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7 Things Not to Say to Trans Youth… And What to Say Instead

A young Asian woman looks into a mirror as she puts on hoop earrings. She has long auburn hair with blunt bangs. She wears makeup, specifically a thick black cat-eye wing on each eye.

Since I was three, I understood that I wasn’t a girl, despite living in a girl’s body. My family has never supported me, and I didn’t feel safe to openly come out as a transmasculine non-binary person until I was in my mid-twenties. 

I believe that I would be much happier today, and have fewer mental health problems if I had been accepted as transgender in my childhood or teenage years. This is why I believe that supporting trans youth is essential to their well-being. Especially now, when so many conservative politicians are trying to stop them from being themselves. 

Here is my list of the Top 7 things you should never say to transgender youth — and suggestions for what you could say or do instead. 


1. Don’t say, “You are too young to understand.”

It is very harmful to promote the idea that youth shouldn’t trust their feelings. It stops them from listening to their own bodies and minds, and could lead to severe mental health problems in the future.

Instead, talk to kids about different kinds of gender expression and transgender experiences. If a kid has questions about gender and identity, they are not “too young,” to talk about — it doesn’t matter if they are three-years-old or thirteen-years-old.


2. Don’t say, “You will grow out of it.”

Transgender people are all different: we understand and accept who we are at different ages. Of course, there is a chance that a young person is mistaken, but that small chance exists with any trans person — it doesn’t matter how old they are.

So, instead of bringing up their age, give young people some time and space to think for themselves.


3. Don’t say, “Your parents will always love you, and you should always trust them.”

It’s an uncomfortable truth, but if you are not a parent of the child you are talking to, you cannot speak to what goes on behind closed doors. Some parents are extremely abusive toward their transgender kids, and even put their kids’ lives in danger.

Instead, be sure the young person in question feels safe and that they are aware of where to seek help if their home environment is abusive or they are kicked out of their home.


4. Don’t use a religious perspective to convince a young person that they are a sinner.

Not all of us believe in a God who punishes people for who they are. And if the youth in question does believe in this God — as I did in my teen years — it is very traumatizing to grow up with a belief that you are destined for eternal damnation.

Instead, if a young person is interested in this topic, talk to them about affirmative theology in their own religion, or about different religious and non-religious views on transgender issues.


5. Don’t say, “Just ignore the bullies”.

Violence should never be tolerated or ignored.

Instead, help trans youth to be safe, even if it includes radical measures such as changing schools, going into homeschooling, or becoming an LGBTQ+ activist yourself.


6. Don’t say, “It gets better”

It may “get better” in the future, but it may not — and it’s irresponsible to promise that it will. Either way, a potentially brighter future does not mean that any current problems should just be dismissed.

Instead, acknowledge and validate the youth’s feelings, and remind them that school is not forever.


7. Don’t say, “You have your mental health problems because you are trans”

Not all transgender people experience mental health issues, and the higher rates of anxiety and depression among trans youth are caused by discrimination, not by being trans itself.

A better tactic is taking mental health conditions seriously, and helping youth find help from a trans* supportive specialist.


Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a coach, or play some other role in a trans kid’s life, your support and care matter. The words you say can have a profound impact on the youth you know, so be mindful when you speak. 




Writer Ayman Eckford poses in front of a rocky beach.
Ayman Eckford
Ayman Eckford is a transgender autistic person, freelance journalist, and LGBTQ+ activist. They were born in Donetsk, Ukraine, and now living in Sheffield, UK, as a refugee. They write about human rights, gender issues, and disability justice. Follow them on Instagram at @ayman_eckford.