As parents of trans and non-binary kids, it’s pretty much guaranteed that we’ll stick our foot in our mouth at some point. Even with the very best of intentions, it’s very likely that we’ll say something that is hurtful, disrespectful, or ignorant at some point in our child’s gender journey. It’s unpleasant, I know, but the good news is that we can always circle back and do important repair work with our kids (or anyone else we say the wrong thing to). Always! There are so many helpful things we can communicate during this repair work, but I’ll put forth that “I’m sorry” isn’t one of them. Why not say “I’m sorry?”  Read on!

Because we live in a cis-centic society, trans and non-binary people of any age constantly find themselves in the position of having to explain, educate, and inform those around them. This can be exhausting, and frankly, it’s an unfair burden to put on anybody who simply wants to live their life like anyone else. It’s lovely to see parents working hard to educate themselves about their child’s gender journey, and the feeling of learning and growing can be wonderful. But here’s the thing: it’s our responsibility. We need to do the work to join our trans/non-binary kids in their place of authenticity. If we want our kids to live fulfilling, happy lives, it’s up to us to learn what that means. Let’s lift the burden of our own weight off of their shoulders and undertake the messy work of learning what we need to know to support them.

two women hugging each other Maybe that’s as simple as remembering the correct pronouns. Maybe it’s better understanding the history of trans life in this world. Maybe it’s endeavoring to see things from an uncomfortable perspective. Whatever we’re learning, it will help us speak to our kids from a place of love, respect, and advocacy. But, as noted, this is messy work, and saying something thoughtless (at best) or aggressively hurtful (ouch!) could happen in the meantime.

Why not say “I’m sorry?” Because it puts an expectation of forgiveness on the shoulders of the youth. We don’t do repair work to further burden kids with this kind of pressure; we do it to grow into a place of allyship with them. It’s for them that we do this work (and, trust me, it benefits us too!). So, what might we say instead of “I’m sorry?”  Here are some ideas:

  • I’ve learned a lot since I said that hurtful thing, and now I recognize why it made you upset.
  • I really regret saying that to you.
  • I’m doing the work and I’m continuing to do the work so I can uncover my blind spots.
  • I want to be in a better place to support you, so I’m learning all I can.
  • I always want you to be able to be open with me, even if I might need to catch up with you.
  • I recognize that the things that might be the hardest for me to hear might be the most important things for me to hear.
  • More than anything, I want to be here with you. I never want you to feel alone.
  • You aren’t alone, no matter what.

The real trick here? To organize the conversation around accountability, not forgiveness. As we as parents grow and learn, it can be pretty uncomfortable to take accountability for our own missteps, but wow, the payout of this effort can be enormous. It can also make all the difference as we witness our kids blooming into happier, healthier people.

There’s support for this challenge! If you don’t yet know about it, I highly recommend a book by Darlene Tando, LCSW called The Conscious Parent’s Guide to Gender Identity. It’s a friendly, insightful, pragmatic book that empowers parents to do the work we’re talking about. And she’s a real resource, too! 

If you’re looking for thoughtful, one on one support in this journey, I’m here to help however I can. Coaching provides a safe, non-judgemental space to look deeply at your challenges, clarify your goals, and work in real partnership to get there. If you’d like to ask questions and see if it would be helpful for you, please book a complimentary consultation with me. I’d love to hear more about how we can work together to make sure you have the best relationship possible with your trans or non-binary child. Better times are ahead!

And, as always, I can also be found at  Drop me a line! Let’s talk about all the ways you want things to be better.

And in the meantime, be well!

By Published On: May 6, 2024Categories: Gender Transition, Staying Mindful, Up-Leveling Life

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