Support from parents and families gives children the best chance for health and well-being
What is congruence?
When a person changes outwardly from one gender to another and lives in accordance with their gender identity, it is often called going through transition, or transitioning. But this term can be misleading as it implies that the person’s gender identity is changing and that there is a moment in time when this takes place. More typically, it is others’ understanding of the person’s gender that shifts. What people see as a “transition” is actually an alignment in one or more dimensions of the individual’s gender as they seek congruence across those dimensions. A transition is taking place, but it is often other people (parents and other family members, support professionals, employers, or others.) who are transitioning in how they see the individual’s gender, and not the individual themself. For the individual, these changes are often less of a transition and more of an evolution. Read more about congruence in “Understanding Gender.”
Is my child ready?
Congruence can occur in two ways: socially through changes in clothing, hairstyle, name and/or pronouns, and medically through the use of medicines and/or surgeries to promote gender based body changes.
There is no rule of thumb for when a transgender child should undertake social or medical steps to congruence. There usually comes a time when your child’s discomfort or suffering is so obvious that despite your concerns, it is critical for them to live in the world as they choose. But how do you know when that is? How long after they tell you about their desire should you wait to allow them this form of expression?
In making this decision, two concerns typically rise to the surface: “Will my child be safe if I let them do this?” and “Wouldn’t it be better just to make them wait?” The most useful way to answer these questions is to first evaluate whether your child currently feels safe and satisfied, or if instead they are suffering. If your child is suffering it is important to weigh the potential dangers that await them if they were to take social or medical steps, compared to the dangers associated with their current depression. What is clear is that children who receive the support of their families have the best outcomes in terms of their future health and well-being.