When our kids are born, we never know what adventures might be in store for us as parents. We want our kids to grow up healthy, supported, and loved but when parenting gender-diverse kids, this can feel like a challenge. While I’m not a parent of a transgender or gender-diverse kid, I know it’s important to create safe spaces where kids and families can thrive.
But where do you start as a parent of a transgender or gender-diverse kid, or as an ally?
About Daring Adventures
In her new book, Daring Adventures ($16.95, ACTA Publications), author, Christian pastor, and mother of three, Rachel Cornwell, openly shares her journey as a parent of a transgender child. She takes it “as part of her calling to help parents and families of gender-diverse kids hold on to their faith while also fully accepting and affirming their children” but her book is a must-read for everyone who cares about transgender and gender-diverse children.
Rachel’s commitment to “learning, growing, and creating more safe spaces where kids and families will be welcomed with open arms and surrounded with the love and support they need and deserve” should be a vow all parents should take. Her book is insightful and honest and comes from a place of love and compassion.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing Rachel for years. Even though I can’t remember exactly when we met, I do remember learning that her youngest identified as a boy when we ran into each other at our local REI.
“He goes by Evan now,” she confidently told me as we chatted near the bike section. From that moment forward, he has always been Evan.
I feel fortunate to have Rachel in my life because she’s taught me so much about how to love and support transgender and gender-fluid kids in my classroom and community. I’m so glad she’s sharing her experience to help others through Daring Adventures. As you can see from Rachel’s responses, her perspective, wisdom, and honesty provide much needed guidance for parents and community members who care about parenting gender-diverse kids.
Advice for Parenting Gender-Diverse Kids
Leticia— Thank you for your openness in sharing your parenting journey and being vulnerable as you help others. For parents starting their daring adventure who just finished your book and may be feeling overwhelmed, what should they do next when parenting gender-diverse kids?
Rachel Cornwell— Well, my hope is that if your family is starting this daring adventure with a gender-diverse child, that this book will help you with some of the feelings of worry and overwhelm. But if you have finished the book and you are still feeling overwhelmed, I would suggest a couple of initial steps.
First, I would invite you to talk with your partner and your child about some of the things in the book that were new to you, and the questions that it may have raised for you. There are reflection questions at the end of each chapter to prompt some of these conversations, such as “List the many ways you love your child unconditionally. Put that list on your refrigerator door.” Or, “Write a simple ‘boundaries statement’ with and for your nuclear or extended family on when, why, to whom and how you will share information on your child’s gender identity. Revisit the statement at least once a year and update it as necessary.”
If you are not “on the same page” as a family about your child’s transition or exploration of their gender identity, see if you can develop a plan and a timeline for moving forward that everyone can agree to. And if your child is having mental health issues (that may or may not be related to their gender identity) that is the first and most important thing that you all need to address.
Second, I would encourage families to seek support from an LGBTQ+ affirming therapist, clergy person or support group. Parents as well as kids/youth need to have safe spaces to process, ask questions, and have emotional and spiritual support along this journey.
And third, ask yourself are the additional resources you need to help you make decisions for you and your child? Do you need more information about gender affirming health care, steps towards name and gender marker changes, or school policies for trans and non-binary students? Make a list of questions you have and information you need to gather as you support your child along this journey.
Leticia— Teachers often become trusted adults in their students’ lives. What advice do you have for school staff to help gender-diverse students thrive in their classroom?
Rachel— Teachers are so important as sources of support and in creating safe space for gender diverse kids. I hope that teachers and other school staff will take some time to learn more about the experience of gender diverse youth, so they can know how best to be supportive.
Some specific ideas are to declare your classroom to be a safe space by displaying pride flags and sharing your own pronouns when appropriate; have books and other media available in which trans and non-binary people are represented; respect youth’s preferred names and pronouns in the classroom. (Admittedly, this can sometimes get tricky depending on what your District or individual school policies are, and if parents are unsupportive or unaware that their child is using different pronouns or a new name at school).
And if your school doesn’t already have a GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance), perhaps you can help start one! Just the presence of a GSA in schools (whether or not LGBTQ+ kids choose to participate) helps to create a more inclusive and welcoming community for gender diverse kids.
Leticia— Social media can be a blessing and curse but there’s no doubt representation matters on the social channels our kids love. Do you have favorite Instagram accounts or TikTokers, or even hashtags, that are sources of positivity, acceptance, and empowerment for today’s young people?
Leticia— Are there other accounts or Facebook Groups that you recommend to parents that can help them learn to become advocates?
- Jamie Brusehoff
- Chase Strangio: Facebook and Instagram
- The Conscious Kid website, also on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
- Kyl Myers website, Facebook, and Instagram
- Parents of Transgender Children (private group on Facebook)
- Two Trans Teachers podcast by Flint and Skye
Leticia— What are some of the most helpful pieces of advice you’ve received during your daring adventure about parenting gender-diverse kids?
- Stay curious and open. When my son was 7 years old, and had socially transitioned from female to male, we had a therapist who reminded him that it would be OK for him to decide, at some point in the future, that he was not a boy, but a girl after all, or that he was neither a boy or a girl. This was really confusing for me at first, because I felt like we had done so much work to support his transition, but she reminded me that he was still a young child and had a lot of growing and maturing ahead of him. So, I learned in that moment that I needed to stay open and curious as this journey unfolded for my child.
- Trust your child. I know it may seem like these days a lot of youth are questioning their gender and sexuality as part of their development into adulthood. For us as parents, this exploration might seem like something that has come on suddenly, while our kids may have been wrestling with finding the right language or expression for who they are for a long time. We need to be able to listen and learn without overreacting, in order to provide our kids the time and space and support to figure themselves out. And with your ongoing love and support, they will, and they will thrive.
- Every family’s journey is unique. I interviewed more than 20 families as I was writing this book; families from all over the US, with kids at various ages and stages of their gender journey. And there were some common themes that I pulled together in this book. But each child’s unfolding is their own, and each family’s experience is different as it is influenced by culture, faith tradition, family structure and more. There is a community of parents who are on this journey with their gender-diverse kids together, but you are also following your own, unique path and you can trust yourself and your child.
Leticia— Now that your book is published, what’s next???
Rachel— I am enjoying the opportunity to talk with people about the book at readings, on podcasts and in book groups. I hope that anyone who wants to support a gender diverse child or youth and is looking for a place to start will find this book helpful. I would be happy to come speak to your group about this book/topic! Feel free to reach out, and follow my Daring Adventures Facebook page for the book.
Daring Adventures is available for $16.95 from ACTA Publications and Amazon.
I was given a copy of Daring Adventures for review purposes. All opinions are my own.