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Trying to cope with teenagers identity

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Trying to cope with teenagers identity


Trying to cope with teenagers identity

My husband and I have known for a little while that our daughter is Ace and non-binary. They came out to us earlier this year and we’ve both been supportive of it. We try very hard to use their preferred pronouns of “them/they”. Just a few days ago however, they told us they would now like to be known by another name. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it, but that is when my emotions got the better of me; I didn’t take it very well and it upsets me that our teen saw that. It took me by surprise as they already has a gender-neutral name but the name they have chosen for themselves is very much a male name. When we asked them why they want to change their name, they told us because their current name reminds them of who they were and the female link to their name and they don’t want to be reminded of that. It was hard not to take that personally. They have never shown any signs of being unhappy in general but especially not with who they were until this year, when they did a complete 180 in personality (they are 17yrs old)


Our confusion lies around their preference for a male name. We spoke to them about maybe being trans and they said they were not sure what they were and still feels like they are neither male or female (though I’m concerned now that after seeing my reaction to their desire to change their name, they are too frightened to admit it to us). Moreover, our child has always been the only “regular” person in their friendship group since they met them on their first day of high school 6 years ago. Of the group of 6 of them, 2 of them are gay, 1 is transgender (our teens best friend), 1 is gender neutral and another is bisexual. We sometimes wonder if our teen has started ‘testing’ out what they are to feel more inclusive within their friendship group or supportive of their best friend (who also suffers depression).


We have so many questions but have struggled to find any answers. I am embarrassed to say, but the feeling of loss and grief is overwhelming to me. I have tried to find professional help for my husband and I to both cope and better support out child, but it has been hard finding anyone close by or available. I read of so many parents being extremely supportive and accepting of their child’s change and I really want to be, but I am struggling. Did any other parents feel the same way? How did you cope?

Star contributor

Re: Trying to cope with teenagers identity

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Hi @Mattnjos , 


Welcome to our forums, and thanks so much for sharing a bit about what's happening for you and your family here. You and your husband sound like you're supportive and loving parents to your child and it's great that you've reached out here for support.  The fact that they've been so open and honest with you about where they are at with exploring and understanding their gender identity shows that you have a really trusting relationship, and that is such a protective thing for them. 


It's really common for parents to experience mixed emotions when their chlidren let them know that they are gender diverse, and there is no 'right' way to feel - a name is a really personal thing, and I can imagine that it may feel quite upsetting to hear that your child wants to choose a new name. 


It sounds like chatting to someone might be really helpful for you and your husband so I thought I'd share a few services that may be able to help-


Qlife  offer free phone counselling services, support and referral for LGBTQ people and their families- they might be a great place to start in recommending support services for you in your area


Parents of Gender Diverse Children is an Australian organisation who can give support, information and contacts for supports, I have linked here to their inquiry page for parents. 


Transcend is another group who offer advice and support for parents of trans, gender diverse and gender questioning kids. 


ReachOut also have a lot of resources on supporting your teen as they explore their sexuality that you can check out here


It's a few years old now, but there's also a great thread here from other parents sharing what helped them in supporting their transgender teen .


It sounds like it's been a pretty overwhelming time for you, how are you feeling today? We are always here if you want to chat. 


Parent/Carer Community Champion

Re: Trying to cope with teenagers identity

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Hi @Mattnjos , 

I'm a parent of a son aged 16 and a daughter 14, and I've been visiting the parent for the last 3 months after missing interaction with other parents due to Covid restrictions. One of the reasons I reply to messages here, is to reassure people that they're not alone, and not the only one in their situation and that while we might be going through different situations with our kids, commonalities exist. 

Before I had kids, I worked for a year in the HIV Sexual Health Unit at our local area health service as Communications Officer and in this role, I was responsible for writing the newsletter. In this role, I interviewed a young person about their gender perceptions and it was enlightening. They really took me into their heart, mind everything and spoke very personally with me. I was just the conduit really for them telling their story, but as with as story, that look listening, respect and making myself invisible. I had friends come out when I was at uni and friend who were unsure of themselves and more recently my husband's cousin shared about he was now living as a woman which was a total surprise at over 60. 

However, I think there's a huge difference between things going on with people around you and your child. I am speaking for myself here but your children are your flesh and blood and most of us would give everything we had, including our own lives to save them, help them out etc. WE feel their ups and downs and everything inbetween so acutely. We want our child to have the easy road. We want them to have good friendships, do well at school, be sporty, even if we don't push them and have super high expectations. I remember when I was younger and upset about something I'd get really frustrated with my mother because she'd go to pieces over something that happened to me and I didn't understand. It wasn't her life. I get that now!! 

We have had some different issues to grapple with in our house. Our son is adamant about not doing his HSC. He doesn't need it to get into the course he wants to do and just needs to complete year 12. My family is very academic and we have some high achievers. So, his decision has almost been like jumping off a cliff to me and there's very definite grief, even though he's chosen a very good path for himself and is applying himself well and getting work experience. He knows where we stand but we have made it clear to him that we support his career direction and course choices. We'd rather he did his HSC and also have that up his sleeve. 

You have quite a lot to get your heads around, even just in knowing the "right" lingo and that's not something I've kept up with. Following up some of the contacts listen with help and listen to your child and how they speak and refer to themselves. It will take time but maybe be honest and say you'd like to understand but can they walk you through it. There's nothing wrong with asking them for help and to help guide you on the journey. 

Some of the communication tools on the ReachOut site could be useful to look at too. Look at ways of improving your general communication skills and see if you can go for a few drives together as the car seems to be a good, non-confronting place to talk about difficult issues as long as you don't get too upset or emotional. I'm also a bit of a fan of that "Are u ok?" approach. It's had really good publicity and so I hear people using it quite regularly. This brings me to the difficulties that young people in the LGBTQI community can really struggle psychologically and if your teen is showing signs of difficulties, you need to take those seriously and seek help. So, I guess this brings me to whether your teen is having any form of counselling support and do you have the contact details for that person if things escalate? It seems to me that their friendship group is offering each other good support as they navigate through these waters. They sound like they're on a similar wavelength and your child will ultimately work out where they sit in relationship to their peers. 

Lastly, in addition to following up the contact mentioned for yourself, I would recommend keeping a journal and perhaps you have a safe friend you could confide in, especially if you and your husband have different views. I encourage you to come back here for as long as you need to if it helps. I really like the anonymity here. Also try to do those things that you find important for your own self-care. This is something I need to work on myself. My self-care really goes out the window when I'm stressed and I tend to zoom in and focus on the problem. It's important to take regular breathers, and actually make sure you're still breathing and not holding everything in. 

I hope that helps. 

Best wishes,



Re: Trying to cope with teenagers identity

The grief/loss feeling is exactly what I’ve been struggling with too. Thanks for framing it so well. I feel like it’s almost a betrayal of my child if I’m seeking help though. It’s so hard . Wishing you all the best- good to know I’m not alone with these feelings 🙏🏻🙏🏻

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