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I’m a Reconstructionist Jew and have always been very liberal and accepting of gay people. When my daughter told me her best friend was gay I welcomed him into my home as part of the family during holidays when his family told him he wasn’t welcome at their table. Last week, my daughter told me she is transgender and wants to transition into being a man. It surprised me and I’m still in shock. I thought I was so open-minded but as soon as I heard that my own 18 year-old daughter wanted to change from being female to male I felt disappointed and confused. I need to understand this and support my child. Do you have any suggestions?
Sincerely,
-David

Dear David,

It sounds like you are very accepting of LGBT people, but perhaps you are just needing to go through your own process of understanding this more since this time it is your child that has come out as transgender. Your child is lucky to have a parent who is making the effort to support them around a time that can be filled with a range of feelings and changes on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. It’s normal to experience some confusion as this is a pretty significant change in your child’s life that also impacts you and the rest of the family. The most important thing you can do at this time is to let your child know on a regular basis that you love and accept them and that you are there to support your them in any way that is needed. I encourage you to check in with your child daily and to educate yourself. There are online sites, books and documentaries that may provide you with additional support and resources. One great organization to check out is Trans Youth Family Allies at http://www.imatyfa.org. Jewish Family and Children’s Service offers counseling services to LGBTQ individuals and families. www.jfcsphillyorg. The Mazzoni Center also has a counseling service for the LGBTQ community. www.mazzonicenter.org. It may be helpful to connect with a local LGBTQ-affirming synagogue. If you go to a synagogue that is not welcoming, you may want to check out Beth Ahavah@Rodeph Shalom. http://www.bethahavah.org.

David – It may take some time for you to fully accept that your child is transgender, but every step along the way towards complete acceptance counts. When you are ready, you may consider asking your child if there is another name and/or pronoun that your child prefers that you use. I’m so glad you reached out today. We are always here as a support when you need it.

All my best to you and your family,

Ally

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