Advice for Transgender Teens:

HELP!! My Parents Won't Let Me Transition!!

So… you’ve told your parents you’re transgender and they just don’t get it.  Don’t give up!   You have been thinking about this for a long time while they may be completely clueless.   The signs that are so clear to you may be invisible to them.  They’ve been happy to think of you as different, unique, your own person, maybe even gay or lesbian, but not transgender.   They may not even know anything about the subject, and there’s a lot for them to learn.  It’s frustrating to have to get their permission to do something about it when you know so much more about it than they do. 

Why are your parents so slow on the uptake?  Parents usually are a little slow about these things.  It’s in their nature to be careful and worried about things like whether kids will hassle you at school, how grandma will react, and how you could possibly be so sure of something this complicated at your age.   They’ll tell you that when they were your age they had all kinds of ideas that changed when they became adults.  I bet you’re tired of hearing all of this and just want to move on!

I am a gender identity therapist who has worked with many teens like you, and their parents.   I’ve written a book of advice for parents.   Here’s my advice for you:

Take Your Time.  Learn About Yourself.

  • It’s important to be certain about your gender identity before you take any medical steps to transition. So keep thinking about it and reading about it. Think about different types of transgender identities, including non-binary identities such as genderfluid and genderqueer. 
  • Try out different clothes, hair styles, makeup, jewelry and behaviors that may express how you feel inside about your gender.  Notice how you feel when you act and appear more masculine or feminine.  Notice how others respond.
  • Pay attention to what you like and don’t like about your body, and the changes that come with puberty.  How do you feel when you look at yourself in a mirror?

Be Safe.  Get Support.

  • Most teens learn about transgender identities by visiting websites and blogs and watching videos of other people talking about their transition.   Keep in mind that you are a unique individual.  Other people’s experiences and feelings may or may not apply to you. Don’t give out any personal identifying information to people you meet online (name, address, school.) Click here for tips on internet safety.
  • If you think it’s not safe to tell your parents because they might hit you, harass you, kick you out or harm you in some other way, then you need to find a safe and supportive adult you can talk to.  This could be a family member you trust, a school counselor, a teacher, doctor or clergy.  Or you can contact the Trevor Project hotline: 1-888-4-U-TREVOR or visit
  • If there is a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) or other LGBT support group at your school, talk to the adviser.  If not, talk to a counselor at school.  Ask them if there are any groups in your area for transgender teens.  If not, you can talk to other LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) teens on Trevor Space:
  • It’s good to talk to a few friends about your feelings if you have not already done so.  Think about who you can trust to be open-minded and respectful.  Friends who are open-minded about gays and lesbians are likely to be the most open-minded about your transgender feelings.  (Same with adults.)

Be Patient With Your Parents.  Work With Them.

  • If you’re reading this, then you have probably said something to at least one parent about your gender identity.  But it’s not going to be enough to just announce that you’re transgender and expect your parents to understand.  Here are some things they need to know about you:

When did you first begin to question your gender identity?

Do you feel sure now, or are you still questioning?

How did you fit in with girls and boys when you were younger?

How do you feel about the male or female aspects of your body?

How do you feel about the changes to your body that come with puberty?

How do you feel when people view you as female or male?

Who have you talked to about this so far and how have they responded?

Would you like to share this information with other family members?

Do you want to let people know at school?  In your neighborhood?

  • Do your best to understand your parents’ responses, even if you don’t like how they are responding.  Here are some of the most common fears and concerns that even the most supportive parents have:

Fear that you will be harassed or physically harmed

Fear that you will make changes now that you will regret when you are older

Concern that you are too young to be sure about something this serious

Concern that some event, problem or person has caused you to believe you are transgender but you really are not

Belief that there is no need to transition because anyone can do whatever they want in life, regardless of gender

Feeling that it is shameful to be transgender or to have a transgender child.

Worry about what others will think of you and them

Sadness that they are losing their boy or girl

  • Let your parents know that a social transition (telling everyone your gender and asking them to use a new name and correct pronouns) is an important step to help you find out more about yourself, to try out the gender identity that you think is right for you.  A social transition is fully reversible.  Hormones and surgery are not.
  • Encourage your parents to read about transgender teens, contact other parents through listservs, attend LGBT youth conferences with you and join any available support groups in your area.  Resources for your parents are available at my website:

Some books you might enjoy:

A workbook -- I think you'll find it helpful! The Gender Quest Workbook by Rylan Testa, Deborah Coolheart and Jayme Peta

Novels about transgender teens:

A Boy Like Me, by Jennie Woods       Being Emily, by Rachel Gold              George, by Alex Gino                                  I am J, by Cris Beam                                 If I Was Your Girl, Meredith Russo    
Luna, by Julie Ann Peters                 
Parrotfish, by Ellen Wittlinger

Teen memoirs:

Being Jazz, by Jazz Jennings                              

Rethinking Normal, by Katie Rain Hill

Some Assembly Required, by Arin Andrews

For Definitions of terms, click here

Gender Spectrum and LGBT National Help Center both offer online support groups for trans teens.

If you are feeling depressed, can’t cope, or feel like hurting yourself or killing yourself, get help! You can ask for counseling without letting anyone know it’s about gender if that’s the easiest way to get started. Just tell your parents or a school counselor that you are feeling down and need to talk to someone about it.

If you feel like hurting yourself or killing yourself, let a responsible adult know right away! It’s not something to keep to yourself or just talk to your friends about. Get help right away if you are cutting yourself or hurting yourself.You don’t have to see a gender identity specialist to get started. Any therapist who is open-minded about LGBT issues can help you.

If you don’t know how to arrange this, or if you’re feeling suicidal, call the Trevor Project hotline at 1-888-4-U-TREVOR or visit

“Families want the best for their children – even if the way they express their care and concern is experienced by their LGBT children as rejection”

--Caitlin Ryan, Family Acceptance Project