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Knowledge is power: Trans young people’s perceptions of parental reactions to their gender identity, and perceived barriers and facilitators to parental support

Family Support & Rejection Research
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Authors: Morgan, H., Raab, D., Lin, A., Strauss, P., & Perry, Y.

Date of publication: 2023

Journal: LGBTQ+ Family: An Interdisciplinary Journal

Summary: This Australian study aimed to better understand how gender diverse young people view parental reactions to disclosure of their gender identity and what they consider to be barriers to, and enablers of, parental support. The researchers interviewed 14 young people aged 14 to 23 years who described a range of initial parental reactions ranging from rejection to unconditional support. They reported parents demonstrated many different feelings and emotions including shock, grief, anxiety and uncertainty, denial and ambivalence. They reported that their fathers or father figures tended to struggle more with understanding and supporting their gender identity. When young people experienced unsupportive reactions they described strong, negative impacts on their mental health and sense of being comfortable or safe at home. Positively, most participants said that their parents became more supportive over time in these cases. Positive reactions from parents related to expressions of unconditional love, efforts to support their child’s gender identity, and concern related to just wanting their child to be happy. Young people identified several barriers to their parents understanding and showing support which included a lack of knowledge of gender diversity and parents feeling a sense of stigma at being the parent of a gender diverse child, feeling isolated or being afraid for their child and their future. Non-binary young people felt that their parents experienced even more difficulty due to a greater lack of information and resources for parents of non-binary children.

Enablers for increasing parental understanding and support related to quick and easy access to good-quality information, being able to connect with peers such as other parents of gender diverse children, and exposure to positive representation of gender diversity such as stories of gender diverse adults. Young people also identified that when parents learned about the impact of not supporting their child’s gender identity, particularly the negative mental health impacts, they were better able to support their child.

You can read a summary of the study only here