Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling & Psychology

First Advisor

Sue L. Motulsky, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Donna M. San Antonio, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Sandra L. Bertman, Ph.D.


Transgender youth and their parents encounter high levels of intolerance, harassment, and stigmatization in an American culture entrenched in a two-gender, binary society. When navigating the gender transition of their child, parents experience an array of emotions, including distress, anger, sadness, and possibly, grief and loss. Parents confront unanticipated, life-altering decisions for their transgender child, and themselves (Gregor, Hingley-Jones, & Davidson, 2015), yet the complexities of parenting a transgender child are under-researched and the needs of these parents are often unaddressed. Parental acceptance of a trans youth is essential to their mental health and well-being. The gender transition may affect family relationships, including extended family members. Understanding parents’ emotional journeys and paths to parental acceptance is necessary to develop effective interventions and best practices in school counseling, clinical mental health counseling, and psychotherapy (Ryan, Russell, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2010). To redefine themselves as advocates and protectors of their trans child, parents may need counseling, assistance, and support.

This qualitative dissertation investigated the emotional journey of 21 parents during their adolescent’s or child’s gender transition and examined how parental emotions influenced the parental acceptance process and family relationships. The findings suggest a salient difference between the emotional experiences of parents with trans children and those with trans adolescents: disenfranchised parental grief, intense losses that are not socially recognized or supported (Doka, 1989; Rando,1986), may be experienced by some parents of trans adolescents, which may not be experienced by parents of trans children. The findings also suggest the importance of sibling and grandparent advocacy within the family and provide recommendations from the participants to other parents. The study aimed to assist practitioners in providing support for parents navigating the emotional contours of parenting a transgender youth. Limitations of the study, counseling implications, and recommendations for future research are provided.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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