Supporting families of trans and gender diverse people

31 January 2023

Melbourne Award winning peer support group, Transfamily, is leading conversations that help the family and friends of trans or gender diverse people by providing a safe, welcoming space for them as their loved one transitions.

Supporting loved ones who are trans or gender diverse can create a lot of questions and changes for families, friends and partners.

Transfamily, provides a warm, welcoming and non-judgmental environment where people can share their experiences and find guidance. For Megan, Co-convenor at Transfamily, helping families make sense of the changes in their dynamics means helping create safe, welcoming spaces for family and friends as their loved one transitions.

“If we can help families cope, then the trans and gender diverse person can keep a roof over their head and feel safe as they transition,” Megan said.

Run by a committee of eight dedicated and passionate volunteers, all with lived experiences supporting a loved one who has transitioned, Transfamily has been operating across Melbourne since 2014.

“We have a wonderful committee who triage enquiries, run support meetings and are passionate advocates for trans and gender diverse people,” Megan said.

“There is no other group like this in Victoria. We are proud of the support we offer and the work we do to make a difference in everyone’s lives.”

The importance of peer support

Families play a significant role in establishing a safe and nurturing environment for loved ones as they transition, however support for families during this time is also vital.

“The family go through an adjustment of their own and this adjustment process takes time,” Megan said.

“Family members need to re-establish their relationship with their transgender loved one and the transgender person needs to reinitiate into family activities in their redefined gender.”

Megan explained that rejection from family and loved ones can lead to poor mental health outcomes for trans and gender diverse people.

Concerns about losing family relationships often impact a person’s decision to transition, or the ability to transition safely.

“Research has also shown that poor, or derogatory comments from family members affected self-esteem more than insults from non-family members,” Megan said.

“Basically, the need for support from the family members is heightened because both the transgender person and family members transition differently and concurrently.”

Recognition for vital services

We recently recognised Transfamily in the 2022 Melbourne Awards. They won the LGBTIQ+ category for the important services they provide for local families.

Megan said that the acknowledgment of Transfamily’s work has allowed the team to reach more families seeking help to navigate changes in their lives.

“Winning the Melbourne Award means we get to spread the word further. It has provided us with a platform to explain how we can support those who support trans and gender diverse people,” she said.

“There is a strong LGBTIQ+ community network, but we are one of the few organisations that help those who are not necessarily LGBTIQ+ themselves but love dearly an LGBTIQ+ loved one.”

Are you seeking support?

For people supporting a trans or gender diverse loved one, attending meetings themselves can be quite nerve-wracking.

However Megan said people can be assured that Transfamily is a supportive, safe and respectful environment.

“You can come to Transfamily in confidence,” she said.

“Our meetings are not for the trans and gender diverse person so you can speak openly about your experiences and it will not be told to anyone outside of the group.

“We are there to support you as you navigate the changes happening to your loved one.”

Face-to-face meetings are available once a month at different locations across Melbourne.

They run for around two and a half to three hours, with around 30 to 40 people attending each meeting. Online options are also set to launch in the near future.

“This is an extremely supportive group who all come with lived experience,” Megan said.

“We get it. You didn’t sign up for this disruption in your family and yet, here you are.

“Transfamily does help to normalise what you are going through and you meet others who have gone through it, or are going through their family changing, also. The meetings are open to anyone who wants to support their loved one.”

For Megan, knowing that there are services available out there, whether you’re a trans or gender diverse person or a supporting family or friend, is incredibly important to creating safe and welcoming community.

“For those exploring their own gender – be brave and strong. Know that support is there for you to live your life in the gender you align,” she said.

“For those who have a loved one who identifies as trans or gender diverse – the role you play in supporting your trans and gender diverse person is important.

“You also have to be brave and strong and know organisations like Transfamily are there to help you navigate that change in your family dynamics.”

To find out more about Transfamily or enquire about attending a peer support group meeting, visit Transfamily.

Discover the full list of 2022 Melbourne Awards winners at Melbourne Awards – 2022 winners.

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