My daughter says she wants to identify as male, but I don’t believe in that – what should I tell her?
This is absolutely a case where you need to bracket, or set aside, your own ideas about gender to support your child. Tell her that she is allowed to identify any way she wants. Let her know it is okay for her to experience herself in an authentic way. If she changes her mind and wants to be female — that’s just fine too. If she changes her mind again and wants to be male, that’s also just fine. She gets to be what she wants in as fluid a manner as she wants. Your job is to support her and make the path forward easier, not harder for her.
Parental support can be a significant protective factor against suicide in LGTBQ teens. LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers (Ryan, C., Huebner, D., Diaz, R. M., & Sanchez, J. (2009). Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young Adults. Pediatrics, 123(1), 346–352). While you may not understand you daughter’s journey to discover her authentic self, you can be a loving presence that is there for her no matter what. While you may find it hard to see her struggle in a world that isn’t always accepting of LGTBQ youth, trying to prevent her from exploring who she is can actually cause her greater harm. Your love is essential and powerful.