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My oldest child (17) told us that he has been struggling with finding his "presentation" and he "thinks" the answer is that she's a woman. Oldest is searching for the right female name and wants to change her name in time for senior year.

We are lucky to have a children's hospital close by that has a specialty gender clinic and I called the next morning and got the ball rolling there. Oldest will have access to expert counseling as well as medical treatment should that be the route of the future.

However, despite trying to be supportive of his/her gender dysphoria, I may have put a foot wrong. While doing more research, I found that there are more flavors of gender and queerness than I ever thought possible. Because I don't want the full gender change (feels like a rejection of the past 17 years of our family life), I suggested that s/he look into being genderqueer or transfeminine. It's the odd wording that s/he used that makes me think these are valid possibilities. S/he's more concerned with "presentation" and didn't at all mention being uncomfortable without breasts or uncomfortable with his current private parts. I keep rationalizing, but I wonder if I accidentally hurt his/her feelings and shouldn't throw out these ideas again just because they suit me better and s/he may not have considered them before.

S/he seems okay this morning. We had a positive exchange and late last night, s/he even cleaned and left the coffee press and coffee cups out for his/her father and me.

Question: Is it okay to bring up the alternatives of genderqueer and transfeminine in slightly greater depth and discuss them as real alternatives or should I just keep avoiding names and pronouns and leave the fine-grained gendering discussion to the experts at the hospital?

ETA: We're a few weeks out now and it's still hard for us in some ways, but it's getting better faster than I imagined it would. Every time I take a step toward getting her name used and officially changed and setting appointments with doctors and counselors, the genuine sincerity of her thanks and appreciation have helped reaffirm for me that she's doing the right thing for herself.

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    Why is "thinks" in quotation marks? Not an answer, but I almost never see he/she, s/he, his/her anymore. Most commonly, I see "they" for the pronoun. They is fine for the singular in English. (E.g. The student left school early because they had a doctor's appointment.) – anongoodnurse Jun 28 at 22:08
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    @anongoodnurse I see where it looks condescending to quote "thinks" but the point is that it was the literal word from Oldest's mouth. Not "knows" or "believes." I thought "think" was a little odd phrasing from Oldest, so I quoted it. – SnappingShrimp Jun 29 at 1:32
  • @anongoodnurse As far as "they" goes, Oldest has a non-binary friend and we they/them/theirs that young person. It seems odd to use when Oldest is not feeling non-binary but on the contrary, quite binary. The stiltedness of s/he his/her for me reflects the awkward gender dichotomy we're struggling to be open to. Feel free to edit if you think it takes away from the question. – SnappingShrimp Jun 29 at 1:35
  • Thanks for clarifying the quotation marks. As to "they", we use it for binary/non-binary/anyone-and-everyone when we are not being specific. – anongoodnurse Jun 29 at 1:58
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    I think it's important that your child have all of the facts before doing anything permanent, but do not do not make your child's transition about you and what you want. Because you're not transgender yourself, you may not really fully understand why surgery is needed or not needed. Please do not impress your own opinion on your child. Some queer people get surgery and still identify as genderqueer. – jcmack Jul 3 at 21:42
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Not all trans people get all the surgeries, and none of them get them all at once. Your child is choosing a presentation and a name that align with their internal awareness. They may ask for hormone treatment so that the effects of puberty are mitigated. They may never elect for any surgeries ever, but if they do, many trans women feel that adam's apple reduction and laser hair removal are far more important than bottom surgery. Voice training is also super important.

Today, you don't want the full gender change. That's cool. Call your child by the name they want to be called, and use their pronouns, and run interference if family members, neighbours etc resist the change. Help them get new clothes and help them get institutions like schools to support the new normal. After a while it will be clear that even the full gender change will not be a rejection of those 17 years together. Your child will still have the same sense of humour, taste in music, favourite foods, in-jokes, treasured holiday locations and so on as always. You can follow your child's lead in this and be supportive without feeling that you were wrong to raise your child as a boy, since that's the information you had at birth.

Your child is lucky to have supportive parents, and if the worst experience ever is that on Day 1 someone said "are you sure you need to go 100% all the way, you might just be genderqueer?" then that is going to be a pretty great transition. Smile, be glad you're someone who is trusted to be along on the journey, and gather your strength for protecting your child from a world that won't all be as nice.

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    Thank you. This made me cry tears of relief and happiness. You make me feel like this is all going to be okay in the end. – SnappingShrimp Jul 2 at 21:58
  • "are you sure you need to go 100% all the way, you might just be genderqueer?" I don't actually think this question is wonderful. Imagine asking a straight person if they're sure they're straight OR if a gay person is truly gay or if they're just a little bisexual. Give the child all of the love you have and make sure they speak with medical professionals about all of the facts. – jcmack Jul 3 at 21:45
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    @jcmack no, it's not wonderful. What would be wonderful is if that's the worst part of this for everyone. Because to be fair, any child going through this is going to face some hard hard days, and so are their parents. – Chrys Jul 5 at 17:49
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    Wanted to follow up and let you know that my new daughter was very excited about the prospect of voice training and she's got an evaluation by a transgender specialist next week. I appreciate you mentioning it in your answer because otherwise it would have been a support service that I never would have thought to look for. It's spendy, but I think in the long haul it will be a very big building block in her identity, as she came out at 17, when puberty had already affected her voice and pushed it firmly into a male register. – SnappingShrimp Aug 2 at 15:47
  • thankyou so much for telling me that! – Chrys Aug 4 at 1:30
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I am an adult trans woman and a mom. I love Chrys's answer and your supportiveness, but I just wanted to provide a little more insight here.

