[Note from Emma: I am so pleased to host this piece from a guest contributor. It’s very easy to become bogged down with abstract discussions about sex and gender identity, but for children of transitioners dealing with a trans parent is our reality. Here is how you can help.]
We have noticed people are starting to realise the public narrative by male transitioners of the impact on their children is often inaccurate. At worst, it leaves children of transitioners (daughters especially) subject to domestic and sexual abuse and coercive control from abusive fathers. The ‘whitewashing’ of our lives has no relationship with reality.
In our experience children are only given child protection/ social workers if our father is arrested for assault or crimes such as voyeurism, and sometimes even then family courts enforce continued contact. For some families, children are left without support. We love our fathers, and want to support them, and this makes it even harder to access help, or express our distress, especially if the adults around us state our fathers are ‘brave and stunning’ and we know different. Recent police hate crime enforcement suggesting it is a crime to believe in reality and not gender ideology has caused a lot of fear and made it even harder for children of transitioners to speak up about abuse.
We hope the children of transitioners you know are the fortunate ones and their fathers (it is nearly always fathers) are kind and respecting of their children’s boundaries. If you are a trusted adult – maybe a school welfare officer or the parent of a school friend, a grandparent, maybe a religious leader or youth worker – here are a few notes of what may help the children you support:
- Give us a chance to share if we want to.
- Recognise we have mixed emotions. We love our fathers and don’t want to say anything they wouldn’t like, or report them for abuse.
- Reassure daughters they don’t have to get undressed in front of their fathers, or other males, and are allowed to give or withhold consent about their bodies
- Ensure your school/building has single sex toilets and changing rooms so girls don’t have to worry about privacy, or constantly assert their boundaries, so we can relax and feel safe
- Resist gender stereotypes, so if children (eg daughters) of transitioners are gay, want short hair, or to wear trousers and study science, they are given an alternative to the stereotypes enforced at home
- Give a positive and varied role model of women (a contrasting view to our father’s ideas of ‘womanning as a performance ‘ of what a girl should do and wear)
- Resist dehumanising language about women and girls. We are told by our fathers they are women because of their fashion choices, and we as girls are just bleeders with a front hole, and it wrecks our confidence. We need to know we are valuable as girls, and deserve respect and consideration. You feel utterly worthless when your father uses gas lighting and demeaning phrases about females to make himself feel better.
- Remember domestic abuse is a common experience in families where the father decides after fathering kids he is a woman. The Freedom Programme gives out cards outlining what coercive control is and this can be an unpressured way to open conversations with teenage girls.
- Refer girls to female staff if possible. We cannot always talk to males, however they identify, about the things that are happening.
- Prioritise safeguarding. Unfortunately, we have learned the hard way that our fathers, however much we love them, are not always nice people.
- Don’t impose gender ideology on children of transitioners, or gaslight us about our fathers becoming women due to their fashion choices, as we have to deal with reality.
- Don’t assume everything is hunky dory and perfect at home if we say nothing.
- Don’t refer us to Stonewall or other trans charities which use slogans such as ‘transwomen are women’ or assert other untrue beliefs.
- Don’t pressurise teenage girls to get undressed with adult men or ignore reality about biological sex. We need support not abuse.
- Don’t be afraid to call social services for help if we need it.
- Don’t ever refer to our father as our mother. We have a mum already, she gave birth to us and hasn’t changed. He is male, whatever he wears.