Q: Dear Chuck, My 15-year-old has been on a journey of figuring out their gender and sexual identities for a few years, trying on different identities in a very normal and healthy way. They have now expressed that they are F to M trans and want to start hormone therapy. I am worried they will change their mind as they grow and learn more about themselves, as they have already changed their minds a few times. I want to respect them and support them, but I am afraid of making a mistake as the person who is supposed to take care of them. What do you recommend?
A: Thank you for bringing up this question. Being faced with uncertainty can be scary, and it’s okay not to know the answer right away. Exploring gender identity and sexual orientation is a lifelong journey. It is important to allow your child to do what feels right for them and makes them most comfortable in their body. Having open and honest conversations between you and your child will help them feel safe and supported by you. This will lead to higher levels of trust and more openness between the two of you.
Starting hormones is a process and can take time to get an appointment and referral information. Depending on the healthcare provider, they may require written documentation from mental health providers. In the meantime, research different types of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Your child taking hormones does not mean they will instantly see changes. As their body starts to adjust to the new hormones, they will know whether or not they like what is happening to their body and emotions. It is not uncommon for folks to try something and then continue to make changes to align their body with their identity. Part of the process may include exploring alternate options.
Often people may feel pressured to pick a label for simplicity. However, helping your child discover their identity is a process, and it is okay to explore different options and find what feels right.
It is vital to avoid an “I told you so” conversation regarding these more significant changes if your child does decide to start and stop hormones. It is also important to remember that transitions can look different depending on the individual. Not everyone chooses to take hormones, have surgery, or use alternative options to change appearances. Your child can start on a low dose of hormones and see how it feels. You want them to feel comfortable telling you if they want to stop HRT. If you don’t seem supportive, your child might feel stuck and not want to tell you they have changed their minds, increasing dysphoric feelings. If your child starts HRT, it is essential to have regular checkups with a health care provider to ensure the dosage is correct and that your child is experiencing the effects they want. Your child can always stop taking hormones at any time with a doctor’s guidance.
If your child wants to explore some alternative options to help change their appearance besides hormones or while they wait for a referral. Other options to change appearance include:
- Binders, which are a chest compression garment (OUT Maine’s free binder program or if you can afford to purchase one, GC2B, TomboyX, Underworks),
- Compression sports bras (Girlfriend Collective Bra)
- Drawing on facial hair
- Trying new clothes
- Seeking out a vocal coach to help your child change the pitch of their voice.
- Doing specific exercises to build up specific muscle groups
- Packers (TransGuySupplies)
I hope this helps you to continue supporting your child with their journey!