My girlfriend's 14 year old daughter came out to me as a girl on a bike ride when her mother wasn't there. I fully accept her and gladly refer to her by her chosen name ('Emily' for the purposes of this question) and pronouns. Emily told me she hadn't told her mother yet and she felt more comfortable telling me first. Overall, we have conflict-free, loving, pretty great relationship. She told me not to tell her mother and of course I agreed.

The bike ride was on 9/11, and Emily finally came out to her mother on Friday night (5 days ago). I don't know what exactly happened, I got home late from work and they were in a heated argument, but it ended with Emily going to her room and refusing to come out.

Later that night, my girlfriend referred to her own child as a "degenerate". She's mentioned "sending him to a camp" and "disowning him". She has made other similar comments as well as creating an unsupportive environment by misgendering Emily and referring to her by her former name at every opportunity. She's become even more strict about Emily's clothing, hair, accessories, etc. I would have understood if she were shocked or in denial, if she thought it was a phase, etc. but to be honest, she might well bully her own child into suicide at this rate.

I have tried to talk to my girlfriend, she only responds that I am "taking his side" and "promoting that lifestyle". I tried everything from telling her about the high suicide rates among trans teens, I showed her studies on how trans teens start doing so much better (in terms of mental health, in school, etc) once they start treatment 1, and others but she is not budging. There is the added issue that Emily is not my kid, so my girlfriend feels I have no say (and to an extent, I agree).

My question is, how do I best protect Emily not only from bullies outside the home, but from the bullying she's experiencing from my girlfriend? I don't want to get between Emily and her mother. Emily's father passed away before she was a year old, so her mother is her only surviving parent.

Also, if it's relevant, Emily is the only child in the home - I don't have any children and she's my GF's only child. They moved in with me about a year ago, we've been together for 3 years.

Second question: My girlfriend's talk of disowning or sending Emily to a horrific "conversion" camp has me wondering if I should be taking steps to become Emily's legal guardian (if she agrees). How do I discuss this with her and what are the benefits of legal guardianship in this situation?

1 Emily told me she wants to see a doctor about getting on testosterone blockers. She'll be able to get counseling as well, since extensive counseling is a given when considering transition. The trans-friendly clinics/hospitals in our area have mental health professionals on staff and require their patients to undergo counseling before and during transition.

  • 14
    @the_lotus I was not surprised at all tbh. I left out the signs I'd noticed for the sake of brevity. But she would cry and sink into despair over "little things" like my GF forcing her to get haircuts and wear overtly masculine clothing, not letting her wear any jewelry (even the types of watches or chains common for men - which I wear!). I don't deny it can be a rebellion (common even among families with no "problems") or a phase, although I have no reason to think that. But that's why Emily will be going to therapy anyway.
    – Charlie
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 12:07
  • 11
    Do I misunderstand something -- how can OP be a step-parent if not married to the mother? OP's standing sounds (legally) precarious, should the girlfriend really dig in. Definitely need some outside help, even legal help, for Emily.
    – Jeff Y
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 20:26
  • 11
    @Jeff Y Right, I'm not married to Emily's mother, but we still refer to each other as step-parent/step-child. It's a social term, not a legal one. I didn't know it was illegal or legally precarious to date a single parent. If so, that's alarming. I'll consult with an attorney...
    – Charlie
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 20:43
  • 19
    @Charlie I meant "legally precarious" only if girlfriend desires to boot you out over the situation. I.e. she hold all the legal cards here. If you were married, it would be different. (I didn't mean there's any legal risk in dating a single parent by itself.)
    – Jeff Y
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 20:55
  • 11
    @Charlie Any updates?
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 17:05

10 Answers 10


How do I best protect Emily ... from the bullying she's experiencing from [her mother]?

You are in a tricky situation. It's very likely that you will lose your girlfriend and Emily over this issue if you do not somehow figure out how to support both parent and child. Given that you are not Emily's father, nor her mother's husband, you have absolutely no legal rights in this situation.

