Dear Enda

Our 16-year-old has just come to us and told us that he is transgender. We are completely at a loss as to what to do or say. He was always a bit of a tomboy and preferred to hang out with the boys in his class rather than the girls. We didn’t attach any particular significance to this as my sister was like this as well. But as his dad said when he told us; “We didn’t learn about this in agricultural college”. How should we approach this? Neither dad nor I mind as such as we love our child regardless. We just haven’t a clue and are afraid that we’ll get it wrong.


Dear Maria,

Firstly, let me congratulate both you and dad for being incredible parents. It’s obvious that your child knows that you love them unconditionally, because if he didn’t feel safe, then he would never have come out to you.

Your child didn’t wake up last Tuesday and suddenly think that he is male. He has been processing his gender for some time. Similarly, he will also know that your journey to understanding this will take time as well.

The philosopher Descartes once said: “I think, therefore I am”. Because we are human, we all have characteristics that are traditionally viewed as male/female. However, it’s only by tradition that we differentiate these as such, as we all have equal amounts of both.

Your child has identified that his male characteristics are dominant and wishes to be identified according to these.

However, this is no more relevant than you identifying as female and dad as male. It has all to do with which side of your identity you see as stronger and you wishing to be accepted as you are, not what you believe others think you should be.

Life and understanding our own identity is a journey, not a destination

He hasn’t asked you to teach him how to process this, so don’t try as you don’t have any experience to share. Your job is to support him while he processes this himself. And you do this by continuing to do exactly what you have been doing all along. Loving your child for who they are. is a support organization for teens and families in understanding LGBTQ+ identity. Let his own tribe teach him and let him and them, teach you. All he needs now is your love, acceptance and willingness to learn.

Find your own identification with him. It is possible to be curious and interested without being invasive. Explore the “other” side of your own identity.

Don’t be afraid to ask about how he feels about various issues. How would he like you to respond to this and that? Take his lead on what terminology to use. If you are unsure, ask.

Ask what pronouns she would like you to use and when to use them. He has come out to you, but he might not be ready to come out to the rest of your family or even your neighbours. So, let him decide.

If you make a mistake, apologise and move on. He needs to learn how to understand you, as much as you need to learn how to understand him. Keep it gentle and let’s not make a drama out of it. You can all either laugh or cry your way through this. I definitely know which one I prefer.

Life and understanding our own identity is a journey, not a destination. The key is for us not to take our own dear selves too seriously. Try to enjoy the trip rather than seeing yourselves as having to endure it.

Enda Murphy is a cognitive behavioural therapist and director of Seeme.

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