It’s been a really tough time for transgender Americans, once again, as this administration works to up the anti on discrimination.
It’s also been a rough time for parents of transgender youth, as lawmakers make it known that they’d rather our children suffer, possibly commit suicide, than to live as their authentic selves by calling for laws that would prohibit transgender youth under 18 from accessing life saving medication.
I’m not a trans person, so I obviously cannot write on how terrible this all is, to fight for your very existence. I cannot imagine.
But I can tell you, as a parent of a young transgender child: this is exhausting and it’s terrifying.
It’s been written, time and time again: memoirs by trans people, narratives by affirming parents of transgender people, essay after essay, book after book, by dozens, if not hundreds, of people. Begging, pleading for understanding, for more support, for equality for our transgender community.
Literature has been studied, statistics have been calculated, all major medical bodies have written statements of affirmation and protocols of care.
Public advocates like myself, and other parents of transgender children, we speak loudly; we choose to make our stories visible in hopes to educate naysayers, who hope to save lives by reaching as many as we can.
Yet, here we sit, cast as “child abusers” and labeled as suffering from Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, all by armchair diagnosticians. Accusations of “chemically castrating” our children, some wishing death or hell or jail upon us.
I’ve grown quite used to this, especially navigating these attacks online. Ignoring, blocking, deleting, disengaging. It can feel heavy, though. These are extremely serious accusations.
And parents of trans kids certainly aren’t seeking sympathy or accolades for enduring these attacks.
We are simply looking for our transgender children to be seen and heard.
We are looking for the whole transgender community to be seen and heard. Because their lives are at stake. We center our children’s needs, we center the bigger issue at hand of the attempted erasure of our trans community and the blatant dismissal of their needs.
A few years ago, I didn’t even know what it meant to be transgender. I had zero working knowledge of the community, because like most things in life, until it affects you personally, until someone you love is involved, it was honestly insignificant. That pains me to say that now, knowing how desperate this community is for allies. But I’m here now. I’m listening, I’m working hard to elevate their voices.
My child was non-gender conforming from the time he could speak. Living in a very small, conservative area, it was quite progressive to “allow” this type of expression. I simply just followed his lead.
And because I refused to acknowledge the signs, his consistency and persistency about being a boy, not just dressing “like a boy”, and not just playing with “boy toys”, he began self-harming by the time he was 8. Because he wasn’t being heard.
After I sought help for myself, after I received the education about how to help him and what this all meant, after he was freed to be his authentic self, he became a different child, one I had never met before. He was happy, social, outgoing, and best of all, he stopped self-harming, just by changing his name and his pronouns. Easy.
What a relief to me as a parent to learn this was all quite simple.
My son has a medical team who help us decision make in terms of next steps. Because he’s only 10, we are just entering into puberty, which means such heightened anxiety for him because of bodily changes that occur.
Thankfully, to aide in his emotional health, we have a medication available to us known as puberty blockers that can be administered when blood work shows that his body is in Tanner Stage 2 of puberty.
This isn’t a hormone in the sense of testosterone or estrogen as so many believe it to be. This is simply a medication that pauses puberty, or secondary sex characteristics, with little to no known side effects. Like all medications on the market for any purpose, yes, there are considerations, but the benefits of these medications outweigh the risks; the risks are very, very minimal.
Puberty blockers have been proven to reduce body dysphoria, which in turn reduces anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. There’s been phenomenal literature reviews to support these assertions.
And for many transgender youths, hormone replacement therapies may be indicated in teenaged years. Not always, since everyone’s transition looks different, but with a medical team, including a mental health provider, hormones, such as testosterone in my son’s case, might be prescribed to then begin a medical transition to his affirmed gender.
Again, life saving medication. So my son, and other like him, can just …live.
And here we are, backed with all of this knowledge and science, and healthier kids… with lawmakers such as Ted Cruz, throwing around assertions that we are abusing our children, which has now led to attempted legislation which would block kids like my son from receiving the medication he needs to live a full and happy life.
What’s most upsetting about these conservative lawmakers is that they do have an understanding of what transgender children’s needs are. They know they’re not in any danger. They know parents of trans kids are simply just loving their kids, because they’ve met with some of our families. But they’re using our children as political pawns, hoping the ignorant stay in the dark. They want the misinformation to continue to circulate. Because bringing light in would bring truth and the truth would be too humanizing.
They’re using our children as a political platform, nothing more. And this is terrifying. It’s putting our children at risk and it’s gambling with their lives.
I want to be clear and intentional with my words so everyone can understand the severity: I am absolutely certain that my child would be a suicide statistic if he’s unable to access these medications.
Based on how he was before he came out, I can feel it in my soul that I would have lost him if I wouldn’t have learned about how to best support him. I cannot even type this sort of potential reality without getting emotional, but it must be said so people understand that when they’re voting for politicians like Ted Cruz, Ginny Ehrhart, and ultimately Donald Trump, you’re saying my son’s life is disposable. These politics are dangerous, using trans kids as pawns. Their narrative is uninformed, biased, bigoted, and harmful to an entire community of people.
Now is the time not only for medical professionals to speak up, for allies to be loud, but for you to take humanity into consideration when you’re in that voting booth.
Leave parents of transgender children alone to do the parenting of their own children.
And above all else, let transgender kids… live.