Family Support for Transgender People is Key

In a society where transgender people are still judged and rejected in a multitude of situations, family support is essential to combat stigma.
Family Support for Transgender People is Key
Montse Armero

Written and verified by the psychologist Montse Armero.

Last update: 28 June, 2022

Even in the 21st century, transgender people still face a great deal of discriminatory behavior and comments. In fact, the likelihood that they will encounter social obstacles is very high, especially given the lack of normalization of their condition.

For that reason, and as you will see in this article, community support is especially important to improve their current living conditions. In particular, emotional support from the family seems to be decisive.

Who are we talking about when we say “transgender people”?

According to the American Psychological Association, transgender is an umbrella term that defines people whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that generally associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. The opposite concept is cisgender, which refers to people whose gender identity does match the sex they were assigned at birth.

Similarly, there are many other people who don’t identify with either label and feel more comfortable within a fluid gender, bigender, intergender, or genderless laber, for example.

It’s important to remember that gender identity isn’t related to sexual orientation. Thus, a transgender person may be heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, asexual, or not want to define themselves under those labels.

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The most common discriminatory situations

According to the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Since we’re all endowed with reason and conscience, we should behave fraternally. However, the reality is different and is full of situations in which people don’t truly respect each other.

Transgender people are marginalized in many areas. For example, at the labor level, they suffer from very marked discrimination. Unemployment of this group in Spain, for example, is around 80%; and in some countries, it’s close to 90%. This places them at a greater risk of poverty because they don’t have the same opportunities.

And that’s not to talk about occupying relevant positions within private companies or public offices. However, employment is not the only area in which they encounter greater difficulties.

A large number of transgender people have been assaulted at some point in their lives. They also suffer from discrimination in primary care or when looking to rent housing. Even their own home environment is often the most judgmental and discriminatory.

Discriminación por ser transgénero.
Discrimination against transgender people leads to unemployment, poverty, and vulnerability.

Family support is key for transgender people

Adolescence is a stage full of very important changes and in which many people have a greater awareness of their gender identity. The reasons for this are varied and range from external changes, such as a more adult relationship with their peer and to the physiological changes that occur and that highlight secondary sexual characteristics.

This can be an added stressor for many adolescents, since their gender identity and the one expected by the environment don’t necessarily coincide. This can make self-acceptance very difficult. That situation can be very distressing if we add explicit external rejection.

According to some research, transgender adolescents are more vulnerable to psychopathologies such as depression, anxiety, substance use, and suicidal ideation and behaviors (Toomey et al., 2018).

However, these figures are reduced when the transgender person feels accepted and supported by his or her family. Therefore, the role of those closest to them is essential.

This is determined by one of the conclusions of a Stanford University study (Hale et al., 2021). According to the authors, transgender adolescents’ perception of how their parents support them is a key factor in their mental health.

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How can their families support transgender people?

When the young people in the Stanford University study were asked which actions of their parents they felt showed the most support, they responded that they felt most valued when they were called by their chosen name and pronoun. While these may seem like simple things, for them, they were the most important factors of feeling good at home.

In contrast, when parents were asked the question, they felt that taking their children to a gender clinic and providing them with resources could help them the most.

In addition to the different viewpoints, it’s noteworthy that the youth rated their parents as more supportive than the parents felt about themselves. It was as if they felt they weren’t doing enough. In contrast, teens thought their parents were being very generous.

Clearly, the findings of the Stanford study need not match the individual feeling of other transgender children, youth, or adults. However, knowing that family support is critical to good mental health, this is a piece of information to keep in mind in order to make family interaction as respectful, welcoming, and loving as possible.

Terapia familiar con un niño transgénero.

Family support for transgender people should be the norm

Being judged and rejected by a significant part of the population is not an easy situation to deal with emotionally. It’s not easy for anyone, and even less so for those who experience discrimination frequently, as is the case of transgender people.

It’s true that today, progress is slowly being made and that this is a group that’s becoming more and more visible, but we still have a long way to go as a society so that transgender people don’t suffer from any kind of discrimination.

For this reason, it’s essential that families, the fundamental support for children, are aware of the important role they play in helping a young person to live their gender identity in the healthiest and most natural way possible.

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  • Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos. [fecha de consulta 24 de mayo de 2022]. Recuperado de https://www.un.org/es/documents/udhr/UDHR_booklet_SP_web.pdf
  • Hale, A., Chertow, S.Y., Weng, Y., Tabuenca, A. and Aye, T. (2021). Perceptions of Support Among Transgender and Gender-Expansive Adolescents and Their Parents. Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 68 (6): 1075-1081. [fecha de consulta 24 de mayo de 2022]. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.11.021
  • Su, D., Irwin, J., Fisher, C., Ramos, A., Kelley, M., Rogel, D.A.  y Coleman, J.D. (2016). Mental Health Disparities Within the LGBT Population: A Comparison Between Transgender and Nontransgender Individuals. Transgender Health, Vol. 1 (1): 12-20. [fecha de consulta 24 de mayo de 2022]. doi: http://doi.org/10.1089/trgh.2015.0001
  • Toomey, R. B.,  Syvertsen, A.K. and Shramko, M. (2018). Transgender Adolescent Suicide Behavior. Pediatric, Vol. 142 (4). [fecha de consulta 24 de mayo de 2022]. doi: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-4218

The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.