MANITOULIN—Discovering your child is transgender, or wondering how to tell your parents that you are transgender, can be challenging and stressful times. When Sue Murphy discovered that she was a parent of a transgender youth, she didn’t know where to turn.

“There was just nothing out there,” she recalled. “I had nothing.”

Today there are more resources available to both transgender youth and their parents, but it can still be a challenge to navigate the issues that can still arise for both.

“I have been told by social workers on the Island that there is definitely a need for support groups,” said Ms. Murphy. Recalling her own challenges upon discovering her child was transgender, she decided to do something about it. “I would like to give people support and information,” she said.

Ms. Murphy discovered that her child was transgender, although she didn’t know the words at that time, when he was eight or nine. “I just thought he was going to be a lesbian,” she recalled. It wasn’t until her child went on a Gay Straight Alliance school trip in high school that they both discovered the words. “He was about 16 when he went on the school trip,” recalled Ms. Murphy. “That’s when we discovered the term ‘transgendered’ and realized that was who he was.” Today kids as young as two are discovering that they do not identify with the sex or even the bi-gender world they were born into.

It is a tricky sea to navigate, however, as there is a wide spectrum upon which a person can find themselves. Many parents look upon transgender expression as a phase that children will grow out of, but there are key signs or differences that can help establish that difference. “The three words are: insistent, persistent and consistent,” said Ms. Murphy. “When they strongly insist and express often that they are a boy who feels they are a girl, or a girl who thinks they are a boy, that can be a strong indicator. There can be the ‘princess boy’ who identifies as a boy, but who likes to dress up in a feminine manner.”

“They used to use the term ‘transsexual’ but now that term usually means that they have changed bottoms,” she said. “You can be transsexual and call yourself transgender, but it doesn’t have to be.”

Ms. Murphy set up a transgender support group meet and greet, and she is now looking forward to holding the second meet and greet for transgender youth on October 18. “The first one had some weather issues and I realized that not everyone can get to the meeting on their own,” she said.

Ms. Murphy’s goal is to set up two distinct support groups, one for transgender youth and another for their parents. You don’t necessarily have to be “supportive” to take part in the parental support group either. “Parents can be supportive, or not,” she said.

Ms. Murphy has a collection of resource materials/Internet links that can assist parents with finding their way forward and helping to keep their children safe. “Transgendered youth are among the highest at-risk group for suicide,” she notes. “The rate is just incredible.”

Also taking part in the meet and greet will be Manitoulin Health Centre nurse educator Karl Cheung. “He has a huge amount of information with him,” she said. “I bring the stuff I have collected as well.”

The support group meeting/meet and greet will take place downstairs at the Mindemoya Community Centre on October 18 from 7 to 9 pm. Those needing a ride to the meeting can contact Ms. Murphy at 705-377-5105 and she will attempt to arrange transport.