Supporting families of trans or non-binary children

June 24, 2020

To kick of the 2020 Pride, season JLL’s UK Building Pride and Working Parents employee networks hosted a webinar which focussed on how to support families of trans or non-binary children.

We were delighted to welcome Leng Montgomery, D&I manager at BDO UK LLP; Alex Ferguson, head of client financial solutions in JLL’s Norwich office and Lui Asquith, Head of Legal and Policy at the charity Mermaids, which supports transgender and gender variant children, young people and their families.

Here’s some of the insight and personal journeys, from both a child’s and parents’ perspective, our panellists shared:

What can parents do to be more supportive of a trans child or gender exploring child?

Lui Asquith: “At Mermaids, the advice we would give parents is let it be known in your household that you are there as an LGBT ally and specifically a trans ally. 

“It’s OK as a parent if you don’t know everything about trans children.  It’s OK if you have questions. It’s OK if you are thinking ‘how do I navigate this’ that’s why the likes of Mermaids are here. It doesn’t take experience of trans lives to show love and care and support.  And, if you allow your child to lead you, you will learn far faster and at ease. “

Leng Montgomery: “Believe them.  My mother’s philosophy was that she wanted to know me.  It wasn’t about what her perception of what I should be it was about I want to know and meet this person. She said the biggest joy as a parent was getting see and meet the person that I had become.

“We can all have our hopes and what we like people to be or what we like about people, but we are all complicated and that diversity must be celebrated. Let people be who they are and provide that safety and guidance for them to do that. “

Alex Ferguson, whose son came out as trans in 2013 said: “Back then there wasn’t much information and if there was, it wasn’t easy to access.  It is a long journey for children and my passion is about listening to and supporting them and I would encourage everyone to do the same.

What advice would you give to someone who may be fearful of having an open conversation talking about trans or non-binary issues.

Alex Ferguson: “When people may be fearful about talking about the subject, I have used humour in some of the conversations I have had because that tends to break down quite a few barriers.

“People like honesty and acknowledging that you don’t know all the answers has been important thing to do in some of the conversations and the situations I have faced.  It is a difficult subject and every day I learn something new.  It shouldn’t be any different to any other topics we come across but as adults we lose that ability to ask innocent questions sometimes where as a child will always ask an innocent question.  Don’t be afraid to be a little more childlike.”

What are the best ways for a line manage or employer to support parents of trans or non-binary children or children in transition?

Paulina Herrmann, co-chair of our Building Pride network:  Being a supportive ally to colleagues is incredibly important and everyone has the power to be one. LGBT+ networks within an organisation can be a good starting point and can provide a safe space to discuss issues and ask questions. 

“Mermaids is also good port of call so do look at their website and speak with them.”

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