TPC-Journal-Vol 11-Issue-4

The Professional Counselor | Volume 11, Issue 4 451 Affirming Religious Beliefs and/or Community Nearly half the participants (n = 8) identified as mainline Protestant Christians (i.e., members of denominations that have historically rejected fundamentalist practices) and reported that affirming religious beliefs contributed to their decision-making process. Emma (56), a White, cisgender woman married to her child’s father and living in the Midwest region, provided a response typical of the sample regarding the role of religion in her decision-making process: Jesus said we are children of God, and he did not define what a child of God looks like. God created this world to be diverse. Look outside, and you’re going to see it. We’re just living in that reality of being children of God. Central Theme: From Dissonance to Consonance Each participant described an initial expectation that their youth would identify, like them, as cisgender. When they recognized that their child’s gender expression did not align with those social expectations, each participant described experiencing some level of intra- and interpersonal tension. This phenomenon may also be understood by what is commonly known as cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957; Myers & DeWall, 2019). Like the construct of parental attunement described previously, the construct of cognitive dissonance borrows from the physics of music, in which the term dissonance is used to describe a lack of harmony. On the other hand, consonance is the term used to describe a combination of one or more tones of different frequencies that combine and result in a musically pleasing (i.e., harmonious) sound (Errede, 2017). Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory (1957) suggests that when faced with this type of mental tension, humans often bring their attitudes and beliefs into alignment with their actions (Myers & DeWall, 2019). The responses of the participants of this study suggest that this is an apt metaphor for their decision-making process. Each participant described 1) an experience of exposure to some form of human diversity prior to their youth confirming a TGD identity, 2) cognitive-emotional openness to new and TGD-affirming information, and 3) acceptance of the new and affirming information presented to them, followed by the participant 4) using the affirming information available to them to make an affirming cost-benefit analysis that led to the granting of informed consent and finally 5) feeling a sense of relief that they gave informed consent for their youth to undergo GCEI. Figure 1 shows a dissonance-to-consonance model of these mutually influencing central factors. Exposure to Historically Minoritized Experiences Each participant described previous exposure to some type of historically minoritized experience, whether it was as personal as identifying as a woman (as in Journey’s case), a professional experience, or knowing someone within their children’s social networks. Mellony reported personal and professional exposure, stating that a former colleague had come out as trans, “so I did know someone. I also knew another mom whose child had come out a couple years earlier, so it was not completely foreign to me.” Openness Each participant described generally open attitudes that led to parenting decisions ranging from the toys they gave to their child to seeking education. Adele recounted that her family “did a lot of research on our own. We had other parents and kiddos that [we] were able to talk to about what they were experiencing, and we heard from families about what the process looked like for them.”