How to Create a “Safe Folder” for Your Transgender Child
It’s been a heartbreaking week for parents of transgender children, with Texas Governor Greg Abbott instructing Texas’ protective services to investigate parents who allow their children to get gender-affirming medical care. In a letter on Tuesday to the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services, the politician asked licensed professionals—including teachers, nurses and doctors—and members of the general public to report any parents of minors who are getting “elective procedures for gender transitioning.” He added that state law “provides criminal penalties for failure to report such child abuse.”
Trans and human rights groups have condemned Abbott's letter and major medical organizations—including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association—say that gender-affirming care is medically necessary for transgender youth and is backed by decades of research.
And while it is unclear if any state agencies will actually follow Abbott’s directive, many parents are feeling understandably anxious right now. One thing that may help is to create a “safe folder.”
Activist and parent Amanda Briggle recently posted the following advice to fellow parents of transgender children on Twitter: “To parents of trans kids across the country, if I can recommend one thing to work on today (besides hugging your babies harder than ever) it's to start building a ‘safe folder’.”
What is a safe folder?A safe folder is a collection of documents about your child that you can keep in a binder or folder in order to protect your family and educate others. “The contents of your folder are essentially a ‘road map’ of your child’s life,” says TransYouth Family Allies (TYFA), an organization that empowers children and families to develop supportive environments in which gender may be expressed and respected. “The folder will provide the reader with the history and facts needed to understand your child’s gender identity and your family stability. It will also provide supporting education for those who may not understand how gender identity is developed or how it can differ from assigned birth sex.”
What should I put in a safe folder?
Per TYFA, your safe folder should include the following:
- A letter from your pediatrician/general practitioner confirming your child’s gender identity.
- A letter from your child’s therapist/counselor confirming your child’s gender identity and confirming the stability of your family.
- A letter from any other healthcare professionals that your child is involved with confirming your child’s gender identity.
- Letters from at least three (3) friends, family members or your pastor/minister that confirm your child’s atypical gender behaviors and testimony of your parenting abilities. Letters should state how they know you, the length of time they have known you and the pattern of atypical gender behaviors that they have witnessed with your child, along with current contact information for the writer.
- Drawings or writings from your child that display their gender identity. (Example: Natal males drawing themselves as princesses or natal females drawing themselves as soldiers)
- Videos or snapshots of your child displaying atypical gender behaviors. (Chronological order; new pictures added every six months or more frequently as significant developmental changes happen for the child)
- Legal Documents. (copy of birth certificate, passports, social security cards and name change documents if applicable)
- Home study documenting family stability. (If available)
- State Department of Justice, Bureau of Criminal Information/Analysis (searches Child Abuse Central Index) for parents. (If available)
Briggle also recommends including report cards, as well as any medals or awards that your child has earned from their accomplishments.
Keep two copies of your Safe Folder: One copy for home and another copy in a safe place away from your home in case of fire, flood, etc.
When should I start putting together my folder?“This is something that you should not put off until you I ‘know for sure.’ As soon as you suspect that your child might be transgender you should begin assembling this folder,” notes TYFA.
Because no matter what precautions you may take to protect your family’s safety, there is always a chance that you will feel significantly threatened, notes the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Anticipate this possibility, and prepare a plan to carry out in reaction to such a threat...In rare cases, those who are particularly intolerant will attempt to challenge your parenting abilities. In severe cases, they might even call in Child Protective Services.”
Hopefully, you will never need to use this folder, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared.
“I pray you will never need to rely on your safe folder,” Briggle tweeted. “But if someone calls CPS on you for doing nothing more than loving your transgender child and supporting them in the ways that they need, then you have evidence to back you up that YOU ARE A GOOD PARENT.”