What can I do to support my loved one?
The fact that you’re asking this question shows that you’ve already taken steps to demonstrate your support! But here are some additional support tips:
- Don’t challenge your loved one’s gender identity! If they are identifying with a particular gender then this is their (not your) decision. In fact, any challenging such as saying ‘oh this is just a phase, you’ll grow out of it’ or ‘don’t be silly, you’ve never acted like a boy/girl before’ will only go to alienate them. In addition, it sends the message that their identity is wrong and they are not worthy, which can contribute to the development of anxiety, depression, or other mental health difficulties.
- Be curious about their identity development, in a similar way to how you would be curious about any other aspects of their identity. Encourage and engage in discussions about their thoughts, feelings, and ideas about their identified gender. Chances are they’ve thought long and hard about this before telling you.
- Check with them if they identify with a particular pronoun or name and if you should refer to them by these name and pronoun. This type of discussion and questioning shows that you want to support and learn more.
- Remember that your loved ones gender does not change them as a person. If anything, coming out and having the support of family and friends will assist them to be more authentic during social interactions. Personality and gender expression adapt and change over time with personal growth, life experiences and age.
Unfortunately, trans people experience mental health difficulties at a much higher rate than the rest of society and recent research demonstrates that this is directly related to experiences of discrimination and lack of family/friendship support (Tilley, 2015). Therefore it is really important to be a support and ally for your loved one.
Many friends and family members often seek psychological services such as individual counselling to:
- Discuss the transition,
- Talk through how they feel about the process and
- Learn ways to better support their loved one
Additionally, because trans people experience higher rates of depression and anxiety due to discrimination, your loved one may also benefit from speaking to a psychologist to treat any mental health difficulties. Trans people also seek therapeutic services to:
- Discuss, explore and understand their own gender identity,
- Gain additional support during their transition and
- Develop coping strategies to manage possible discrimination.
If this sounds like something you’d benefit from, then visiting your GP to seek a referral to a psychologist could help; particularly if the psychologist is up-to-date gender dysphoria, issues that trans community face and the process of transitioning as well as broader knowledge on gender diversity.
There are a few organisations around Brisbane that can help provide you with more information for yourself or your loved one.
- Diverse Voices is a not-for-profit organisation that focus on the wellbeing of diverse voices in the community and they provide peer-to-peer telephone and online counselling services.
- Qlife provides telephone and online support to the queer community and assists to connect with other services in the community.
- Open Doors are a service that provides support, information and education to young people and their families.
- The Australian Transgender Support Association is an organisation that helps, advises, and assists the transgender community in Queensland.
- For others, you can look at Queensland Aids Council’s website which has a directory of services in the community
Tilley, PJM. (2015). First Australian national trans-mental health study: Mental health problems and associated factors. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12(5), 313. f