Safety & Privacy

Safety and privacy are critical topics when supporting your gender creative child or trans youth in their journey.  This page provides some tips in these topics.
Safety & Authenicity

Authenticity and safety often go hand in hand within the home. In this small environment, you as a parent may be able to provide an affirming place without compromising safety. However, children constantly receive messages about gender from social environments outside the home and these messages (e.g. binary and segregated washrooms and recreation activities) can cause distress when they are internalized. While a safe home environment can foster emotional wellbeing and help children cope with gender-related stress, challenges around authenticity and safety often emerge in settings such as at extended family gatherings, schools, places of worship and community spaces.

Safety concerns may arise about teasing, harassment, rejection, exclusion and violence. The physical and emotional risks can be significant. Parents are faced with tough choices about how to support their child’s authentic gender self while keeping them as safe as possible.

Here are some ways to help to transform the environments that your child regularly engages in.

  • Listen. Listen to what your child is telling you through their words and actions. For younger children, observing how they act out their experiences and feelings through imaginary play may help you understand how they are experiencing the world, what supports are working and what supports are needed.
  • Prepare. Prepare your child for the world that is and for the world that will be. Make sure your child knows that there is nothing wrong with them, that it is others in the world who have issues with gender. Work for change, to create the kind of world that your child deserves to live in.
  • Advocate. Your child deserves to safely access education and recreation services just like any other child. Advocacy may be needed in several settings, such as school, sports teams and summer camps. Parents are often the primary advocates, but children and youth can learn to be strong self-advocates as well. Professionals can also be enlisted as advocates. They can write letters documenting what supports your child needs, attend school meetings, provide staff trainings and help you prepare to advocate for your child. 
  • Plan for safety. Make sure your child can reach you or another support person if they are feeling unsafe.
  • Require respect. For example, ask that all family members use your child’s correct name and pronouns.
Privacy & Disclosure

Privacy & Disclosure

Every child’s situation is unique. However, there are times when parents need to make a decision about whether or not to disclose their child’s gender identity. Disclosure could be to another parent who is hosting a sleepover party, to a summer camp director, or a child care provider. Sometimes disclosure is needed in order for you to get care for your child or support for yourself. Disclosure to affirming people can also help build a strong support network for your family.

When you are considering disclosure, think about the risks and benefits both in terms of your child’s safety and their gender authenticity. Your child may want to be out to the whole world about their gender creativity or trans identity. They also may want to keep that part of their identity private. Both are okay, and often families operate somewhere in the middle. 

Don’t forget to check in with your child about the level of privacy that is important to them and to discuss when disclosure may be necessary (e.g. for health care). A child’s level of comfort with disclosure will likely fluctuate over time. If they choose to self-disclose, this can bring up a lot of feelings (e.g. pride, empowerment, fear, anxiety). You can play a key role in supporting children and youth as they learn to navigate privacy and disclosure different social situations.


Resources

  • The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals. San Francisco, CA: Cleis Press. Brill, S. A., & Pepper, R. (2008). 
  • Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Erickson-Schroth, L. (Ed.). (2014). 
  • Trans Rights BC – Aims to “disseminate human rights information that is accurate, accessible, and relevant to the safety and well-being of trans and gender-diverse individuals and their supportive allies across British Columbia.” Produced by the Catherine White Holman Centre and the VCH Transgender Health Information Program and reviewed by Barbara Findlay, QC.
  • Visit our Advocacy & Legal Issues page

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