Challenges of Trans* Parent Identities

Research reviewed by Timothy Ward

“Making trans parents visible: Intersectionality of trans and parenting identities”, Beth A Haines, Alex A Ajayi, and  Helen Boyd

The study examined what challenges uniquely facing Trans* parents either during or after transition. Trans* parents want the same thing for their children as everyone else, to be happy and safe. This research sought to bring to light the difficulties of being a Trans* parent by dentifying three major themes that were expressed from over three hundred parents who participated in the survey. The challenges were well-being of the child, conflict with co-parent, and balancing transition with parenting and family structure. Each of these three major themes are reflect commonality amongst all parents, a focus on their children’s well-being.

The majority of participants expressed great concern over the welfare of their children as a result of their Trans* status. Many expressed that their child had been the victim of bullying because of their parent was Trans*. Some participants added even further insight into some of the strategies they employ to combat such issues.  The study revealed that some Trans* parents have even gone so far as hiding their Trans* status from school officials and their children’s friends. While this tactic is not new or unique to Trans* communities, there is a large body of research that LGBQ communities are beginning to enjoy higher levels of acceptance when it comes to parenting. While the need to hide ones orientation for the sake of one’s children in LGBQ communities has gone down, it has not for Trans* parents.

In addition to their child’s welfare, participants explained that co-parent conflict was another major concern for Trans* parents. Many discuss the relational difficulty with their co-parent and, often former, partner. This study supports the research suggesting that Trans* families may have higher levels of resultant family conflict. The overwhelming majority of participants revealed that conflict with a co-parent was a serious issue in their families.

Finally, the third theme to emerge from the surveys was balancing transition with parenting and family structure. Of the 334 respondents, the majority acknowledged their belief that their transition would not significantly impact their family structure. However, many also explain how the transition was much harder than expected. They were concerned about how their children would react to their Trans* status and in some cases concealed it from their children out of worry for it being too much pressure. Again, the research points out that this is not a unique situation for Trans* communities. What is unique is that while acceptance of LGBQ parenting is higher than ever, community acceptance of Trans* parents is lagging severely behind.

The study offers up a suggestion to help alleviate these concerns and pressures on Trans* parent families. Schools need to have greater dialogue opportunities for students to be educated about different family structures that include Trans* parents. Also, there is very little literature available to guide Trans* parents and the unique challenges they face with their transition and family structure. We need educational support for Trans* parents so they can enjoy the sun like everyone else without fear of being burned. Ultimately in the fight for equality we are all one community and when some of us are lagging behind it is critical that we stand together, collectively, to ensure that everyone is considered truly equal.

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About Equality Research Center

The mission of the Equality Research Center is to promote, support, and disseminate research focused on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender equality and human rights. The Center is dedicated to the advancement of Equality by connecting academic, evidence based research to community action, public policy, and curricular innovation.
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