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Transgender stepson having a hard time adapting to new country

lhp's picture

Hi everybody,

This is my first post, and I have a bit of a hard time knowing where to start everything, as there's soooo much going on *dash1*

So, earlier this year my partner's 13 year old son came to live with us from the US. We live in Germany.
He's been living in the US up until now with his maternal grandparents, as his mom couldn't handle it. 
He's been separated from his father since he was 6 years old. He is a really nice kid, but he's dealing with some personal issues. 
He identifies as he/him, but is born as a girl. He is very drawn to the darkness of humans, and is talking a lot about death, darkness, destroying things, etc. I understand that this is a result from a traumatized childhood. Since his mom is still living in the US, we now have him full time. So it went from just us to full time parent/step-mom.  He seems highly demotivated to do anything. He's showing some unsettling ways around other people and animals. And I'm honestly just worried about what to do, what to think, what to say and what the future will hold. 
I know this might be a very unique case, but if someone has any advice/stories/ANYTHING, it's so appreciated. 

I'm getting rather desperate here, and I'm not even sure of what I need advice with, as it's just starting to look more and more like a burnout from my side, and I feel so bad about not being more understanding and patient with this complex situation.

Winterglow's picture

I think I'd be looking into getting him a psychiatric evaluation for him with counselling also. Even if he has no psy problems, you need to be sure of that as you go forward.

lhp's picture

Thank you for your input. We are definitely planning on getting him some mental health counseling. There's just so much going on around him, and it's hard to know how or what to do to support him - especially as an "outsider"

ESMOD's picture

He definitely sounds like he would benefit from some mental health counseling.. for a variety of reasons.  Are you in Germany related to military deployment there? or with a company that might have employee resources that could direct you to getting him some help?

lhp's picture

My partner and I have been talking about getting him some mental health counseling - for a variety of reasons, as you say. He just started school last week (finally!!), so we have been looking into the possibilites of him talking to a school psychiatrist. 
He wants to go see his mom in the states over Christmas, but she doesn't want him to. I'm really worried how he'll take the news of yet another rejection from his mom.

Thanks for your input!

ESMOD's picture

So does mom live in the US near the grandparents?

Perhaps it would be possible to work out a visit to see them where he could also see his mom but without the obligation of hosting him in her home.

Are her issues with handling him due to his trans situation? or are they related to maybe things about her that make her not capable of acting as a mother?  

Honestly, with a young person going through so many transitions it has to be tough and he has to have questions and need guidance on how to navigate all sorts of confusing/frustrating things.  I mean, I lived in Germany as a teen for 4 years due to my dad being stationed there in the military.. and even going to a school with other military US kids.. it is definitely a culture shock and that on top of rejection from his mother.. leaving his grandparents... and being trans.. there are a LOT of balls in the air for this kid to juggle and deal with.. he really probably needs more support than you and his dad can give him alone.

lhp's picture

No, the mother and the grandparents actually live on different coasts. Mom on the West coast and grandparents East. I don't think his mom could ever really handle the responsibility of being a parent let alone to think of someone else than herself. His gransparents are very religious people, and are not accepting of him being trans. They didn't wish to have him around them anymore, so it would be difficult (especially financially) to go with him to the US and not live with family (also considering that neither my partner or I are American citizens). Otherwise, I would have been a really good possible solution to that struggle.

It definitely is a culture shock on top of all the other struggles he's facing. There can be some wait to find an English speaking child-psychiatrist as well, as there not many English speaking therapists in general, and he still hasn't learned (or tried to learn) German yet. I'm sure that'll come eventually though, so that is the least of my worries at this point. 

ESMOD's picture

Have you been able to get him into an english language school?  It has to be super difficult and probably especially isolating in his situation.  I know when I lived in Germany  there were some civilian kids in our classes.. not sure if that is in any way a possibilty.. or what kind of expat social group he might be able to get into.

I would suggest trying to get him into some language school.  I attended a summer school version of the Goethe Institute when I was there.. kids from different nationalities.. immersed in German language.  

The sooner he gets that kind of exposure.. the less foreign it will all be to him I think.  

lhp's picture

Yes, he is attending an English language school now with an integration program, so he's also learning German at the same time. So far they've been doing trips, and he's taking some really cool courses, which he seems to enjoy. I just hope the other kids will accept him and make a positive influence on him, because he is a very unique child and neither his inside or outside really "fits in with the norm". I definitely think you're right about him feeling isolated. He had to leave all his friends in the states as well, to come here and start over, so I wish for him that the social aspect of it can run as smoothly as possible. 

lieutenant_dad's picture

Oof. So first the kid is kept from his dad for 6 years (which likely feels like abandonment), then gets abandoned by his mom, then abandoned by his grandparents, and then shipped overseas during a pandemic to a new culture away from friends and school he knows with a new language to live with a parent that he probably has very, very mixed emotions about, which may or may not be valid depending on why Dad is living in Germany versus the US. And he's trans, which brings about its own set of questions, potential dysphoria, confusion, depression, etc.

Therapy has to be a top priority. Like, Dad needs to find any and every counselor he can and contact them this week. He may even need to contact his son's healthcare provider in the US and see about televisits in the interim while Dad finds an English-speaking therapist in Germany.

If the kid is talking about harming himself or others, I'd contact a crisis center and ask them for immediate assistance and guidance.

I cannot emphasize enough that everything else needs to be on the back burner until your SS has a therapist. And if he can't find care in Germany, your DH may need to go back to the US with him to get him care. Or to live there temporarily to ease the transition.

