Support - It’s what we do best!
So, your child is transgender, gender diverse, or questioning their gender, and you feel you could do with some support?
If your child has just told you that they’re transgender, gender diverse, or gender-questioning and you don’t know what to do - remain calm, don’t panic, you’re already doing the right thing by looking for support. Just know that you and your child and family will get through this, and it’s going to be okay.
Immediately remind yourself that your child is still the exact same person that they were before you heard this news from them. They have just given you the gift of openness, and honesty. They have trusted you, and exposed themselves to you in a way that they haven’t before, so, the first and most important thing for you to do is to reassure your child that you love them, that you support them, and that you’re always there for them.
Strong family support is proven to be important to ensure good mental health outcomes for your child. So, even if you’re feeling utter turmoil inside you, that’s something you need to work out in a way that doesn’t make it your child’s responsibility to make you feel better.
Something to keep in mind is that nothing needs to happen immediately. Talk to your child about what they’d like to have happen. They might want to talk with you about a new name, new pronouns, wearing different clothes. Listen to them, and make sure they know you’re listening. Reassure them that you are right there with them on this journey.
We hope you’ll join us!
Back in 2015 a small group of parents, who were in a similar situation to where you find yourself now, formed a secret Facebook group so that parents and primary caregivers could support each other in working out how best to support our children in their journey as transgender or gender diverse. We also support those who have children who are questioning or exploring their gender identity .
As at the beginning of July 2019 the group has grown to include 365 parents, caregivers, and guardians of all ages, ethnicities, personal, and professional backgrounds. Our children range in age from two years old to adults in their 30s, and our group grows steadily month on month.
We use ‘transgender’ and ‘gender diverse’ as umbrella terms representing people whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth, acknowledging that some of our children, and people like them, may choose these terms, or others, to describe themselves. Some of our children are exploring their gender identity. We recognise a difference between this and gender expression – identity is about an inner sense of being, while expression focuses on outward appearances and perceptions, and it’s important to note that the two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.
Our group is entirely parent-led and receives no government support. We have connections and collaborate with New Zealand-based support groups such as Rainbow Youth, InsideOUT, ITANZ, Outline and Qtopia, with agencies such as the Human Rights Commission, and with many New Zealand health and mental health professionals and researchers working to improve the quality of health services for gender diverse people.
Through our group we facilitate families’ access to good quality information, research, contacts for support services and provide peer support. We also advocate for our families and our children where necessary, and we work to ensure that organisations that affect the lives of our children have policies that are affirming of their gender identity.
What unites us is a desire to do our best to support our children in their life journey - to support their natural development, and to ensure that their health, wellbeing and quality of life are maximised.
Membership of the Support Group
Membership is open to anyone who is a parent, primary caregiver, or guardian of a transgender or gender diverse child in New Zealand, including parents of children who are gender questioning or exploring their gender identity.
Children are defined as being of any age, although the group is most relevant for those whose children are under 25. This is not a group for allies, or for family members who aren’t the primary support person for the transgender child, although we can point you in the direction of support groups or services.
A key entry criteria for membership in the group is the clear intent to support the transgender or gender diverse child in their life journey. This means different things for different families, but at the heart is a need for demonstrated listening to and respect for the child, and their place in the family.
Working towards positive change!
Over time, the group has evolved to include a focus on advocacy or political involvement (managed through a separate group), along with linking to ‘real life’ groups of parents and families who get together in particular locations.
We’ve also developed links with other New Zealand organisations that are focused on supporting transgender people – this includes Gender Minorities Aotearoa and InsideOUT. We increasingly work with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission and other central and local government agencies to ensure that the rights and needs of our children are taken into account in government policy making.
This advocacy includes, but is not limited to:
Identifying and working on specific issues in NZ that require advocacy or ‘political’ work in the wider sense. That includes, for example, submitting on the government’s review of mental health services, and promoting the interests of our children in proposed reform of the births, deaths, marriages and relationships registration bill to allow for self declaration of gender. The main group is always made aware of specific work and has the opportunity to input into any material at commencement and before finalisation. Any submissions made in the name of the support group are made known to the group and are available for comment prior to finalising and submission.
Commenting on and engaging with ‘political’ posts from NZ and overseas, that may for example include posts from those opposed to transgender rights. The purpose of that engagement is to ensure we work through the arguments, and discuss how to respond to them.
There are a number of large international groups that you may be interested in. You can find these by asking on the main group. We can also help connect you to country specific groups if you are moving overseas.
Our group is for people who are living in New Zealand, because a lot of the conversation is about navigating life as the parent of a transgender child in this specific country. However, if you’re a member of the group and then move overseas, we aren’t going to ask you to leave.
For immediate email support, or to join our support group,
please email email@example.com stating which area of New Zealand you reside in.