Understanding the transition process

When your child first comes out it is likely that they will be at the very beginning or early stages of their ‘transition’. Transition refers to the process a person goes through to bring their biological sex in line with their gender identity.


Every trans person is different and there is no ‘fixed path’. Below are some of the different ways a trans person may choose to transition.

social transition

Informal name change: Anyone can ask people to refer to them by a chosen name and many people, regardless of gender, use nicknames or abbreviations, or middle names etc. This does not however have any ‘legal’ status and the name on their birth certificate would still be valid and required for formal situations.

Legal name change: Over the age of 16 a young person can choose to change their name legally by deed poll without parental consent.

Under the age of 16, parental consent is required from each person with Parental Responsibility.

This can be difficult for parents because it is likely you chose your child’s birth name and they are now asking to be called something different.

You may be able to be involved in helping your child choose a new name, though this very much depends on the stage your child is at when they come out as they may have already chosen a new name.

It will take time to get used to and you may find it difficult to use your child’s new name to begin with. Some parents avoid it by saying things like “come on love, dinner’s ready…”. This can give you some breathing space to try and adjust without upsetting your child by using their birthname or upsetting yourself by using their new chosen name.

Proud Parent group member 2018:

“Initially this wasn’t a problem for me because I reasoned it could just as easy be a nickname.  It wasn’t a name of my choice, not one I would have chosen, so that made it harder all round.  When this was changed by deed poll, it was hard again because it was then official and made me feel sad again for a time.”

Youth club member 2019:

My mum didn't really like the name I'd chosen at first, so we decided she would help me choose a new middle name which was great! She’s happy with my name now too – it just took her a little while to get used to!”

Pronouns and gender labels: Just like a name change, anyone can ask others to use specific pronouns when speaking about them (she/her, he/him) but this would not have any legal status.

It will again take time to get used to, especially as our family structures have lots of gendered labels: son/daughter, aunt/uncle, sister/brother etc.

Having to describe the child who was your son now as your daughter (or vice versa) can be very hard, even more so because you would only usually use such language when talking to others about your child. See our section on ‘what, when & how do I tell family & friends.’

Appearance: Our clothes, hair and make-up choices are a way for each of us to express ourselves as individuals. For trans individuals these are often relatively simple changes they can make to help express their gender identity.

Take another look at the Genderbread person where this is shown as ‘gender expression’ and is represented by a dotted line around the outside of the Genderbread person.

It can feel difficult to watch your child’s appearance change – but if possible, you may be able to get involved such as with a shopping trip together, which can help strengthen your relationship.

Please be assured, whatever you are feeling right now is ok and there is plenty of support available to help you through this journey.  

 Please do get in touch if you’d like to speak to our qualified parent worker for information, advice and guidance: Nicki Ryan 07884 425408 | Nicki@free2b-alliance.org.uk

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