Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child

An Open Letter To Moms Struggling to Support Their Trans Child

Hi, fellow moms. Happy Mother’s Day!

So, your child threw you for a loop, came out as trans recently? Or maybe not so recently.

I chose Mother’s Day weekend to write to you for a very specific reason- Because I don’t know that there’s a more difficult day in motherhood than the day your child comes out as trans.

Because it’s really scary. And confusing. We’ve known that there’s no manual for motherhood, but this wasn’t even on your radar. I get it.

You’ve chosen the path of least resistance for yourself and have chosen to not support them. And I understand why. I once was you.

My trans son tried to tell me from the time he could talk that he was a boy.

I didn’t believe him. For years.

Biologically impossible.

A phase.

Confused.

Just a tomboy.

He’s too young to know this about himself.

He can wait until he’s an adult to make this decision.

Those are the thoughts that circulated around my brain from the time he was 3 until he was 8 years old. Allowing him a name and pronoun change, that he begged for, wasn’t even sensical to me. It didn’t sound as simple as it ended up to be. It sounded like a setup to confuse him even more. The boys clothes and the short hair cut was a stretch for me, if I’m being honest. Because…he will get made fun of for falling outside of the norm. Right?

Maybe some of this sounds familiar to you.

Maybe your religious beliefs are mixed in here somewhere, adding a layer. Maybe you believe this is part of a mental illness. Maybe you believe it’s a trend. Maybe you’re absolutely convinced that being transgender isn’t even…real.

Mama. I’m holding you tight.

Because I know you’re scared. That’s fear under every single statement and thought above. It’s fear. Recognize it as such. It’s new, it’s foreign, it’s big, it’s scary. And if your child is transgender, it might mean that their life will be so.much.harder. And that feels big and scary.

If you’re like me, you didn’t grow up in a diverse space. Gender expansiveness wasn’t prevalent.

Maybe your only frame of reference to the LGBTQ+ community is the one gay friend you have, or the gay neighbors, or the pride parade that you know happens once a year somewhere around you. Perhaps you have never met an out transgender person. Maybe Caitlyn Jenner or Chaz Bono or Jazz Jennings are your only benchmark.

You simply haven’t had the exposure to the trans community that you needed for this moment. The education escaped you…since it’s never touched you personally.

It’s not your fault. Society has failed us here by not teaching us real history and the reality of the diversity that truly exists. We live in a heteronormative, cisnormative (non trans) world.

And mama, I understand. You hold hopes and dreams for this human. When I was told I was birthing a girl, I imagined this little me running around as a pre teen in pigtails, maybe playing soccer, maybe cheerleading, definitely athletic like her dad. Shopping for makeup with me, loving purses like I do, sassy and independent like me. Maybe she would be an engineer or a doctor someday.

We all do this. We fantasize and construct this perfect human in our minds.

But they sure are their own people, after all. They’re never that imaginary person in our minds. They are them.

And a piece of them might just be that they were assigned the wrong gender at birth. A piece of them might just be that they’re transgender.

And if they’ve trusted you with this information by coming out to you, I promise it will be ok. And you have to take the path of resistance here. Lean into it. Allow them the freedom of taking you on this beautiful journey. As it turns out, it isn’t scary…at all.

You once said that you didn’t care about this child’s gender as long as they’re healthy. We said when we were pregnant. Apply this now. Whether they’re 3 or 6 or 10 or 15 or 30. Apply this now.

Don’t go too big. We go too big when our kids come out as trans. The picture looks so big in our minds. It’s almost too much to process. So start small. Simply say, “I love you. What name and pronouns should I use?”. Start there. And just…try.

Order a book about parenting a trans child, or watch a documentary about what it means to be transgender, or follow some public moms of trans kids, or join a supportive online community or parents of trans kids.

Baby step this. But make that first step.

Because they’re hurting and they need you. And I know this because my child was self harming at the age of 8. Talk about a call to action. After he came out, his cloud lifted immediately. It was magic. All he needed was unconditional love. Easy.

I also know that your children are hurting because they’re the ones messaging me on social media to thank me for being a “hero” to my own child…simply for loving him…because they’re not feeling loved by you right now.

I have hundreds of these messages saved from the last 3 years, since my son and I went public with our advocacy work and our story. Messages from your children looking for just a little support from a stranger. Because you can’t give it to them. Every single message breaks me.

They need you right now.

So here’s a thought:

Maybe make that first step today, on Mother’s Day. To celebrate the day by facing your fears and affirming your child. Give them the gift of seeing who they are, not who you imagined.

Celebrate being a mom by celebrating the life you brought into the world. See the whole. See them. Acknowledge them.

I cannot emphasize this enough: It’s the most beautiful gift you’ll receive this weekend.

Find the beauty. Do the work. It will change your life in the best way possible. And it will save your child’s life. The very life that made you a mom.

Happy Mother’s Day.

9 thoughts on “An Open Letter To Moms Struggling to Support Their Trans Child”

  1. Thank you for posting this! You helped me understand the complexity of my feelings and to accept them. Having a healthy, happy child is more important than anything. They are a gift! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Thank you for this comment. I always say that if my posts resonate with just one person, it was worth writing. And here you are. Thank you for reading. Carry on, mama warrior.

      Like

  2. Thank you Vanessa. From this 51yo Trans woman whose mom will never know her, because she refused to give me a chance.

    Like

  3. Hi my trans daughter is a beautiful, strong woman but she has come from a very stressed, fraught household where love wasn’t enough. She isn’t really in contact but hopefully knows we love and accept her. I don’t know where to go from here but I hope one day we will be close again. Your letter is perfect and heartfrlt.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, I moved past the phase you so eloquently and compassionately describe and begin to see my child for who they are and not who I imagined. It’s been hard but getting easier every day. Thank you for understanding, for not blaming and for encouraging.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Vanessa thanks for this article from a very appreciative 51 yo transwoman, whose mother refuses to accept who I am. Many of the things you said here resonated with me because they can also be applied to my own son who is gay. Again thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

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