Navigating the teen years and establishing one's identity is difficult enough, but throw in confusion about one's sexuality and gender identity, and life is that much tougher. Parents can help children dealing with this confusion. Many resources exist for transgender teens who are looking to understand and feel comfortable with themselves and their identities.
For teenagers, school is typically the focal point of their lives, and -- between bullying and other uncertainties -- the academic arena can be enormously difficult to navigate as a transgender youth. Issues for a transgender youth can be as seemingly small as deciding which bathroom to use, but to the individual involved, much is at stake in this decision. According to the National Association of Secondary School Principals, school-based support for the transgender child is crucial. Educators, adult advocates and administrators should help make the school zone more welcoming to the transgender teen, including creating a safe space where she can navigate practical issues while feeling affirmed.
Several national organizations are dedicated to helping transgender youths, and they are no more than a phone call or click away. Many organizations, such as the Peer Listening Line for GLBT Youth and The Trevor Project, provide hot lines that teenagers can call to talk to someone who understands what they're going through. Support is also provide by allied organizations, such as the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. On the legal side, the American Civil Liberties Union has released a guide for LGBT high school students.
School administrators and other trusted authorities can help put transgender teens in touch with allies in the community who can help them, whether that be LGBT-friendly therapists, peer allies or organizations. They might also be helpful in find support groups, not only for the transgender youth but also for his family. Transgender youths also need access to the appropriate health care in their community. According to Lambda Legal, when transgender youths don't have access to certain medications, they often resort to the dangerous practice of buying them illegally.
Family is perhaps one of the most important resources for teens struggling to understand and make sense of their identity. Being supportive of your teen gives her the power to advocate for herself and better succeed in the world beyond the teenage years. If a transgender youth's family is confused about their child's identity, they should not blame themselves, but can take steps to better understand and be a source of support. Family counseling is available for the families of gender-nonconforming youths. Helpful literature also is available on the subject, which the transgender teen and her family can explore together.
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