Trans and non-binary people are 3-6 times more likely to be autistic. It is not a ‘phase’ or ‘in their head’, it can be a very lonely, confusing and distressing time for them. It can feel like no one understands what it is like for them and worry about being accepted and the reactions of their friends and family. When masking, social pressures and sensory needs are also added to this, it can be mentally and physically exhausting.
If your child does approach you, or you suspect they may be questioning their identity, it can be useful to consider the following:
Listen: Listen to how they feel, and it is important this is without judgement. This can help them to feel accepted and supported. It can be useful to summarise back to your young person what they have said to show you have listened and understood.
Be curious, ask open questions and remember that behaviour is also communication. But be mindful they may not be comfortable sharing everything straight away, be patient and let them open up in their own time as they learn. You can continue the conversation at a different time to show support.
Pronouns: Your young person may want to use pronouns to reflect their gender identity or change their name. Try to use the correct pronouns and name, and if you get it wrong, apologise and acknowledge that you can get things wrong too.
It is important to give them time and space to explore and express their identity and accept them for how they are now, respecting this may change the more they explore and understand about themselves.
Support: It is okay to find it hard, and to experience various emotions such as anger, grief, or loss after finding out your young person does not identify with the sex they were registered at birth. It may be difficult to come to terms with. You may be worried about sharing with others especially if you know some may be unsupportive. Further to this, do not share without your young person’s consent, it is important they feel in control of who knows. You can join support groups or contact our therapies team for support with this – for you or your young person. If you join a support group that is local, consider the fact there may be people who know you and your child. Mermaids UK is a great organisation for supporting parents and young people – Mermaids (mermaidsuk.org.uk).
If your young person is being bullied because of their gender identity, this can present with refusal to call them by their correct name/pronouns or asking personal inappropriate questions. Bullying because of gender identity is a hate crime and against the law. It can be reported to the police.