Guidelines for Parents of Gender-Variant Children

Summer 2010

By Lynne Michelle Howard

Five years ago my now-13-year-old daughter transitioned to being the girl she always said she was. After having worked with many families with transgender kids and co-founding a support group in Colorado, here is my advice.

• Don’t be afraid to let kids explore gender differences. It’s normal and healthy. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Parents can’t make their kids gender variant.

• If a child tells you s/he is a different gender or that s/he hates her/his body parts, don’t scoff. Kids going through a “phase” rarely use these words.

• Not all children have words for explaining to adults that their brain and spirit do not match their body. Don’t assume they aren’t gender variant if they don’t actually tell you they are.

• Support gender variant kids from an early age. Understand that gender variance is not the same thing as sexual orientation. It is about who people are, not about sexual attraction.

• Studies show that some humans “understand” if they are boys or girls as early as 18 months.

• Don’t let your fears of being judged affect how you decide to support your child. More people than you think are aware of transgender issues, and they are more supportive than you might assume.

• Reach out for those who have been on this path. Groups like TYFA ( and PFLAG ( can help you find professionals who can help as well.

• Make sure your professional is qualified. Therapists without experience in gender issues can hurt more than they help.

• Your child has more rights than you think. Don’t let one negative school administrator or teacher be the last word. The groups above can help.

• Educate, love, and support. These kids have the highest suicide rates of any youth group. They need support and understanding from everyone.
Lynne Michelle Howard

Lynne Michelle Howard lives in Boulder, Colorado, and is the co-founder of Trans Youth Education and Support Colorado