August 01, 2021

How do I support my transgender grandchild?

Q: My grandchild, who was born a boy, is transgender and recently decided to start going by female pronouns like "she" and "her." I want to support my grandchild, but I'm not really sure how. Also, it's hard for me to remember to use the new pronouns. What can I do?

A: First, you are off to a good start by choosing not to avoid the topic. While the question of pronouns is relatively straightforward, keep in mind that you have been using your grandchild's original pronoun for years and it's an established habit. It may take a while to change that habit.

Start by conveying to your grandchild that her pronouns are important and that you are working deliberately on using them correctly. One technique that might help is to journal or write about your grandchild using she/her pronouns.

It's important to make a real effort to use an individual's affirming pronouns. But if you slip up — and you likely will — don't beat yourself up or magnify your mistake. Simply correct yourself and continue with the conversation. Apologizing profusely is often uncomfortable for the person you misidentified. If your grandchild ends up changing her name, as well, you can address naming mistakes the same way.

As for the larger question of how to support your grandchild, ask her — or her parents if she's not ready to talk about it — "How can I support you?" Speak positively about your grandchild, and if she's comfortable with it, show your admiration for her identity and expression of it. Research shows that relationships between grandparents and grandchildren are important, and that transgender children who are in environments that are accepting and supportive are much more likely to thrive.

If you find this situation especially difficult, you may want to consider reaching out to a professional, a...