At any age, people can find themselves on a journey of self-discovery that can be full of twists and turns. For transgender people, however, that journey can often be impaired by gender markers and names on their identifying documents that don’t match up to their reality.
While it can be tough for adults to handle the issue of having a “dead name” on their documents, it can be even harder for trans teens to bear – particularly if they’re already well on their way to transitioning.
Names that don’t match gender expression can lead to discrimination, depression
While knowledge, understanding and acceptance of trans people have all increased in recent years thanks to some high-profile advocates, the harsh truth is that bigotry is still everywhere. Anybody who can be “othered” because they don’t seem to fit social norms can become a target of biases, hatred and discrimination.
As recently as 2015, a survey of transgender Americans showed that approximately one-third of respondents had been harassed, denied services, attacked, verbally assaulted or told to leave an establishment because their identification documents didn’t match their gender expression.
As bad as that might be for an adult to bear, trans youth can’t get away from the situation. Simply being in school means constantly informing new teachers about their preferred names, and exposing themselves to unwanted scrutiny and a sense of vulnerability that no child needs.
Plus, the teenage years are the times when most kids are desperately seeking acceptance. Hearing themselves referred to by the wrong name and pronouns can make them feel thoroughly “unacceptable” to both adults and peers.
It’s not really surprising that the ability to use their chosen name (without having to explain or worry about their official documents) is associated with reduced levels of depression and suicidal thoughts among transgender youths.
If you’re doing your utmost to support your trans child on their journey, as every parent should, find out what it takes to get their name and gender markers legally changed on their official documents. That may be the ultimate gift of acceptance – and will absolutely make their path to come easier to walk.