself wondering if our now tolerant of everything culture has played a role in it and I do believe that in part, that is the case. I suppose that one of my concerns is due to my religious beliefs. This same child once professed to be a Christian, but is now also stating that she is an Atheist. How does that happen???? I was harsh with her a couple of days ago & this article was suggested to me by a friend. We have managed to talk more about it now that I have moved passed being so hurt. I am still hurt, but it is easing. Any words of advice?

    1. Hi Unsure,

      I’m sorry that I have been away from my blog for so long. I hear you – these things are so hard as parents. They unsettle a world view that we never questioned before. I can only say what works for us – love you child, listen to them. The best way to protect them is to give them support. I hope that you and your child are well.

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