As such I believe you have two very difficult tasks.

First you need to make sure that mom feels safe and comfortable staying with you. If this argument escalates to the point where she believes she will lose control of her child's life, it's unlikely that she will choose you over her child. You understand your relationship better than I, so perhaps you can weigh the risks better, but pushing against mom might not actually help Emily. It may be that Emily's best chance is if you support mom in slowing down Emily's transition so that it can happen at all. Going slowly is better than Mom and Emily leaving and not having any support at all.

Second you need to support Emily and help her to see the advantage to moving more slowly. She may have been considering this for months or years, and she may be ready. It may be true that she shouldn't have to wait for others to become ready. But unlike abortion - where in some jurisdictions you can undergo a medical procedure without a parent's knowledge or permission - sexual transition therapy is not something that can be done by herself without her mother's knowledge and permission. Not legally at any rate. Further, she's only 14, and she's making a decision that will irreversibly change her life. While it's an important time to make the transition if that's the decision, it's equally important to make sure it's the right decision. So at this juncture it may be best to help her understand that she's got her whole life ahead of her, and she can go through this process more slowly. Jumping in all at once may not be in her best interest, given her mother's opposition.

If you can thread the needle, so to speak, you have a much better chance of being able to support Emily throughout this transition than you do if you actively oppose her mother's decisions for her child.

...should [I] be taking steps to become Emily's legal guardian...?

I don't think you have any real chance. If you can show real harm to Emily - as in the treatment of her mother fits the legal family court definition of child abuse - then you might have a possible chance, but you might also find that her mother shuts you out of the process legally and Emily instead ends up in foster care or with other relatives. In either case you lose influence in this situation.

If you have any desire to do anything legally you should consult with a good family law lawyer. It may well be that in some particular areas of the country courts and judges will be sympathetic to the plight of transgender teens and award guardianship to non relatives, but I wouldn't suggest this to either Emily or your girlfriend until you have spoken with a lawyer and understand the likelihood. If Emily knew you were pursuing this, she may get a false sense of hope, or tell her mother in the heat of argument. Once mom finds out you are even considering taking control of any part of Emily's life without mom's consent or approval I believe you will lose both.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 2:35
  • 3
    I have selected this as the best answer because I feel it did the best job of balancing the several factors/aspects involved in this complicated and tense interpersonal situation.
    – Charlie
    Commented Jun 3, 2017 at 23:16

You are clearly very loving and supportive of your step-child. This is a great gift you are giving to her.

However, it doesn't sound like you have that kind of a relationship with your girlfriend. Your girlfriend's child only came out to her 5 days ago. For 14 years, her child has been her son. She has imagined a life far into the future with and for her son. This is a great loss to her.

Finding out your child has a gender identity conflict is not an easy issue to deal with initially for most people. Periods of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression (not necessarily in that order, and of varying duration) are often part of the processing that precedes acceptance. You seem to think what your significant other is going through is unusual. It's not.

I would have understood if she were shocked or in denial, if she thought it was a phase, etc. but to be honest, she might well bully her own child into suicide at this rate.

It's been 5 days. Your significant other (SO) is not you, and she needs to process this the best way she can without your making her out to be a malignant parent. She needs your support (not agreement, but support) every bit as much as the child.

If you want to expedite the process, get her into therapy as soon as possible with a counselor who specializes in gender identity conflict. (It might not be a bad idea to look into a therapist and/or a support group for your step-daughter as well; the therapist could be the same one the mom has.) Find reading material in books or online. Be the calm in the storm. Model acceptance without force-feeding it to your SO. Five days is a bit soon to discuss obtaining legal custody, and I don't think that will be anything but gasoline on the fire right at this moment.

Surely your daughter was expecting some blow-back (she did ask you not to tell her mother.) Perhaps you can give her some credit, too, for being strong and resilient (I'm not there hearing the fights, but five days is just too soon to take rantings very seriously.)

