Pullen Sansfaçon, A., Medico, D., Gelly, M., Kirichenko, V. et Suerich-Gulick, F. (2022). Blossoming Child, Mourning Parent: A Qualitative Study of Trans Children and Their Parents Navigating Transition. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 31, 1771-1784.
An increasing number of jurisdictions now facilitate transitions for trans and non-binary youth (TNBY), allowing them to legally change their name and gender marker and providing medical gender-affirming care to support transition needs. The literature demonstrates the benefits of such measures in reducing adverse mental health outcomes. Strong parental support is also identified as key to TNBY thriving. But studies also show that parents may struggle to accept their child’s identity during transition and beyond, rendering this life stage particularly challenging for both parents and TNBY. This qualitative project traces the experiences of TNBY and their parents as they evolve from the discovery of diverse gender identity to affirmation. Participants were recruited through three Canadian specialty clinics offering gender-affirming care and interviews were conducted separately with 36 dyads of trans youth and one of their parents, for a total of 72 interviews. Data reveal notable differences between the experiences of TNBY and that of their parents. Many TNBY began questioning their gender secretly, waiting to be sure of it before disclosing it to parents. While coming out was often a relief for TNBY, it was experienced differently for their parents, who often struggled to accept their child’s identity even while outwardly showing support. However, we found that TNBY and their parents were able to bridge this gap by engaging in the transition process together. Because TNBY’s experiences of realization and affirmation differ from those of their parents, we reiterate the importance of centering TNBY voices when attempting to understand their experience.