Why Family Support Matters
This year IDAHOBIT (the international day to end homophobia, biphobia and transphobia) is focusing on family. In supporting trans people we have always been aware that very often they come to us not alone, but with a family, who can also need support. In taking a holistic approach we consider it vital that the structures around a person, work, family, community, school, are as strong as they can be. This means tailoring our support services to the differing needs of those who themselves are often expected to be supporting the trans person in their lives.
Parents of Gender Diverse Children and Young People.
In our Be:Family support group we provide a safe confidential space in which parents and other family members can share their thoughts, feelings and expectations. This kind of support is invaluable for a number of reasons. Very often the internet is a source of information, but, it can also provide misinformation and stoke fears and concerns. The importance of having trained, experienced facilitators for such groups, who can counter fears cannot be underestimated. Parents other family members also and have an opportunity to express how they feel away from their trans/gender diverse children. There may well be negative beliefs, internalised transphobia, and disappointment. If these feelings are expressed to the child they can cause immense damage, however if they are repressed they can sour the relationship, sometimes sadly for life. By providing an opportunity to explore these emotions parents and family members can move forward, supporting their child whilst they are themselves supported. We are fortunate that we have a trained counsellor and a clinical psychologist and highly experienced community development and support worker among our directors, who can inform, and guide this important work.
Trans/Gender Diverse Young People.
It is also vital that children and young people feel heard, and able to express themselves. We run a wide range of different services for trans people, at the heart of all of them is the belief that being who they are is enough. Many young people are estranged from their families, others may still be living at home but having to cope with the weight of their family’s feelings. They need to know it is OK to be hurt, disappointed, angry even. Reconciliation is never our goal, instead we work towards a future where the trans person feels respected, and able to move forward with the knowledge they are not the problem. Often the work within different strands will compliment each other. As a parent learns more about gender diversity via Be:Family, and our workshops, so the young person comes to appreciate their fears and concerns through talking to other trans people. It is one of the reasons we believe so firmly in the importance of role models, and of our groups and support work being led by trans people themselves. This moves what we do away from many traditional models of support for trans people, where the needs and concerns of the non trans community were often given higher priority.
Above all we think that the best outcomes are achieved when everyone is working together, as a team. A trans person should never have to delay their transition or hide who they are to please family members. Others however need to feel able to say how they really feel if they are to reach a place of fully supporting their trans family member. As we move into the future we hope to build on this work. There needs to be better education, and a point of contact for families, especially parents, as well as a space where they can talk openly. This needs to be balanced with the fact that negative beliefs and feelings are not colluded with, but instead explored, in a variety of ways, to unpick the foundations. With so many trans people reporting isolation as a feature of their experience we believe building stronger support is vital to improve peoples lives. Strong support sees a family as working together as a team, with knowledge, skills, and honesty. Be hopes to continue this process of empowerment, and build upon the work we are already doing to create better lives for trans people across the North East and beyond.
If you would like to know more about either our family support work, or our work in general you can contact us on hello@be-trans,org.uk