I would suggest, again, more patience, support, and calmness in this situation with both individuals. If this continues without change or your daughter is showing signs of depression, then do become more pro-active.

Again, your support and love for your step-daughter is really great. She is lucky to have you in her life. Give her mom time to catch up in her own painful way. My sister in law took close to two years to accept her son as gay (and for a long time thought he was sinning and an abomination!) Luckily most of the family accepted this much sooner than she did. But they now have a very loving and supportive relationship.

I sincerely hope that your SO comes around much sooner than that.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 16:36

This is a fantastic question. You are wonderful for your level of consideration given a perplexing situation here.

The Problem: I used to be Emily. It's over 25 years later, and this thing just doesn't really go away.

At 14 you already knew at 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13, every day. Yes, Emily thinks about this at least as often as any teenage boy or girl thinks about sex or eating. If it's real, she thinks about it more than either you or your girlfriend and you are both extremely important people in her life.

It is intertwined with who you are, and, guess what the real curse is? Visions of alternate lives aside, it really shows up whenever you want to have a relationship with someone. So what you can hide all this in your normal life, you can't when you have a relationship! Because the other person can taste it. All your instincts are "backwards", and people hate you for it. It doesn't make any sense, but you can't escape it. Hours into years and reunions tick by and it's still there.

You're guilty whether you come out or not. People smell it. If you line a class up on a wall we all know that Jeff is more of a man than Charlie, Joe's weird, and Jeremy wouldn't know masculinity if it hit him in the face. Worse, people smell it on strangers 5 seconds in. It's instinctual.

And all the alpha males already smell it on Emily. She's locker-slamming bully bait. Emily doesn't have a safe alternative here. Transitioning isn't safe, it's just sometimes less dangerous. It replaces some of that 41%+ suicide rate with temporarily higher risks in other areas then probably lower ones later. Women who have been sexually assaulted, an acknowledged nightmare tragedy, have a 24% suicide rate. Meanwhile, this thing which Emily has a hard time explaining to people is probably the #1 reason she might die, likely to take her life long before any cancer or accident.

Sexual assault rates are worse, even for the racially privileged:

  • white cis male: ~6% (4-15%)
  • white cis female: ~20-25%
  • white trans male (FtM): 55%
  • white trans female (MtF): 68%

Your girlfriend's stance is dangerous for Emily, especially if Emily has access to a gun. If you do, hide it. Males succeed at suicide at far higher rates than females mostly due to readily available access to guns (often from former military service). This is a thing you need to be aware of now since reactions like your girlfriend's, combined with local bullying and gaslighting, are exactly why people with gender dysphoria kill themselves.

Acknowledgement, allies, and transition: The grand blessing of being able to actually be the gender you are inside is that your instincts come back. Instincts are what let you read meanings that are so potent they are unspoken. They tell you when there's going to be a fight, why, and how to handle a particular fight. They let you avoid and settle disagreements. Instincts keep you alive. We pretend we've grown past that, but no, normal privileged people have -- white males can fight "with honor" and talk to a cop without getting shot. Minorities and LGBT people are shot, knifed beaten to death every day.

Emily is that, whether she transitions or not. People, men and women, will call her a fag across the street, regardless of how she changes her life. They will smell that something isn't right with her, they will single her out, and punish her for it whether she alters her appearance or not. And chances are no "justice" would ever result. The conviction list for people who beat up on trans people is extremely short. The number of people who bully, marginalize, gaslight, mock, disparage, attack, assault, and outright murder trans or gender dysphoric people is a significant portion of society. Sure, aggressive alphas are a small fraction, 5-15%? but they vastly outnumber trans people at 0.6% and prove themselves by picking the seemingly weak, the outliers. Emily has outlier branded on her forehead whether she wears a dress or not.

Your girlfriend's world has a lot more safety, and many more knowns in her own life than Emily does. Emily is a minor. Emily is the underdog here, and she carries a horrible curse she never chose. She just woke up with it years ago. Yes, parts of it are indeed wondrous, but much of it is unfortunately difficult. Any God there is made her this way.

