Authors: Morgan, H., Wells, L., Lin, A., Strauss, P. & Perry, Y.
Date of publication: 2023
Journal: LGBTQ+ Family: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Summary: This Australian study aimed to develop a detailed understanding of the challenges and enablers experienced by Australian parents in developing understanding, support and acceptance of their child’s gender and their needs to do so. The researchers interviewed 30 parents, aged between 35 and 58 years, of gender diverse children aged under 25 years and asked about their initial reactions to discovering their child’s gender identity, and their needs and preferences for information, support and/or interventions. Participants described a range of complex emotions, reported by some as “an emotional roller-coaster” and exhausting mental burden as they simultaneously supported their child, searched for information, and navigated multiple systems such as school and healthcare. They named many barriers to understanding and supporting their child including lack of understanding of gender diversity, difficulty in accessing good-quality information easily, managing their own strong emotions, the need to constantly educate others and advocate for their child and practical barriers such as their geographical location, finances and onerous treatment pathways. Parents of non-binary children and parents of younger children (pre-puberty) described greater challenges in finding good-quality information. Other challenges included “re-wiring their brains” to adapt to new `names and pronouns and coping with the fast pace of their child’s desire to make changes. Commonly, parents found that their child had been aware of their gender identity and thinking about it for months or years before they disclosed to their parents.
Good-quality information, seeing positive emotional and behavioural changes in their child once affirmed and peer connections with other parents of gender diverse children were powerful enablers for increased support. Parents also noted understanding the negative mental health impacts of not supporting their child through accessing statistics and viewing a gender diverse identity as not something a child would choose given the challenges inherent in living in an often uneducated and unsafe world were also enablers for support.
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