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Gender questioning

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Casual scribe

Gender questioning

I’m seeking some advice about my 16 year old daughter who up until about 18 months ago was a very happy, outgoing confident young person. Now she is is quiet, withdrawn and rarely leaves her room. She had always been a very “girly girl” and has never disclosed to me that she questions her gender identity however recently she has cut her hair short and has started dressing like a boy. I also discovered that she has started self harming. I have asked her whether she is questioning her gender identity but she gets angry with me and won’t talk about it. She has also told me that she won’t self harm anymore but I’m not confident that this is so.
Unfortunately we live in a rural area where there is a lot of narrow minded and homophobic/transphobic people . Her class mates openly espouse these opinions without any consequences for their behaviour. Her friends have started to distance themselves from her, I assume because she has started to look differently to how they do. This breaks my heart as I know how cruel teens can be. I have tried to encourage her to get some professional help but she refuses to let me. Even if I did seek help for her, there are limited mental health supports for young people in our area with long waiting lists. I’m completely supportive of my child and only want her to be happy and confident to live her life the way she wants but it’s heart breaking to see her so unhappy and struggling with life, especially when she was such a joyful vivacious child. I will support her no matter what but don’t know how to start when she won’t open up to me.

Re: Gender questioning

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 Hello @Jojo_123, I am sorry to hear that your daughter has been behaving differently over the last 18 months. It sounds like there has been a lot going on for you and your daughter and that there is a lot on your mind. It sounds like you care a lot for your daughter and want to support her. It is great that you have spoken with her about seeing a professional for some support and that you have researched some options. It sucks that there are long waiting lists that your daughter would have to join if she were going to seek further support.


You mentioned that your daughter has been refusing your help in seeing a professional so far, do you think she would be interested in telephone/chat counselling? Kids Helpline and Headspace offer free and confidential telephone and chat counselling with professionals that your daughter could use. I have also linked a thread from a user who is going through a somewhat similar situation here. Hopefully you find the advice and relevant links to be helpful.


You mentioned that your daughter has self-harmed before but that you are unsure whether she is still self-harming. Do you have any concerns about your daughter’s current safety?

Casual scribe

Re: Gender questioning

Thanks for your response. I don’t believe she is harming herself at the moment and I have spoken to her about the importance of talking to me when she feels overwhelmed. I guess the difficult thing is she won’t open up about why she is feeling so distressed. I am assuming it is related to her gender based on the way she has been dressing/behaving in recent times and I know she is struggling to find “her tribe” at school. I am fully supportive of her is she is identifies as transgendered but can’t really offer much support around that until she’s ready to have that discussion. I have given her information about headspace, particularly their online support but not kids helpline. That’s a good suggestion.

I guess for the time being I will continue to provide her with as much support as possible without being the overbearing and annoying mother.
Star contributor

Re: Gender questioning

Hi @Jojo_123 ,


It sounds like you are doing an excellent job as a parent. As you pointed out, until they are comfortable with opening up, all you can do is support them for a distance and reassure them that you love them and are their for them.


I feel it is important to recognise that transition and exploration of identity is a crucial part of a teenagers development, some teenagers approach this from a young age, some closer to their 20s. Rebellion is hardwired in us as a way of forging an independent self as an adult. In some way, they will need to find their own way of approaching this before introducing you to this idea of self that they have developed. So when you feel that they are pulling away, I feel it can be an important reminder that this is part of the process, as much as it can hurt at the time.


In terms of the self-harm, I think you've done a great job with letting her know that she can speak to you if she is feeling overwhelmed. Perhaps expanding the conversation a little such as, "Who else are you comfortable with speaking to if you are feeling sad or overwhelmed?" A robust safety plan contains multiple contacts so the person is in distress can always reach someone if someone else is unavailable.

Active scribe

Re: Gender questioning

Headspace would be a great place to start and perhaps in person if you have the option. They seem to have a great/gentle approach when taking kids on board for the first time. 
We have always held the rule with our teen that when she is dark/not in a good space that we need to make decisions about what's best for her. My teen was not ok with seeing someone in the beginning, but she came around the the idea. I said to her that if she cant talk to me....she needs to be able to talk to someone so we can work on a plan to help her. I said that I'm making the choice that she will see someone. She can make the choice of who she will see, how often and what they talk about.
Its taken 3 psychologists but we now have the right person for her and she looks forward to the visits.
Its such a confusing age. I found in the early days my daughter didn't know how to explain what she was feeling. Hang in there.

Casual scribe

Re: Gender questioning

That’s great advice. Thank you. Smiley Happy

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