I grew up around fundamentalists. Jesus ate with thieves, reviled tax collectors, and prostitutes. At worst for kindness and compassion, Jesus would surely break bread with Emily, listen to her, understand her. Given that he preached turning the other cheek, and is shown with beatific eyes, and a peaceful demeanor, clad in a flowing tunic -- dude, future unwanted beard or not, Emily probably looks and acts more like he did than most people. Jesus preaches that you know a person by their actions. How is wearing a dress, caring, and expressing heartfelt emotions in an undudely way a sin when half the people on the planet do it every second of the day?

Gender makes up <2% of our physical body mass. Good gravy, for someone who really substantially wants the other side, is it really worth making them feel like trash over some hidden piece that isn't even public?

Going forward: Emily has different thoughts. Ask her the stories. I wish you all well, and that she, you, and your girlfriend have the chance to meet others who see the world her way. There are some amazing discoveries in there which not many people understand, and once you see them, it frees you in your own life and allows you to do and experience life in a different way, even without changing how you look or behave. It relates to the same deep emotions that are why we fall in love, experience beauty, strength, possibility and wonder. There are awesome things ahead. Transitioning is better younger. Given her age at 14 Emily will be noticeably anxious about irreversible change of puberty. Please, listen. It's a curse because most people don't accept it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have many unusual and amazing treasures. The important thing to do is see what is there and let those hidden things come out. Chances are the demons and the sharp things she's been tripping on in her subconscious will change in the light -- hey! Turns out that thing that's been slaughtering my shins at night in the dark is really a... harpoon gun? Wait, this creepy basement was really a Bat Cave the whole time? Woa! No wonder it was so dangerous.

I can't describe the moment of how powerful it is to feel the change, but Hollywood already has in many movies where the clumsy nobody turns into a superhero. You can't be a superhero in life, but you can be a woman*.

For some of us, it's basically same thing anyway. Even if, in practice, it means being a second class citizen who can be interrupted, belittled, underpaid, hit on, and pestered by men (and other women) in different ways every new day. Yay?

(*)with footnotes and sans reproduction, but done well, you really can convince most other people and have hardly anyone know, especially if you start young. At the end of the day it's hormones, acting, and making the best choices for how to deal with the particular pile of crap life dumped on your driveway. How is that evil?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 2:36


harsh answer, not because I don't support transgender people, but because of your position in the family and how you act in this situation

step-daughter ... my girlfriend

I assume you mean your girlfriends child, over whom you have no legal guardian status.

14 year old ... it ended with Emily going to her room and refusing to come out

The child is in her teenage years, in which it should not be a surprise that there are conflicts with the parents.

she only responds that I am "taking his side"

In the whole story it seems that is indeed pretty much what you do. You don't seem to give serious consideration to your girlfriends feelings at all.

telling her about the high suicide rates among trans teens

Instead of comforting her, you make the situation more extreme and push emotions to a higher level.

Emily is not my kid...moved in with me about a year ago

Exactly, so why do you think to know what is best for this kid, and presume to tell mom, who has known the child for her entire life.

wondering if I should be taking steps to become Emily's legal guardian

I hope you realize that this will not help the family, but destroy it.

I could go on a bit more, I hope that it is clear that it is clear that you may need to step back a bit and think about what you are doing.


What you should be doing is trying to protect the child, protect your girlfriend and protect the family as a whole.

If the child wants to change gender physically, now would literally be the worst time to do that. There is no stable family situation and emotions are running high. Do what you can to diffuse the situation, rather than just trying to push what the child wants onto her mother, make sure to help the mother and child to get together again.

And yes, that would in my book definitely mean NOT doing anything irreversible now. If mother and child manage to find eachother (or even if they don't) you can consider irreversible changes in half a year from now and nothing is lost, but if you do something now the family may be lost forever.

