By: Mashonda & Jasmine
I never knew when it would be appropriate to have this conversation. I didn’t even know how the conversation would begin, but Zaya in her 12 year old maturity and wisdom has decided, now is the time and she is going to get the conversation started. Many are still ignorant to the transgender and LGBT community, but regardless of your feelings toward the topic, ignorance can no longer be used as an excuse. In February of 2020 the son of Dwyane Wade, former member of the National Basketball Association, at only 12 years old told his parents and the world that he wants to begin the process of transitioning from a male to a female. He now wants to be referred to as “she” and as a young woman, she will now be called Zaya. While there has been a lot of backlash from society after hearing that a 12 year old is being allowed by her parents to make this decision, D. Wade and his wife, Gabrielle Union have chosen to demonstrate unconditional love and support to their child.
I know you’re probably wondering how this topic relates to you, or why you should care. You should know this issue is not unique to celebrities, on the contrary the topic of transgender can arise in any household. Imagine that your own 12 year old daughter or son comes to you and says they are depressed. You take them to see a therapist, where it is revealed that they feel trapped in their own body. Their body parts confine them to a gender their heart and brain can’t seem to accept.
Mental health professionals call this, gender dysphoria, and as a parent in this situation, you will more than likely experience feelings of panic and confusion. Psychologists say questions like “Does my child really know what they want?” “Is this just a phase?” “How can I change his/her mind?” “Where did I go wrong as a parent?” Are all normal and reasonable questions. However, they suggest that the best and most important question should be “How can I support my child?” Here are a few tips to assist you with providing your child with the support they need in a situation such as this one.
Allow them to be open with you
Make sure that you listen to understand and not just to respond. While doing this, never dismiss their feelings or try to compare what they are going through to your own personal experiences. Instead, reassure them that no matter what, you are there for them. Spend time with them doing activities they enjoy. Don’t just tell them you’re there, show them. Ensure they feel valued and loved. Last but not least, NEVER tell them or suggest this is just a phase.
Invest in a therapist
Feelings associated with gender dysphoria could trigger depression, anxiety, and many other mental health disorders. Connect your child with a counselor that can help them with these issues, and one that also specializes in gender dysphoria in young children. You should also invest in therapy for yourself as well as other children in the family. This counselor should have experience to help deal with the emotions you will encounter while watching your child figure out their preferred gender identity.
Learn all you can about what your child is going through, so you know how to communicate with them, and how you can take care of their needs. More children are presenting symptoms of gender dysphoria, therefore there is a generous amount of research related to it.
Talk to the adults in your child’s life
Talk with your child’s teachers and have a plan in place for bullying from peers. Also develop a plan for dealing with parents of other children, who may not be supportive of your child’s choice. Get rid of the idea that other parents will never find out what’s going on with your child. Children talk and word spreads quickly around schools, it’s best to be prepared for any ridicule that may come your way.
For parents that allow their child to present themselves as the other gender, it’s a good idea to talk with the school about letting them use a private restroom. By restricting them to gender specific restrooms, you are setting yourself, and them up for backlash. It will be useful to find out your state laws for discrimination to assist you with getting this accommodation put in place.
Don’t Make it About Yourself
Never let your child hear you directly, or indirectly, discussing the effects this has on you. They are already dealing with enough, and this will only cause them to feel like a burden. It’s impossible to think that this won’t have any negative effects on you, and holding it all in is out of the question. It’s imperative however, that you ensure your child is not around when you express yourself. Individual therapy may be a solution for this.
The way both Dwayne Wade and his wife Gabrielle Union are handling the situation is beautiful and I think they should be commended. In an interview with Ellen Degeneres, Dwayne Wade said, “We just tried to figure out as much information as we can to make sure we give our child the best opportunity to be her best self.” That is PURE LOVE and PURE LOVE is what it means to be a parent.
Zaya not only gave others a platform to express exactly who they are but she has given the world a conversation that is long overdue. Zaya has changed the narrative, there are some people who still believe that she is “too young” to know what she wants but I’ll ask you this, when did you know what you wanted? For me it was her exact age, so why is it that she isn’t allowed to determine what she wants but others can? I say, everyone should be able to understand who they are, speak to people who are willing to listen and know that they are not alone in whatever decision they decide to make with their lives. Kudos to Zaya for taking a step towards change!
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