Is it okay to encourage [...] genderqueer and transfeminine as alternatives to transgender?

Transgender identity is inclusive of genderqueer and transfeminine individuals, so it is important not to contrast these with each other. Perhaps you meant as alternatives to identifying as a binary trans woman? In any case, the difference between these identities should not be defined by what physical changes a person chooses for themselves, but by how they feel internally. It is certainly great for your teen to be aware of all the different possibilities, but I want you to understand that at the end of the day if your teen identifies as a woman but doesn't want to change some physical features that is ok.

My oldest child (17) told us that he has been struggling with finding his "presentation" and he "thinks" the answer is that she's a woman.

While there is likely lots of questioning going on, I would discourage placing too much weight on your child's choice of the word "thinks". Your child may have trouble expressing certainty because of the fear of what kind of responses she may receive (i.e. "Are you sure you're a woman? You don't do X."). One of my biggest fears when I first started trying to express my gender identity was that cis women (even liberal, accepting ones) would feel I was claiming an identity that I didn't really represent. For now, from what I gather, it seems your child has chosen she/her pronouns. That could change, and that's ok, but you should use what your child currently feels like. For that reason, I'm going to refer to her that way through the rest of my answer. In case it's not clear, this is why I'm gathering she's currently chosen she/her: "the answer is that she's a woman" and "Oldest is searching for the right female name and wants to change her name in time for senior year".

We are lucky to have a children's hospital close by that has a specialty gender clinic and I called the next morning and got the ball rolling there. Oldest will have access to expert counseling as well as medical treatment should that be the route of the future.

That's fantastic! And your daughter is so blessed to have a mother willing to do this for her. I would also encourage you to get counseling as well, if you haven't already, because it can help you process some of these worries openly before you decide whether/how to approach your daughter about them.

Because I don't want the full gender change (feels like a rejection of the past 17 years of our family life), I suggested that s/he look into being genderqueer or transfeminine.

This is the area of biggest concern to me, and why I would strongly urge you to consider counseling as well. While it is perfectly normal for you to experience feelings of fear/rejection/loss over these types of changes, the way you respond to your daughter will have a huge impact on her well-being. If your daughter does feel the need for hormones/surgeries (there are many options and whether they are needed depends entirely on how your daughter feels), then your expressed reluctance may make it harder for her to accept or communicate to you. She may not know or want them right now, and that is fine, but you should be careful about discouraging her from them. If there are concerns about timing, that is something you should definitely bring up with the therapist.

should I just keep avoiding names and pronouns

Chrys already covered this pretty well, but you should use whatever name and pronouns your daughter is comfortable with in the moment. You don't have to wait for a legal name change to start using the new name. However, if there are people she is not out to, you should have a discussion with her about how to handle referring to her around them.

Bottom-line: Chrys is absolutely right that no matter what bumps in the road there are, you are on the right path! I just love the way she finished her answer:

Your child is lucky to have supportive parents, and if the worst experience ever is that on Day 1 someone said "are you sure you need to go 100% all the way, you might just be genderqueer?" then that is going to be a pretty great transition. Smile, be glad you're someone who is trusted to be along on the journey, and gather your strength for protecting your child from a world that won't all be as nice.

Thank you for reaching out for help! I love that you care so much about your daughter to consider all these factors!

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    I feel like this answer is better than Chrys' just because it's important to call out that OP doesn't want their kid to do surgeries. Frankly it isn't about what the op wants, but about what's right for the child. – jcmack Jul 3 at 21:37
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    @jcmack Husband and I are still in the early stages of accepting the change. She doesn't make it easy as when she shops, she buys from both ends of the gender spectrum which is fine, she needs to wear what she likes, but it leaves us confused and uncertain. Counseling is definitely in order for Husband and me. I'm hoping the Children's Hospital with have either a support group for parents and/or a referral for counselors who are experienced with our situation. I don't want to go to someone who's winging it. – SnappingShrimp Jul 4 at 22:11
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    @SnappingShrimp I'm glad you're making an effort to support your child. I wish all parents of queer children could make that effort. Having a child who's on the gender spectrum will really challenge your conceptions of gender. For instance, it's more of a restriction that we as a society impose that females shop in the female department and males shop in the male department. But clothing really isn't gender-specific (you could argue some are body part specific like bras and jock straps). It's just important to be supportive and understanding while your child explore their identity. – jcmack Jul 5 at 3:04

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