Recently it was announced that one of R. Kelly’s three children identifies as transgendered and is now living as a boy. The nearly 14 year old, Jay, has been very open about his transition and has publicly thanked his mother and siblings for their unconditional support. In response however, R. Kelly’s comments on the subject have indicated a level of denial about his child’s decision. He is reported to have told WGCI not to say “my daughter is becoming my son”, with an apparent fear that the story would become rampant.
Meanwhile, Jay revealed on Ask.fm that his family has been otherwise loving and supportive. The teen wrote: “I believe I am a boy and want surgery, and the medication to help me who I was supposed to be… “[My mom] was like, ‘Baby, you know I love you if you were bi, gay, [lesbian], you name it and I would still love you so much.”
The story raises the question of how a parent should react when their child definitively expresses a desire to transition to the opposite gender. According to Gender Spectrum, the questions parents of trans kids most typically struggle with include how to differentiate a “phase” from an actual desire to transition, how to identify and express their own feelings about the matter, and whether it is safe and responsible to allow a child/teen to transition.
1 in 500 children are estimated to identify as gender non-conforming, or trans. Many studies indicate that parental support of the transition often results in happier and more fulfilling lives for trans people, with one social work clinician in particular stating, “Transgenderists face many obstacles in our society. The importance of family understanding and support cannot be overstated.”
Dr. Laura M. Alie (Psychologist) performed a concise study of the current and historical literature about transgenderism and the effects of parental acceptance, she found that although the topic is still underdeveloped, much of the evidence supports the idea that parents should be willing to explore the option of transitioning in an open and supportive manner. But this is not to say it will be an easy road. Parents tend to feel a strong sense of loss for their daughter or son, experience a sense of guilt, and often report high levels of fear for their child’s safety.
However, being open to at least delaying puberty with hormone blockers has proven to give the child time to properly consider their options.
Hormone blockers can serve as a diagnostic tool, allowing more time to fully assess what the child is experiencing. If the blockers cause increased depression or anxiety or have no effect it is assumed the child is not transgender, but likely experiencing some other form of distress. [Moreover] A case study of a transgender boy found that delaying puberty at its onset (around age 13 in this case) caused the participant to feel better about herself, thus, allowing her therapist to explore gender issues for an extended period, without being pressured by any physical developments.
Ultimately, it seems that remaining loyal to your child, listening and understanding their needs, is always the best approach to parenting. Since trans children tend to begin expressing their dismay around age 3 or 4, by the time they approach puberty it should be rather clear that it is time to have the discussion. Despite some controversies over the matter, as mothers, (who tend to be overall more supportive of their LGBT children) it’s important to remember that giving kids a safe and loving space to grow within is always the best way to keep your child happy and healthy.