Things like using a male or female name are less irreversible. This does not mean that one name or the other should definitely be used, but that this can be something the child and parent can go back and forth over untill they find middle ground. Perhaps this would be a nice starting point.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 0:11
  • 1
    "If the child wants to change gender physically, now would literally be the worst time to do that." Do you know anything at all about transitioning? The longer you wait, the more difficult it is. Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 16:04

Most of what you should be doing is talking the mother down. Help her realize that while this is a shock and unexpected, it's far from the worst-case a parent can go through (her child is healthy and has a long life expectancy still). Look into PFLAG or other organizations in your area that are set up for parents of LBGT kids (http://www.hrc.org/resources/transgender-children-and-youth-finding-support-for-you-and-your-family). It may help her if she can connect with other parents who have gone through what she's going through. Even a lot of LGBT-rights supporting parents have less-than-stellar reactions when their own kids come out.

You can't protect Emily from all bullying and abuse she will face as a transgendered youth. What you can do is help her get tools to effectively cope with it. I strongly recommend you see if she can go to a trans-friendly therapist and/or a youth LGBT group.

  • 2
    @Davor - Gender dysphoria is a condition, most trans* and their allies don't like it being called an illness these days. I meant to compare it to something like Multiple Scoliosis or cancer. Something debilitating or terminal with few options.
    – McCann
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 16:20

Sometimes this site can be very liberal. It makes me afraid to post an answer like this, but here we go anyway.

You have two serious problems. None of which are your step-son/daughter. The first is you. You accept this behavior, your allow for it. You're supportive of it. Now that doesn't normally sound like a bad thing, but it can be. Especially when the parent is not. It's his mother's call, rather the family unit supports Emily in this or not. And clearly, the mother does not. Let me be clear here. To the mother, the son is talking about self mutilation, destroying their body, causing massive self harm, and going down a path that will make them an "outsider" in almost every situation. And you, her boyfriend, are coming off like, "sure let me go find a chain saw and we'll get started".

Now to be fair, as an outsider, I know that's not exactly what your doing. But your girlfriend has a set of values, that Emily is deciding to break. And rather than support your girlfriends values, you're "siding against her." That is a very bad thing. You should support your girlfriend, even if you disagree, and then try to change her opinion privately. This is difficult.

Second problem is that your acting as pseudo-dad. When parents in a traditional family setting decide to have kids, they put up a unified front. They discuss their values, ideals, what they wish to pass on and even impose on their children. You are not a parent. You have not done the parent things. You haven't bought the ring and gotten married, nor have you filled out the paper work and adopted the child. You are "boyfriend" and you need to remember that. I know that can seem harsh. But you haven't made that commitment yet. You could, decide, tomorrow, to vanish, and that would be that. End of your responsibility. Now I go into all of that, because here the mother's value system wins. You do not get a vote.

If the mother feels that this path is an abomination to God, and makes her son a degenerate, and is the worse damn thing in the world, and would rather see her son miserable then become her daughter, then she is right. You may not agree, I may not agree, but it's the mother's call. You need to support her (the mother) in this.

Now, starts the "what you can do" phase. First, ALWAYS support the mom. She's the parent not you. It can be hard to do when you care about someone, but if the mom wants to send her to some "horrible camp" then you should go pick up brochures. That being said, in private, you can try to talk to your girlfriend, and while still being supportive, get her to understand your point of view. Pick small battles. Try to lesson the impact. But always be supportive.

For example. Hey, I know you want to send him to camp for this, but I think it's a bit more serious than that. I don't think those kinds of camps are going to work at this point. Why don't we get him to talk with a shrink that specializes in gender identity issues. Then we can see how far this really goes.

Then you can find counseling that fits the situation. Some counselors will try to talk Emily out of it, some will try to help her down the path. Again back up mommy on this one. Any counselor is better then a camp situation.

