No matter how much love and support you provide to your teenage transgender child at home, they'll often still have to face opposition from their peers at school and in the wider world. Unfortunately, problems with peers can often lead to depression and anxiety in trans youth. Here are 3 peer problems to look out for in your trans child.
Both transgender and cisgender youths can be rejected by their peers, and even the most popular children in school are likely to face non-acceptance at some point during their lives. However, while many cisgender children are rejected by only a small handful of their peers, for trans children the problem can be far more widespread. Severe rejection in the form of intense verbal and physical harassment is also more likely for children who don't conform to their peers' ideas of normality. Unsurprisingly, this repeated peer rejection can lead a transgender child to become depressed, anxious and withdrawn.
You can help your child deal with peer rejection by affirming them and their gender identity and ensuring that all your family and friends do the same. Having a loving, positive support network can make up for negative networks at school. As you can't control how other people's children behave, you may also need to talk to your child's school to try to prevent this bullying, or even consider alternative schooling options.
Because many transgender youths are rejected by their classmates and others around them, some can be far more susceptible to peer pressure. Children who are constantly bullied and harassed by peers may become desperate to fit in, which can lead them to make dangerous decisions they would normally refuse. This includes smoking, drinking, taking drugs and having unsafe sex. It can be difficult for trans children to remove themselves from these unhealthy friendship groups and relationships when they feel they won't be accepted anywhere else. Continued substance abuse and risky sexual behaviours can quickly lead to harmful psychological effect, and the consequences of these actions could be irreversible.
It's important to make sure you have a constant open dialogue with your child about substance use and sex. If your child is aware of the risks of their behaviour, they're more likely to refrain from engaging in it. If your child continues to give in to peer influence, you may need to minimise their ability to act dangerously by reducing your child's freedoms and hosting all social visits in your own home.
Almost all teens and children will compare their physical appearance to that of their peers, and many can become depressed as a result of it. The disappointment of not looking like one's peers can be even greater for trans children, who usually experience gender dysphoria -- discomfort with the mismatch between their gender identity and the gender they were assigned at birth. Due to biological differences, transgender children often appear physically different to their peers; breasts, height and facial hair, for example, can be a problem for both trans girls and trans boys. Depression and anxiety are common consequences of dysphoria. Another worrying consequence is self medication; teens who are not currently medically transitioning may try to change their appearance with hormones they've purchased over the internet. In incorrect doses, hormone replacement therapy can wreak havoc with a young person's emotions, and many medications sold online may contain other harmful substances with damaging psychological effects.
Dysphoria is a difficult problem to deal with, especially for children who aren't medically transitioning. Again, acceptance and affirmative action at home can help teens stay positive. Continuing to assist with social transition can also be of benefit -- buying more masculine clothes for a trans son or helping a trans daughter with her makeup, for example.
Helping a transgender child with depression can be incredibly difficult, even for the most accepting and loving families. If you feel that your child's problems with their peers aren't being solved by your input, don't hesitate to seek out counseling. Therapy can be an amazing outlet for trans teens to work through their issues as they transition socially and medically, whether they attend sessions alone or with their family.