SteppedOut's picture

Her husband is not a citizen... it would likely be difficult for him to just up and nove here - even short term. 

lhp's picture

Thank you for your input.
You're spot on with everything. It's so much for anyone to deal with, let alone a 13 year old. 
When I look into his sad eyes, I just want to hug him until he smiles. But that won't do as much good as a good therapist (hopefully!!) will. 
He is not talking about harming anyone in specific, it's more of a general "attraction" to harsh stuff like murder, rampage and fire. But I do think that's worrying as well, because it's a sign of something else going on inside of him.

I tried looking into some LGBTQ+-organizations and societies in our city, so he could talk to likeminded people, but he hasn't been interested in that, as he's also dealing with a lot of anxiety towards new people. 

justmakingthebest's picture

There is a lot to unpack in this little blurb of your current life. 

Are you military and just currently stationed there or do your live full time? 

Is he in an English speaking school?

As for going to see BM, blame COVID this year on him not being able to fly back. Don't tell him that his mom doesn't want to see him, that is just too much. COVID makes a great scapegoat! Just make sure BM says the same. "Sorry bud, we are too worried about the delta variant and being able to get you back with all of the flight issues and school and so on. "

You got the short end of the stick on this deal, having little, if any relationship with him and then being thrown in with a teen now in your house, learing how to parent a transgender teen and those emotional challenges, changing schools, changing countries, - WOW. That is a lot for you. How are you holding up?

lhp's picture

I know. There's soooo much going on, which is also why I was SO relieved to find this page and being able to talk to others.

Neither of us are military. My DH is German and I'm from Scandinavia living here in Germany with him. But we do live here full time yes.

He is in an English speaking school with a one year integration program so he can learn German.

In terms of BM, I told my partner the same thing. We will still postpone it a little longer, with the hope of BM changing her mind about wanting to see him. Otherwise, I will do my best to make Covid the excuse. Not for BM, but for my SS.

It is a lot. I feel like I use all my energy on trying to find ways and solutions to make this as easy and light as possible, but at the same time I have no actual "rights". I can only say my opinion, which my partner luckily is very good at listening to. But it's hard being a mental support for SS and my partner, while also struggling with my own life. I went from zero responsibility to sooo much responsibility from one day to the other. I guess that's what you do for love ... Thank you for asking. Not many people are. I appreciate it more than you know

justmakingthebest's picture

Not quite the same situation, obviously, but I got my SS at 16. He is Autistic along with some other issues. It has been a big learning curve for me, even though I do have kids of my own. 

It is hard to find people who understand. Stay around this group. You don't always hear what you want to hear, but there is a lot of wisdom. 

It can be lonely being a SM when you have a high stress environment- for whatever reason.

Ps- I agree, the covering for BM isn't for her, it woukd just break your SS's heart to know again that his mother doesn't want him. He doesn't deserve that, he has enough on his plate!

You are doing great!! Just keep being there for both of them, and find a counselor for yourself! You can't care for others if you aren't taking care of yourself <3

Loxy's picture

Wow that is a tough introduction to being a step-parent! 

I agree with other comments that psychiatric support is urgently needed. I would think that if you are living in one of the main citites in Germany you can find some shrinks that speak English - a lot of them probably have education quals from overseas so it would be necessary to speak English. There are certainly a lot of psychiatrics who speak English available in Berlin so you could always do televisits if you can't find one locally. 

Obviously a psychiatrist that specialises in transgender patients would be ideal but the other thing that really concerned me is your comment about concerning behaviours towards people and animals. I'm guessing cruetly with animals which is extremely concerning. He's obviously a very traumatised child and possibly on the pychopathic scale (if cruel to animals) so understanding what you are dealing with so you can form a treatment plan is critical. 

Wish you the best of luck, please keep us updated!

lhp's picture

It's a handful, yes! 

Therapist is step one. There is one available through his school, which I hope he can start with as soon as he feels a bit settled in his class, or maybe even as he is settling in with his class, so he can also discuss this transition into a German school with a professional. 

He is not "cruel" to animals. I'm sorry if I made it sound like that. It's more of a hard and somewhat aggressive handling of the animals. I've talked to my DH about it, and we both agree that it's hard to put into words what is "off" about it, but it's just.. not right. He has a hamster and a dog, and his way around it is very careless. It's concerning me, because I'm worried about the development of that. Definitely also something his dad should perhaps mention to the therapist, so he/she can give her opinion about that. 


I will keep you updated! and thank you for your message

Loxy's picture

I'm glad he isn't cruel to animals but if something does feel off then definitely worth exploring, most likely it's all related to trauma in childhood and also being transgeder.

I do agree with Harry, I don't think a school therapist is going to be what he needs. It can't hurt and will be good for him to have soeone to talk to, however I think he needs to see a psychiastrist given you are potentially talking about a mental disorder resulting from trauma as well as being transgender, which obviously requires a medical doctor. 

Wishing you and hubby the best in navigating this situation!

Harry's picture

Are not that good. I would not expect that much from them.  They usely look for problems in kids and move them to outside treatment.

BethAnne's picture

Make sure to take care of yourself too. You are going to have a tough few years ahead of you with all of that to deal with.

Rags's picture

IMHO minors don't get to choose their gender identity.  With the whole darkness of humans, destruction, death and animal cruelty thing... Hims would go away immediately and  she could choose to go back to being him when she reaches the age of majority.  There are so many fucked up kids suffering because their idiot parents are.... well..... idiots. It is sad that this little girl was saddled with the idiot BM.

A 13yo can't settle on what breakfast cereal they want to eat  much less make a mature choice on what gender dismorphic  direction they want to go in.

All in my layman's opinion course.