Refer to Emily as He, and use his name. Explain that until the "job is done", he is still a boy. And he is expected to act/dress like one. Explain that it's his mother wish that he do so. Try to emphasize that this undertaking is a long and hard process that will take several decades. It's not an afternoon under the knife and some pills. Try to explain that in order to really judge if he should make this kind of change he needs to be "in a good place" with himself first. He needs to accept that he is a he. And that he wants to change that fact. The counselors will likely tell him the same.

Most importantly, you need to take your girlfriends side. She shouldn't do abusive things like lock him in a closet or beat him with a stick. But so long as she is not being the technical definition of abusive, then you should support her, her ideals, her decisions, and her goals in this matter. Suggest therapy. Doesn't matter what kind, anything is better then nothing right now.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 10:05
  • 3
    @coteyr - I sympathise with your point there as far as gaining the support of the mother, but think phrasing it anything like that to the child would come across as an unsympathetic ultimatum to someone in a very vulnerable position. It is a difficult situation all around, and I know if I had found the courage at that age to come out I would find such a response as chopping away what little support I had; the results of that could easily have been far worse. In the UK my advice would be for the child to go directly to their Doctor independent of the parent(s).
    – Kickstart
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 13:50
  • Comments on this thread have already been moved to chat. Any more comments added that don't serve the stated function of comments as per SE policy will be removed. If you value what you have to say enough that you want it to stay, say it in chat or post it as an answer. Thanks. Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 0:04

A simple answer for "bullies outside the house" which applies for all bullied children: get them to a martial arts class. Personally I'd favour jiu jitsu, but pretty much anything will do the trick.

There's nothing bullies like more than someone who can't fight back. There are two elements to fighting back - one is mental, and the other is physical. Martial arts develops both. She doesn't have to be able to knock them out, she just has to be enough trouble that it isn't worth their while to physically abuse her, or at least it'll reduce the frequency of it. As someone who was profoundly physically, verbally and emotionally bullied from the day I started school to the day I left, I can testify personally to the before-and-after effects of my taekwondo lessons. The only thing I wish is that I'd done it earlier.

As a bonus, I can't see her mum objecting to her kid wanting to become a badass either. ;) From her POV, it probably looks more masculine. From Emily's POV, it's self-defence. There's no downside.

Of course this doesn't stop verbal and emotional abuse. As Emily and her peers grow up, that will become the predominant type of bullying, and there's really no good answer to that. But at least it's a start for the immediate physical threat.

This does depend on whether her peers are likely to bully her. In the UK at least, gay rights and other equal rights for minorities tends to be a "well, duh!" kind of thing for kids. If you're living in a strongly-religious community though, her peers are likely to take a lead from their families in the same way as your girlfriend has.

  • 4
    I strongly disagree. If you or your child are being bullied at school you need to get the school authorities on your side. Talk to the school, get their anti-bullying policy, and make them stick to it. Martial arts just teaches the bullies to use verbal violence until the victim loses it, at which point they can cry to teacher, and teacher has to punish the victim for being violent. Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 20:14
  • 12
    As much as I personally love martial arts, and would certainly recommend it to anyone, including Emily, in general, I don't think that's the primary tool needed to deal with what she is and will be going through. Paul's version of what martial arts teaches, to bullies, seems like a pretty cartoonish characterization, though, as well. Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 21:23
  • It really, really varies by the bullies. The bullies at my cousin's school responded to him fighting back by just ganging up on him. At the end of the day, there's a lot of complex factors involved. Martial arts can help provide self-esteem and confidence (and to some degree, survivability in violence, though many martial arts schools under-teach or mis-teach for the real thing [citation needed]), which shows in body language and mannerism after a point, which can help dissuade bullies as well - so I'm not saying it's valueless - just not sufficient on its own, and problematic in some cases.
    – mtraceur
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 4:39
  • 2
    @PaulJohnson Any competent teacher will recognise provocation. If teachers at your child's school are that incompetent, then relying on their anti-bullying policy is not just stupid but dangerous. And bullies will already be using verbal abuse.
    – Graham
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 10:54
  • 5
    @AndrewMattson I think we're coming from the same place. As you say, a key feature of martial arts training is being able to keep a lid on yourself. So verbal abuse is more likely to be something you can tune out - contrary to Paul's opinion, the victim is more likely to ride it out. But having some basic ability to defend yourself against physical assault is a key life skill, and the more likely you are to be assaulted, the more essential it is to have that in reserve.
    – Graham
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 15:47

Whatever else you may do, find a good trans-friendly therapist for your daughter to help her acquire tools to cope with the stressors in her life, being mindful that all therapy is family therapy and that there is no one who cannot benefit from therapy, especially in this case your GF and yourself. You likely have to foot the bill, GF may well be resistant and even put up roadblocks, but persevere. It may be one of the single most important things you can do. GF may be persuaded by imagining that this will "straighten her out", but a good therapist will only help your daughter better understand and accept who she is and how to be comfortable with that in the face of people who do not.

I would suggest a Art Therapist, but that's just because that's what I'm most familiar with and see many advantages over straight talk therapy, certainly with adolescents.


Your significant other built an image of the future for her only child and this image crushed to pieces. She is shocked.

She has to recover from that shock. The dream crushed 5 days ago, the recovery will take much more time.

Comfort her. Attempt to take them both to specialists, they both need a therapy to recover from the shock.

If you both support Emily, the problems from external people should last only during the transformation. After that you can change the school, where only the new identity will be known. If there are no signs that Emily is "different", there won't be reasons for a bully.


As I interpreted this:

Your girlfriend is obsessed with gender stereotypes and corresponding dress. Your stepchild thought that medical treatment would make her allowed to look how she wants, but that turned out to be a terrible idea as she's now dressed up even more strictly.

So how to move forward?

I don't see how trying to become her legal guardian is practically possible. If you go to the child protection service and say "My stepchild is forced to wear things she absolutely doesn't want to wear and it's literally driving her insane!", then they'll laugh at you squarely and throw you out. It's ridiculous of course, but that's just how they work; if it doesn't involve daily boxing or starvation, they couldn't care less.

So all you can do is try to make your girlfriend and your stepchild cool with each other again.

Explain to your stepchild that going through with any kind of medical treatment is a bad idea as it's counterproductive now - it has only made her mother even more upset - and pointless in the future - as by the time any serious treatment is allowed to start, she'll be legally independent of her mother and thus allowed to look however she wants in the first place, no treatment needed.

Explain to your girlfriend that she can't mold her child's mind - that if a child says "Yellow is my favorite colour!" but then you say "No, blue is the right color. Yellow is a scandalous color for you to like", and then you punish them when they show interest in yellow objects and break all of their yellow crayons and send them to a "favorite color conversion camp", and then they'll probably pretend their favorite colour is blue from then on, but they will still think yellow is nice and as soon as they are legally independent from you they will ignore your opinion on colours and prefer yellow again - and that while this is a ridiculous example, the same applies to clothing, hairstyles, etc. See how she reacts to such an analogy, ask what exactly is bothering her about her child's behavior, and try to work out a solution.

  • This. Given OP's post it gives me the impression that the mother involuntarily drove the child into wanting to change his gender by being so obsessed with gender norms that he feels he'd be better off if he were a girl. Or that this is a way to "punish"/"provoke" mum for her not allowing him to dress and act like he wants. That OP plays along with this without any hesitation isn't helping. Gender/Sex change isn't an issue to take lightly that you should decide on so quickly. It seems imperative that mum ultimately opens up about gender roles and her idea of normal behaviour. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 10:28
  • But just toppling her won't achieve that. The rebellion will either fail and leave deep wounds of that "battle" on both sides or somehow OP will succeed with some legal trickery to take the child from mum (unlikely) and break the family apart. So far it seems the child could be happy as a man if it weren't for the very restrictive environment, in a more liberal metropolitan environment he might be fine to dress more "shiny" as a guy. To that end soft pressure on the mum from a boyfriend that openly accepts a boy to behave/dress a bit "girlish" might slowly bring that change. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 10:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .