Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting

The Gift of Language: Learning What it Means to Be Transgender

I will never know what it’s like to be transgender.

I’m cisgender. Meaning, I am connected to the gender that the doctor assigned to me at birth, simply by looking at my body.

That word, cisgender, wasn’t even in my vocabulary 4 years ago. I was able to learn about the word, and now I’m passing it onto you.

That’s how education works, after all. But so many people seem to have a hard time absorbing knowledge about the trans community.

I knew I was a girl from a young age. As early as I can remember.

How did I know?

Well, yes, sure, I enjoyed things that our society labels as female- dresses, dolls, the color pink, but more so, I never had a misalignment between body and mind. I felt comfortable in my skin, with my name, being called “she”, being treated as a “girl” growing up, in the ways we are accustomed to. It was just an inherently known fact to me, that I was a girl, from a young age.

My transgender son knew he was a boy in a similar manner. It was inherent to him from a young age, because gender is a concept that science has proven that we grasp from about age 4.

Everything I’ve learned so far about being transgender is largely based on my son’s experience, what he tells me, what he chooses to share with me, and what I’m able to learn from other trans people, and other parents of trans kids, who are gracious enough to educate me through different mediums.

People often ask me, “How did your child know that he was transgender at such a young age?!”, which usually is delivered with an undertone that I somehow influenced him, or encouraged him, to become trans. Impossible, since I didn’t even know what being trans truly meant and impossible because you cannot make someone trans.

I digress.

The thing is, my son didn’t have the language for how he was feeling when he was really young. He came out at age 8…because we sought guidance from a professional that helped give him the language he needed.

It baffles me when people can’t understand this, or deny that being trans is “real”. Or when some say there’s some “trans trend”, or the “we didn’t have transgender people when I was growing up!”.

It baffles me because we’ve all had something in our lives that we went through that we needed assistance to gain the knowledge and understanding about, so we knew how to make our suffering better, or cure it altogether.

Yes, my son was suffering by age 7.

He was suffocated by the rigid rules of “you’re a girl because you have a vagina and that’s that”. He was uncomfortable in his skin. He was sad, shy, and hurting, because he was so misunderstood and unheard, even by me. Societal norms are a hell of a mute button and the more I forced gender norms on him, the quieter he was, (which seems to be why many trans folks don’t come out until later in life, just soaked in that shame, lacking the language).

My son just internalized the shame. And did as he was told. As kids tend to do.

Because I didn’t get it.

I wasn’t helping him find his solution to his pain. My ignorance was stifling him.

I don’t blame myself, necessarily, because we. just tend to trudge through parenting blindly, We mostly try to do what folks view as “normal”, or raise our kids similar to how we were raised, and we don’t take off our blinders until we have to. The path of least resistance, mostly. We just want normalcy and privilege and easiness for our kids.

So many of us as parents dismiss our children’s cries for help, call it “a phase”, or “growing pains”, mostly because their struggles look different from what our experiences were, since they are, indeed, different humans. We inadvertently cause so much pain in this way.

Haven’t we all been there, though? Can’t we empathize with this feeling on some level? Can’t we reflect to a point in our lives when we were being misunderstood, dismissed, or minimized?

I can.

For me, my unheard, misunderstood piece of my being is my good friend, anxiety.

When I was 7, I started having major panic attacks, social anxiety, and separation anxiety. Only, there wasn’t a name for any of those things in 1983, especially for kids. Literally no one discussed anxiety openly, at least not in my world. My parents had no idea what was wrong with me.

There was no solid language surrounding what I was experiencing.

I felt ashamed. I felt abnormal. I felt like I was the weird kid. I felt like an outcast, even though I had friends. I had this giant secret of the internal suffering that I was experiencing. I felt like the only one with this type of suffering. I felt like no one would understand if I tried to explain it, so I didn’t.

I just dealt with it.

It was crippling and scary at times, but I just kept going through life. I just accepted that this was the way my life had to be. It felt harder than it should be, but when I was told that I just had “stomach issues” or that I was just “a bit of a nervous kid”, I assumed this was just my life.

Much like my son thought before he came out. He was told he had to carry the label of being a girl, so he did. That was just how it had to be for him since the adults in his life told him so.

I didn’t have a name for anxiety until I was in my early 20’s, after I was honest with myself about how I was feeling. I sought some help of a professional and she gave me language:

“You are living with generalized anxiety”.

“But, headaches? Fatigue? Upset stomach? That’s not anxiety”, I remember saying.

“Yes. All anxiety. And so many people have anxiety. We will figure out how you can best manage it”, she said.

And the sense of relief I had was insurmountable. Just to have a sense of what I was feeling was…normal…and ok…and common. It all made more sense to me, all of my symptoms, what my body was reacting to.

It was a starting point of tackling how to make this better.

Much like my son when he was given the language to explain how he was feeling.

For my son, to hear the language, and to have someone, a professional, who validated him, was what he needed to make sense out of how he was feeling. For my son, a name and pronoun change was his magic. He’s happy, he’s thriving, he’s well-adjusted, living a normal kid life, much happier than he was before he came out, living his best life.

And that’s how he knew he was transgender. And that’s how I then learned what this all meant for him.

It was a process of learning, like most things that aren’t widely discussed or understood. Just like I learned about my anxiety.

When I tell people that I live with anxiety, and that sometimes I have to take medication to control it, no one tells me that it’s not real. No one tells me that there’s no such thing as anxiety.

So why do people say these things to trans people? Why are their feelings invalidated constantly?

It’s important to acknowledge here that I am not comparing being transgender to having a mental illness. The parallel only exists in the “I don’t know exactly how I’m feeling and I want to make it better”, of both scenarios.

For me, anxiety is something I live with, some bad wiring, something I manage.

For my son, being trans is a piece of who he is. In both situations, it just required a little bit of knowledge about how we deviate from the “norm”. There’s nothing wrong with us, nothing needing to be fixed. Just things about us that needed to be acknowledged so we knew what to do to be a better version of ourselves.

When we evolve enough to openly speak about topics that seem obscure or rare or different, we give others empowerment to own our feelings, to validate ourselves. When we are able to define our feelings and give language to them, we then have this tremendous gift of being able to pass on knowledge, come together in solidarity.

The more we give this gift of language to others about things we don’t understand, the more awareness we’re building. The more awareness, the more we normalize things that generally carry stigmas, the more we lift one another up.

This is how this all works.

Let’s continue to give the gift of passing on definitions and education and language for our trans community. Our entire lives are based off of education and learning and raising awareness. We can do this for our trans loved ones.

It’s up to us, allies, to share the language we’ve learned with others who are uninformed. The onus isn’t on the trans community to educate. It’s on us.

We know knowledge is power.

It was a gift to learn the language I needed to understand my transgender son.

I’m passing the gift onto you.

Pass it on.

Raising a Trans Child, Ranting

Dear Jo,

Today, I’m sharing a letter that a fellow mama bear wrote to JK Rowling in response to Rowling’s raging transphobia. It was once speculated by some previous comments she’s made, now its confirmed.

(If you’re not familiar with how transphobic the billionaire author of the Harry Potter series is, please read here.)

This letter was written by this mama almost a year ago when rumors were circulating about Rowling’s transphobia. And I just thought this to be too sweet of a note not to share.

Rowling wrote her way into so many lives. She’s resonated with so many with her underlying themes of magic and “be who you are” and all of the things that we needed to hear.

Yet.

Here she is.

Excluding.

Perpetuating narratives that are a danger to our trans community.

She’s breaking hearts.

Please read sweet Georgia’s plea to Jo. I think this will hit many of you in the heart.

 *******

Dear Jo,

I hope it’s ok to call you Jo? You don’t know me, and while it’s true that I don’t know you, I’ve spent so many years in one form or another of your company that I feel a familiarity. We all know there’s an illusion of intimacy that celebrity can bring and I’m mindful of that, but I think it’s fair to say that I might know at least some things about you. That you are compassionate, that you value friendship and loyalty. That in your ideal world, we are all given a fair go, and that respect and recognition should be things that everyone has a chance to earn. That all children are deserving of unconditional, unlimited love.

People sometimes ask which three people, living or not, you would choose to have dinner with. For many years now my answer to that question has been my grandmothers, who both died when I was quite young, and you.

Unlike some of your fans, I didn’t grow up reading your books. At 43, I’m afraid I missed that boat. I discovered Harry Potter at age 23 in 2000, when I was pregnant with my first child. A friend lent me the first, and I quickly devoured the next three. I then eagerly awaited each book as it came out; I joined queues on release days and dressed my then-toddler in his cloak and wand. I spent hours speculating on forums and was sorted into my house (a proud Ravenclaw). In 2006, I saw you read at Radio City Music Hall, and it remains to this day one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I don’t give too much thought to celebrities in general, I doubt there’s a singer or actor who could elicit much of a response from me. But when you sat on the stage and read to us, I wept.

My second child was born earlier that year, betwixt Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows, and my third and fourth were born in 2009 and 2011, when these were released as movies.

So while I can’t claim that you or your books influenced my childhood, in many ways they did influence my motherhood. Partly as a refuge from study and work while jugglingpregnancies and small children, partly as a reward at the end of a long day or a quiet pleasure to indulge in during nap time. But most importantly, as a joy I was able to share with my children. These were no tedious bedtime stories, no tiresome trips to the movies as a reluctant supervisor. These were something we loved, and we loved them together. We still do. I thank you so much for that.

I suppose I need to get to the point. There’s always one of those, isn’t there? I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry I didn’t ever write before without an agenda, but these things often only happen when something strikes a certain chord, and I’ve recently felt compelled to address something important to me.

As well as a librarian, book nerd, killer of indoor plants, lover of handbags, and Harry Potter tragic, I’m mum to a transgender daughter. In many ways, your stories embrace and affirm a daughter like mine. They are filled with children who have the courage and conviction to follow their hearts, and who sometimes face great odds to live life as they know they should. They are filled with messages about bravery, equality, and hope in the face of adversity. They are filled with characters who do not always do what is easiest, but what is right.

It’s so hard for me, then, to reconcile this with recent views on transgender people. Part of me wants to give you the benefit of the doubt, that part of me that has loved, treasured, hung off every word you wrote for so many years. But yet another part of me, the part that faces and fights discrimination, hatred, and bigotry against children like my daughter almost every day, has to recognise that perhaps, for once, your words have lost their magic for me.

I know it’s of no actual consequence to you, but my first thought was “Well, that’s Jo off my fantasy dinner list. Who on earth can I replace her with?”

But I’ve had a little time to think, and I’ve changed my mind. I’d like to keep you there. My grandmothers are on this list because I’d dearly love to know them as an adult, and for them to meet my children. And I’d like you to meet my children too. I’d like you to meet my beautiful daughter, and understand her for the brave, kind, and compassionate person she is. After all you’ve taught us, I’d like to give you the chance to learn from her.

Alas, no such dinner will ever occur. There’s no resurrection stone to bring back my grandmothers, and no “Accio Jo” spell to summon you to my home. But there are other children you could learn these same lessons from. For all the joy and wisdom you’ve given me, I’d like to give one small gift of advice to you: know one transgender child and their family, and I promise that your world will be the more magical for it.

 

Always,

Georgia

Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Uncategorized

Our Transgender Children Aren’t Political Pawns. Let Them Live.

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.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Social Media, Uncategorized

When Will We Listen to Trans People?

Isn’t it amazing how many advances we make in society?

Science, technology, research, medicine. Our world changes every single day. We are literally smarter than we were yesterday. We are evolving as we speak.

I mean, I sit here, typing on this invention called a computer and a keyboard, utilizing this invention called reading glasses for my aging eyes. We hold actual computers in our hands all day long. We can rule the world from our phones, y’all.
And just look at modern medicine. We have robots doing surgical procedures and tests that show radioactivity in our bodies and pharmaceuticals for anything and everything.

All of these advancements. All of this progression. Amazing, right?

Yet, here I am, just having finished defending transgender people, yet again, on social media. Responding to the “YOU CANNOT CHANGE YOUR GENDER WITH MEDICINE AND SURGERY”, and the “BEING TRANSGENDER ISN’T A REAL THING”, arguments.

Why is it so difficult for us to evolve socially?
How do we get so stuck in these specific ways?
Why are people so quick to pick up the new diet fad supplement that isn’t FDA approved, but condemn someone’s mere existence simply because they’re trans?
Is it religion? Fear of being wrong? Patriarchal?
What is everyone so goddamn afraid of?

Many people don’t understand why I bother engaging in these online arguments. And the answer: because allies have to.
We have to speak up more.
It’s our duty to elevate the existence of trans people.

What rocks me to my core is the hypocrisy of these folks who care so much about other people’s genitals and how others identify. This one topic, that has absolutely no bearing of their lives, that holds no weight for them, that affects them in literally zero ways, it ignites this fire in them to actively fight against and oppress and entire community of people.

All while they…

…get their hair dyed to the color of their liking.

…take medicine to cure their ailments.

…wear braces to fix their teeth.

…get Botox to fight signs of aging.

…use Viagra to get their dick up.

…surgically put silicone in the boobs to make them bigger.

…use birth control pills to prevent pregnancy or to lessen heavy periods.

…use hormone replacement therapy for menopause.

…replace their knee joint because of osteoarthritis.

I could sit here all day and list the things we do as cisgender people that “go against nature”, or doing something that “God didn’t intend”.

But, holy shit.
Someone wants to live their truth?
Someone wants to live their life in a way that makes them whole?
Someone wants to save their own life by changing their name, switching to their pronouns, maybe begin hormone therapies or have gender affirmation surgery?

Brains explode all over the place.

It defies all logic, this hypocrisy.

I will never understand why others are so overly obsessed with how people live their lives.

How many studies, reports, and medical organizations’ statements have to be released in order for people to listen to the needs of trans individuals? When will it be enough to validate their existence?

This dissonance results in such a lack of resources for the trans community, especially in more rural areas.

I cannot find a pediatrician for my son who is versed in caring for a transgender child, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics stance on the issue is clear. And by “caring for”, I simply mean the right and wrong things to say while examining my child for a sprained wrist; an office staff who have been trained on trans inclusiveness. I have to drive almost an hour for him to see a pediatric endocrinologist that has some semblance of a clue on how to care for trans kids. There is only one mental health practitioner in my county who specializes in LGBTQ+ issues.

It boggles my mind how we can be simultaneously progressed and regressed at the same time.

I’m in sales so I drive a lot, spanning about 180 mile radius. Last week, as I was driving, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of clinics in my area advertising for low testosterone/erectile dysfunction treatments. I counted 4 clinics and 4 billboards, in just one county. Just so old men can have sex.

Imagine if we treated transgender healthcare with that same respect and enthusiasm as a flaccid penis? Can you imagine the protests and backlash if there were advertisements of this sort, along the lines of “Transgender Healthcare Given Here! We Want To Help You Live Your Best Life!”…to save the lives and the emotional health of transgender people by giving them affirming care?

Flaccid penises? Can’t have that! Old men deserve sex!!!!
Emotional well being of trans people? Validate their existence and listen to them? Hard pass.

Weird parallel to draw, I know, but…problematic, skewed thinking here, isn’t it?

We are continually failing the transgender community socially and medically, therefore, emotionally. It is archaic thoughts and beliefs that continue to assault trans people. And they deserve so much more. We are a country so determined to raise mental health awareness, yet, ignore and oppress and entire community time and time again when they tell us their needs.

Progress takes time, yes. Of course. We’ve come a long way, and I’m so thankful my son was able to come out in a time when we’re talking about this more and more.

But, this work, this fight, has been going on for decades.

And here we sit, while the Supreme Court of the United States deliberates over the livelihoods of gay and trans citizens. While Obama-era protections for our trans kids are being rolled back. While the privatization of public schools is taking over, where LGBTQ+ students aren’t welcome. While teens message me everyday, telling me their parents kicked them out because they’re trans. While hate crimes are at an all time high. While trans women of color are being murdered at a disproportionate rate.

When do we listen?

When do we evolve?

When do we advance?

When do we truly evolve our minds and our hearts?

We need to get more comfortable with what makes us uncomfortable.

Be the person who looks back on your 5-year-ago self and says, “Wow. I’m so glad I’m not that person anymore. I’m so glad I evolved my thinking and challenged what I thought to be true”.

Not recognizing and validating the transgender community is as archaic as a Nokia 3310, or that believing that smoking while pregnant is healthy. The trans community desperately needs you to move on, open your minds, and see them. Their lives are depending on it.

Evolve. In all ways. You can do it.

 

 

 

 

 

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child

What I Wish I Knew Before My Child Came Out As Transgender

I have a 10 year old transgender son who has been out for almost 2 years now.

Everything and nothing has changed within that time.

He hasn’t changed much at all, aside from being a happier, more well adjusted child, yet everything about me- my thinking, my beliefs, my circle of friends, my priorities- everything has changed for me.

They say that when your trans child transitions, the parents transition, too. And those words are so very, very true.

The caterpillar to the butterfly analogy certainly applies to our kids, as they become themselves within this amazing, beautiful journey. Their wings spread far and wide.

And we, as affirming parents of trans kids, fly right behind them, finding our own wings, navigating a new path with so many unknowns in the beginning of the journey.

There’s so much I wish I knew a few years ago and I hope that imparting these key points will assist other parents who might be new here.

Here’s what I wish I knew:

1. That Trans Kids Exist

And that it was even possible that my kid was one.

I knew that transgender adults existed, mostly thanks to visible folks such as Laverne Cox and Chaz Bono, so it sounds silly in my own brain now that I didn’t realize that trans kids existed. If they’re trans as adults, it’s quite obvious to me that they were trans kids. I know this now.

But, like many of us, I was confusing gender identity with sexuality or sexual orientation, therefore, I was certain that being trans was something one would realize when they’re older, maybe teen years, maybe young adulthood, which is when we muddle through our sexuality. After all, Chaz was an adult when he came out, as was Laverne and Caitlyn Jenner, even.

Jazz Jennings was the only trans child visible and I knew very little of her story. Truth be told, I didn’t want to know her story because I judged her parents for encouraging her young transition.

Yes. I was one of those folks who thought this way. I didn’t understand how this works. So, I parented this way, rooted in my ignorance.

I simply didn’t know that trans kids existed because I didn’t inform myself. I wasn’t listening to others lived experiences. I wasn’t believing them.

Trans kids exist.

Trans adults were trans kids.

They just conformed to what was expected of them. Societal norms are one hell of a mute button.

2. That The “Wait and See” Approach Is Harmful

When my child began displaying non-gender conforming preferences at the age of 2-3, I followed his lead in the sense of “allowing” him to dress in boys clothes and play with boy toys, and eventually even caved to the boy hair cut at 6, but I fully dismissed him as he begged to change his name to a boy’s name, as he imaginary player as the male character, as he drew himself as male.

I would respond to him by saying, “we will talk about this when you’re older”, and shut him down.

What I know now is that I was soaking him in shame.

I was perpetuating bad information about gender that we’ve all been given.

Kids have a concept of their gender by the time they’re 3, (often times even before the age of 3 but prior to that, they done have the language yet). This is a fact.

None of us cisgender (non trans) folks waited until we were adults to identify as the gender we are. Neither should our trans kids. Because they know themselves.

It’s quite simple. We just need to listen.

And the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees, as does every other major medical association.

I hear often from parents of older trans kids (teens and young adults) that I’m fortunate that my child came out so young. I didn’t understand why I would hear this so often at first, but now I do.

Had I have listened harder, sooner, I would have saved my son quite a bit of pain. And some parents don’t listen, don’t hear, don’t even see it coming at all because their trans kids don’t even trust them with the information, soaking their kids in shame for years and years, when there’s then so much unraveling and unpacking to do by the time they come out. (And yes, some trans folks don’t figure this out about themselves until they’re older, which is just as valid as knowing from a young age!).

To “wait and see” is such an insidious thing to do and needs caution.

The sooner transgender kids are affirmed, the easier their journey will be. Full stop.

Does that mean that every kid that gender bends is trans? Absolutely not.

But when they’re consistent and persistent about how they identify- believe them. They know.

3. That It’s Necessary to Cleanse Family and Friends Out

When my son came out, we knew we’d lose some family and friends, and we did.

And that’s totally ok.

Actually, it’s better than ok- it’s necessary.

When your young child comes out as trans, it’s a way of taking the trash out of your lives.

Not everyone will understand this journey, of course, but not everyone will even try to understand. And those people need to get packing and move along.

We were humbled by the love and support we received. It was amazing. And it came from the most unexpected places at times.

There’s a giant difference between tolerance and acceptance, though.

In the beginning of this journey, tolerance was welcomed. We were just glad people weren’t being outwardly terrible to us.

A few months in, I realized that tolerance actually felt pretty terrible. It was that feeling similar to when you’re in high school when you’re talking to the cool group of friends, but you know when you walk away, they’re shit-talking you.

That’s how our daily lives began to feel when my son came out. And it didn’t feel good. At all.

Now, we only allow acceptance into our lives, because this isn’t an “agreed to disagree” situation. Affirming my child was live saving. Affirming trans kids is suicide prevention.

So, we say “no thanks” to those who are merely tolerating us.

Ask questions, learn, research, read, educate yourselves. I need my son to know that he’s fully and wholeheartedly loved. He needs to go through life with this confidence so he can weed out the terrible people immediately and only surround himself with goodness. No excuses. Religion isn’t an excuse, uninformed bigotry isn’t an excuse. None of the “but that person is my aunt, uncle, best friend”, etc. type of talk. Toxic is toxic and we move on from those folks.

Be a true ally… or we don’t have a lotta space for you.

4. That There’s a Beautiful Community On the Other Side

I was terrified when my son came out because I was scared to be alone, despite the loving, accepting people in our lives. I wanted to connect to other parents in the LGBTQ+ community, walking a similar path, so naturally, I went to social media.

No, really. True story.

I found so many of our people there.

From private Facebook groups, to Instagram influencers, to Twitter handles- there’s a giant, affirming, amazing community of beautiful, colorful people that I’ve bonded with. The support we’ve found here has been so incredible, inspiring, and necessary.

We’ve built a community of support locally, too, by finding our local LGBTQ+ youth center.

All of these folks are our new, chosen, extended family.

And we are so grateful for every human in this community.

5. That Being Apolitical Was a Privilege

I was never overly political. Because I didn’t have to be.

I dipped in and out of social justice, I randomly volunteered, I voted- sometimes a Republican ticket, sometimes a Democratic- with that “fiscally conservative” mindset at times. I loved President Obama and voted for him both times, I cried when marriage equality was finally passed, I made fun of how clueless George W. was, although I did vote for him when he ran against Kerry.

I was all over the political spectrum, and often times apolitical.

Because I had the privilege to be apolitical.

Most policies didn’t affect me directly, so I was able to shrug my shoulders quite often.

This is one of my biggest regrets in life, honestly. I wish I was there for the fight more consistently long ago. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I made far too many assumptions.

Now?

Everything in politics matters to me. Obviously, with this administration constantly attacking LGBTQ+ rights, that’s my focus of activism, but politics is clearly intersectional. And it matters to be involved in all aspects, to understand policy, to understand the way our government works, how decisions are made, how to fight for the rights of all marginalized folks.

Being political when you have a trans kid is necessary. Because equality has become a political issue, unfortunately. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

My “political agenda” is to achieve equality and equity for all oppressed communities. My political agenda is to promote kindness, understanding, and fair treatment.

And there’s so much work to do.

6. That There’s Resources

I felt like I was a minnow in this giant ocean when my child came out. I felt like we were the only ones going through this.

We needed emotional support, but we also needed resources.

Thank sweet goddesses for the internet.

PFLAG

HRC

GenderSpectrum.org.

American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical organizations such as WPATH.

Trans Equality Foundation.

National Center for Trans Equality.

GLAAD

LGBTQ+ Youth Centers.

Therapists.

Local support groups.

Studies.

Documentaries, such as Gender Revolution.

Private social media groups.

Visible trans folks, such as Alok, Jacob Tobia, Aiden Dowling, and so on.

Other visible parents of trans kids, such as Debi Jackson, Mimi Lemay, Vanessa Ford, Amber Briggle, Jeanne Talbot, Jodi Peterson, Amanda Knox, (and so many more, many who have written books!).

So many resources. I dove in, reading, researching, watching, listening. Reading personal stories and listening to trans folks was the most impactful resource to me. Connecting to other parents of younger trans kids was a close second.

Priceless resources that I was able to alarm myself with, knock down my own biases, my own hangups.

I was able to take a giant, deep breath after I connected to these resources.

7. That it’s All Going to Be OK

I once wrote a piece about being terrified that my kid my be trans. And I was. So terrified.

Because of all of the hate and misinformation that exists in the world. Because of all of the horrible, scary statistics about trans youth’s emotional health. Because of bullying. Because fighting for equality is hard.

And it was so overwhelming and scary.

But once we leaped, we never looked back.

Because once he was OK, once he was happy, healthy, and his wings soared, it was all OK. His smile, his new demeanor, his new self, a child I never met before, showed me that this was all OK.

This was all so worth it. This was all so…beautiful.

Everything else became secondary, pretty irrelevant, actually.

It’s such a gift to parent a transgender child. It’s such an education, such a journey.

I’ve come such a long way. And I’m honored to have my son be my teacher.

I’m such a better person for it.

I’m thankful every single day that I was chosen.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

Listening Harder

Over the last few years, I’ve really tried to focus on learning about the realities of marginalized communities.

I’ve chosen my books wisely, follow people on social media with intent- people of color, black activists, authors, LGBTQ folks. I’m thirsty for knowledge on experiences that I haven’t lived, trying my best to learn how to make things better, using my privilege the best I know how.

I’ve listened harder.
I absorb more information everyday. I volunteer when I can, I donate what I can, I attend rallies when I’m able.

I try not to be one-issue focused, but of course I’m partial to advocating for trans rights because this is my son’s reality. This is his life.

It took our lived experiences to truly wake me up. (And I say “our” because my son is young and I’ve had to do a lot of advocating on his behalf.)

Of course I’ve known discrimination, racism, and bigotry have existed. But my privilege tended to always allow me to look at society through rose colored glasses. So much so that when then Black Lives Matter movement began, I was one of the ignorant white people who just didn’t get it.

I had to listen harder. I had to read stories and recounts, look at statistics, absorb. Quietly, without the “but not all white people” interjection.

I was called out on Twitter once by the amazing Bishop Swan for appropriating the BLM movement by saying women should “take a knee” in protest to Kavanaugh last year. It was a humbling experience.

I listened. I learned. I didn’t respond in defense, but with humility and willingness to do better.

I do my best to teach Dylan about real history, the history that schools refuse to teach. I do my best to not recreate the ignorance I lived in for so long.

No ally is perfect. I’m far from it. But if we are going to change society, it’s the allies that need to do the work.

As a public advocate, it can be even more tricky because I’m always concerned with stepping on toes or somehow powering over voices who matter more.

Ally-ship is a verb and it’s a constant evolution.

And what I’m receiving on this end of advocacy in response to many of my posts are messages such as “Protect ALL kids, not JUST trans kids”, or, “Oh, SO MANY kids are bullied. It’s just part of growing up”, or, “Medical care can’t be that difficult to find”, or, “You’re being dramatic”.

Similar to what folks in marginalized communities hear every.single.day, and have for decades.

Here’s some wisdom to those sit in that camp, who make negating statements:

You’re not listening hard enough.
And you’re not an ally if you’re making these statements.

You’re dismissing every trial and tribulation of marginalized people.

When you tell me, “Protect ALL kids”, you’re not hearing me. You’re not listening to trans people. You’re not doing the work.

You’re not hearing that I had to sit through 3 hours of a school board meeting where I was called a child abuser, where my child was compared to a mass shooter, where my child was called a pedophile, where people spewed their hatred, all endured just so my child could have equal access to bathrooms, so his correct name and pronouns would be used in school.

You’re not hearing that we have to drive over an hour to find a doctor who is trained in caring for trans kids, and when I say trained, I mean willing to use his name and pronouns so they can treat my kid for a cold or a sinus infection or a sprained wrist.

You’re not hearing that every move I make as a parent, whether it’s traveling for the weekend, planning a move to another city, choosing a school for my child, etc., has to be decided and executed based on the fact that my child is trans.

You’re not hearing the stats on bullying, that approximately 90% of LGBTQ kids have been assaulted or harassed in school.

You’re not hearing that my child cannot serve in our United States military for no good reason at all.

You’re not hearing that homeless trans people are now forbidden to utilize pubic shelter, and that 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ.

You’re not hearing that most medical care for trans teens isn’t covered by insurance, even though it literally saves their lives.

You’re not hearing that the majority of states in our country do not have anti discrimination laws for LGBTQ people, so the likelihood of Dylan being fired or denied housing because he’s trans is real.

You’re not hearing that 51% of trans teen boys have attempted or thought about suicide…because society treats them like shit.

You’re not understanding that your cisgender (non trans) child, does not need protection from any of these things.

You’re not listening.

And just because society is talking more about equality and trans rights, “better” does not translate into “equal”. At all.
And “better” doesn’t translate into safety or acceptance, either.

There will always be work to do as an ally. There never space for complacency or sitting idle. And there’s certainly never space for dismissive statements such as “All Lives Matter” or “Protect ALL Kids”.

Are you really listening? Are you listening as hard as you can?

Listen until you’re uncomfortable. Until you’re pushed to rethink everything you every believed. Listen to the anger, to the impatience, to the rawness, to the the exhaustion of marginalized communities.

They don’t owe you patience or kindness or an explanation of their existence or validation of their experiences.

But as a fellow human being, they’re owed equality, equal access, and safety.

Stop negating. Those rose colored glasses are lying to you everyday. And you’re believing the lies…because you can.

Listen harder.

Protect Trans Kids. I didn’t stutter.

Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Uncategorized

The Process of Coming Out: A Parent’s Journey

When your child comes out as transgender, the process can make you feel as though you’ve suddenly been thrown off a ship in the deep sea, unsure if you’re even able to swim.

Your life vest is there somewhere but every time you get close to grabbing it, a wave takes you further away. The waters feel like they’ll always be rough when you first descend into that water.

It’s disorientating, confusing, and exhausting.
It feels an awful lot like drowning in a sea of unknowns.

And it can feel awfully scary and lonely.
We know there has to be more of us out there swimming but holy shit, this ocean is vast.

It’s hard to find the safe harbors.

We essentially come out with our kids in many ways. We have our own process to reconcile.

We don’t talk about this often, because we shouldn’t. We should never center ourselves, especially public visibility wise, in what is our child’s process.

That doesn’t mean that what we go through as parents is invalid, unimportant, or secretive. It just means we have to be cautious of centering our child, not ourselves.

And. Our story is important.

We can empower other parents walking this path, helping them to continue to affirm trans youth, who obviously become trans adults. And we all want to raise healthy adults.

So we can start by letting our children be who they are.

We are in a position of empowerment to amplify the conversation as frontline allies. We need to tell our stories, too, for ourselves, for other parents, and for our kids’ health.

******

My truth:

If it wasn’t for the visibility of other parents of trans kids, I am quite certain that my child would still be suffering, pretending to be the girl that he isn’t, soaked in shame, and self-harming, possibly even a scary statistic. Because I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

My story:

A few short years ago, I didn’t know what being transgender truly meant. Chaz Bono was my frame of reference, in all honesty. I knew that trans people existed, but by no means did I understand what it meant beyond the adage that trans people essentially were “born in the wrong body”. I now know that’s not exactly the case, and to say that can even be damaging, but that’s what 6-year-ago me believed. That was the extent of my knowledge.

I was a liberal-minded individual then, I considered myself aware of many social issues, I considered myself an ally to The LGBTQ+ community.

But in reality, I was naive, unaware, and so very ignorant. You could even say I turned a blind eye in many ways because ignorance is truly blissful.

I didn’t give much thought to the trans community, because I didn’t have to.

It pains me to say that now. This community needs allies beyond the selfishness of “needing to” understand. But that’s, again, my truth, my story.

At the age of 2 or 3, when my son began showing a fierce rejection of all things female, I soon realized I was on somewhat of a unique parenting path, but it still didn’t seem to enter my mind that my child could be trans. Since Chaz Bono was my only benchmark, I suppose I thought that only adults could acknowledge they’re trans, never occurring to me that trans adults were indeed once trans kids. Simple, obvious thought, but when my son was a toddler, the subject of coming out as trans at a young age was still a foreign concept to me.

So, I did what every parent tends to do when embarking on this journey with a young child. I thought:

He’s just a tomboy.
He’s going through a phase.
He’s just not conforming to gender norms.
He’s just experimenting with what he likes.

And for some kids, those things might be true. So I give myself some grace here.

But as he headed into elementary school age, as his vernacular expanded, as he tried to teach me about his feelings, my thoughts expanded to:

Maybe he will be a lesbian. 
Perhaps he will be one of those who’s a tomboy throughout childhood but then a girly-girl after puberty.

But perhaps the most dangerous mindset I was in back then was that I thought I would just wait and see how this would all play out for my child. Because maybe, just maybe…he’s confused. I even began blaming myself for confusing him by allowing such freedom of expression.

I cringe as I type all of this. I truly do.

I would soon learn that I was the confused one.

I thought I was being supportive by nurturing this exploration and welcoming these blurred gender lines, I even considered it progressive (which, in fairness, this was progressive for the small town I live in).

So I wrote about it. And even did a shitty piece of British media about raising my child without labels.

This is when my education began. Thanks to the almighty powers that be that live in the internet.

I received a message from a mom of a trans daughter. A visible parent who would change my world by being public about their story.

She took it upon herself to reach out to me after reading my piece which outlined our journey at that point, one where I talked about the possibility that my child is trans, one where I boldly said I was “firmly planted in the ‘wait until after puberty to see what happens camp'”, in terms of my child transitioning, because I didn’t even understand social and medical transitioning at that point.

She said something along the lines of, “please be careful with waiting to allow your child to transition. That can be dangerous”, and proceeded to tell me why.

I’ll admit, I still wasn’t ready to hear this. I wish I could say otherwise but I just wasn’t ready.

Because I was scared.

I was paralyzed by all of the stories of trials and tribulations of being trans, the violence, the attempted erasure, the vitriol being spewed all over the media, especially with Caitlyn Jenner coming out around this time. “Transgender” became a buzz word largely because of Caitlyn, but all her visibility did for me was reinforce that adults come out as trans, not children.

Because, what if this is just a phase? I couldn’t justify a social transition of a name and pronoun change, only to have my child eventually just live as his assigned gender. That idea seemed to add to what I thought was my child’s confusion. That couldn’t be the right thing to do…could it? None of it made sense to me.

I needed to stay in the comfort of my denial. I couldn’t connect with the reality that my child would live a jagged path, one in which he had to fight for basic human rights. No. I wasn’t ready to digest this.

I was arming myself with a partial education, just enough to be dangerous, but I remained doubtful because after all, my child wasn’t depressed, or angry, or lashing out, or sad, like some of these other stories of trans youth I had read. My child was just a little shy, maybe a little reserved. But surely, that had nothing to do with this gender component. I mean, he had said he felt like a boy in his mind at the age of 5 or 6, but he also said he was “fine being a girl”, so if he’s unsure, I wasn’t going to push anything. Never mind the fact that I was the one who said we could talk about his feelings “when he got a little older”, after he asked numerous questions about Caitlyn Jenner at age 7. Never mind the fact that I was being dismissive because a child couldn’t possibly know themselves at such a young age.

I couldn’t wrap my head around it all. I just couldn’t. It was a lot to digest.

So I waited.

And my son was hurting.

And he began self-harming at age 8.

And that’s when I dove in with both feet.

I was ready to listen.

I was ready for my own transition as a parent. It took me awhile, but I got there.

I began feverishly researching therapists who work with gender expansive youth, only to find one about 40 minutes away, who never saw someone as young as 8, but she took him in.

I remember the day that I made that first call to her, expressing a shortened, frantic, spastic version of our journey so far, restating my ignorance by saying things like, “But he says he’s fine being a girl, so maybe he’s just going through a lot because I went through a bad divorce, and my dad is in bad health, and we’ve moved a couple of times, and he switched schools”…and, and , but, but. Still a little stuck.

But, my God, I was terrified that my child was harming himself. A parent’s worst nightmare, really.

Three months into therapy, we decided collectively that it was time for a name change and to use his pronouns.

For those of you who have been following our journey, you’ve heard me say this a million times: this is where the magic happened.

It still brings me to tears to think about his happiness after this simple change. The light in his eyes, the spark in his step, the ignition of his spirit. His whole self came alive. The cloak of shame his was wearing burned to the ground. The shyness subsided, the self-harm stopped immediately.

The caterpillar became a butterfly.

And it was magical.

This was just the beginning, though. For me anyway.

My son was off and running, telling all of his friends, ten steps ahead of me.

My mind was spinning, I couldn’t sleep, I cried a lot.

What does this mean from here?
Who do we tell and when?
What will school say?
What will the kids say?
Will he be bullied?
Do I post this on Facebook, or how does this work?
Do we change his name now?
Does he need puberty blockers?
Will I get hate mail, or worse, will we be threatened with violence?
Should we move to California??

But what if this is just a phase?

Yes. This still rang in my mind. The voice was less loud but it was still audible.

What silenced this voice of doubt was not only the research I began doing, the connections with others in the community that I began to make, the science behind being trans. It was merely watching my child quite literally come out of his shell.

It was his happiness that outweighed my fear. Finally. Because I got it. It suddenly all made sense.

So, as my child came out, I came out with him. We told people together, we told people separately. We fielded questions on so many different levels. We lost some family, we lost friends. We gained an entire community.

With every conversation, I began to exhale. I started to settle into this whole journey. I really began my own blossoming.

My skin grew thick, my spine grew strong. I was ready with my sword and my shield, jumping out in front of my happy, now well-adjusted son to rip anyone to shreds that dare to question, or worse, hurt him.

We began the battle, but we had already won the war. My child was happy.

That’s all we ever want for our children. Unbridled happiness. And that’s what I finally saw.

I wasn’t afraid anymore. I’m not afraid. I won’t be afraid. I will still worry as a mom, but I won’t live in fear. There’s a difference.

This kid, and all trans kids- all trans people- are changing the world. The education they have all given me…I can’t even describe my gratitude.

We’re a little over a year in now. My son is almost 10 and still so very happy. He is sure of himself, he’s proud, he’s unapologetic.

He’s exactly who he said he was all of those years ago.

As for me? I am a completely different person than I was all of those years ago. And that has been the greatest gift of this journey.

My son made me a better person, and continues to teach me everyday. I’m listening. I’m all ears. I will never doubt him again. I won’t undermine his internal voice or his self awareness.

Yes. Our stories about parenting trans kids matter.

If just one person reading this is nodding in solidarity while reading my story, if by sharing this I saved one trans child an ounce of pain because I dropped some education onto their parent, it’s worth it.

This journey, these rough seas we are trying to navigate, it can feel big and scary and angry. But it can also be beautiful, calm, and serene. We need to hold onto one another, lift one another up, so we can get to shore. We need to be one another’s life vests.

And we need to know that our kids are depending on us to make the world their safe harbor. They know how to swim in this sea much better than we do. They’re actually surfing these waves already while we’re over here flopping around, trying to find our way.

Jump on that surf board with your kid. They’ll get you to where you need to go.

I’m here, with my transgender son, loud and proud.
My story matters because I made a lot of mistakes.
And I hope someone learns from them.

 

Raising a Trans Child

Love is Beautiful. And Messy.

I once wrote a vignette in my journal about how being in love feels an awful lot like going for a brisk walk in cold weather.

Something along the lines of, “when you begin on your walk, out of the warmth into the cold, it feels fresh and welcoming. But as you continue on, as your lungs start to burn, you realize the cold hurts a bit. But you keep going because you know this will feel good if you pace yourself. And in the end, you’re glad you made the journey”.

Or some shit like that.

It was pretty emo.

I was 18 and I had a broken heart.

Life was oh so cruel {and dramatic} as I navigated those emotions for the first time in my life.

And that’s when I really found writing. That’s when I realized I had a creative bone in my body.

I always had to tell my story somehow, even if it was only to myself in a tattered Florida State University notebook.

I think about that vignette, though. How I was fighting to find that perfect metaphor for love, reaching to connect with how it’s beautiful and ugly all at once. Because love is exactly that. And it isn’t even definable, really.

Every love we experience in our life is complex. Romantic love, love for our parents, love for our friends, love for our children. It’s all complex. It’s all disproportionately messy and never makes much sense, yet, it makes total sense…because it’s love. The universal language.

We all want to do the very best we can for that person we love. But love isn’t always easy. It’s not a paved road.

Since my child came out as transgender a year ago, at the age of 8, I’ve received so many messages of encouragement and accolades, and kindness, and genuine support. Messages cheering me on, messages proclaiming my son’s bravery, celebrating my bravery for being public about our story, and telling me how wonderful I am for affirming my child.

Sure, I get hate mail. Often. I do. But the good has outweighed the bad.

But listen, this love, the love for my child, is just as messy as any other love.

I’m not a perfect mom. I’m a questionable mom at best some days.

I yell and scream.

I allow too much Fortnite and don’t enforce enough reading.

I let my kid eat donuts for breakfast and he has dessert after lunch and dinner.

I cuss in front of my child {not to be confused with at my child. Let’s not get crazy here.}

I scroll through my phone endlessly some nights, begging for it to be 9pm so I can stop hearing, “Mom! Watch!”, only to see him dance some dance that makes him look like he’s in some sort of convulsion.

My expectations of him are high, too high, sometimes, and I forget that he’s not even 10 yet.

I sign his daily math practice journal without actually practicing said math with him.

My tolerance for saying things more than once has long waned and I lose my shit within seconds.

But.

I’m a single mom doing the very best I possibly can.

I’m navigating this journey with my sword and my shield just jumping in front of my child, called to a battle I don’t quite know how to fight so I’m just swinging in the dark. I have my claws out, defensively postured at times, just waiting to rip into the flesh of anyone that hurts my baby.

I’m just doing what moms do.

We are a innately primal group of humans, us moms.

We fight for our kids. We support our kids. We hear our kids. We validate our kids. We carry the weight of the world as much as we can for our kids.

I’m just doing my version of love. And it isn’t anything special.

And although I realize that many trans youth don’t have a mom like me, although I realize why people send me such kind messages of appreciation, I truly believe that someday the stories of unaccepting parents will be the exception, not the rule.

Because we have the most amazing voices rising. Our kids voices are being amplified. Led by the adult trans community of voices, who after decades of oppression are continuing their fight.

We have all of these visible trans youth and trans adults and many, many parents that came way before me, and if it wasn’t for them, I would not even know how define transgender.

So, if you are one that wants to thank a parent of a trans kid for being supportive of their child, thank a visible trans person instead. They’re why I’m here.

They’ve guided me with their love for themselves, with their bravery.

They’ve led me to be able to completely discover the entirety of this beautiful, complicated, frustrating, quirky, loving, kind soul that I’m raising. They’ve led my mind to an open place so I can make sure my child feels comfortable in his own skin.

Although I’m humbled and appreciative of the gratitude I’m shown, I’m not deserving. I’m just being a mom, leading with love, and that’s a purposefully thankless job because this is what we signed up for.

All I’m doing here- affirming him, supporting him, fighting for his basic human rights so he can be afforded the same opportunities as everyone else, teaching him how to advocate for himself, to live his truth…

…that’s all just a chapter in our messy love story that we’re busy writing together, my son and I, as we pace our long walk in the cold.

Love is complex. It’s beautiful. It’s worth every step of the journey.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Relationships, Uncategorized

“But Not All Christians Are This Way…”

I didn’t grow up in a diverse environment.

Going from the very white suburbs of Chicago to a very white area of southwest Florida certainly didn’t expose me to much in my young life.

When I went to college, majoring in Social Work at Florida State University in Tallahassee, that experience was really my introduction to how colorful the world can be.

The majority of my classmates were black women of color. I remember one very vivid conversation during a group project in a class called Family Dynamics. We had to discuss all of the cultural differences between the 4 of us in the group, what our traditions looked like, how our heritage brought us to our norms, etc.

One of the women of color in my group, Stacy, said, “I wasn’t allowed to play with white kids when I was growing up”… and I don’t think I had ever been more shocked.

“What?? Why??”, I begged.
“Because my mom was afraid we would get hurt or hear terrible things about ourselves!”, she patiently exclaimed.
“But…what? Not all white people are racist! I was taught to love everyone and not see color of their skin!”, I defended, {saying the thing you’re not supposed to say}.
“Vanessa. You need to learn some real history and open your eyes. Especially if you’re going to work with diverse groups of people”, she said with pity and a bit of anger in her eyes.

I shut up.

Because I didn’t know what to say. But truth be told, I was angry, and hurt, and offended. I didn’t understand how an entire race of people could be deemed as a danger or a threat. I mean, how dare their decades of oppression, slavery, and discrimination that black people experienced, {and still experience}, at the hands of white people dictate such…reverse racism! {I hope my sarcasm is noted.}

It wasn’t until many years later that I would learn that lesson. The lesson Stacy was trying to teach me that day in that class when I was 19 and unwilling to learn:

That being a true ally isn’t about me or my feelings or my reality. It is about doing for the greater good, listening to experiences, and fighting against oppressive systems every single day. Oh, and hey, I also don’t get a pat on the back for any or all of the above. It’s just the right thing to do.

I talk about how parenting a transgender child has been the greatest gift of my life. And I say that with deep meaning; it isn’t just something nice to say. He has made me a far better ally to every marginalized group, a true ally who learns something new almost everyday. I no longer have the luxury of making allyship a choice, or some hobby I pick up every now and then. I now realize it is a lifelong process.

And that is the gift he has given me. He woke me up. He taught me how to show up for people, for humanity.

My son has given me the gift of examining my white, cisgender, straight female privilege.  He has taught me how to use that privilege to fight for those who need warriors marching next to them.

{And for those not in the know, the word privilege doesn’t mean I had an easy life, it doesn’t mean I grew up wealthy, it doesn’t mean I haven’t had hardships. It means that the color of my skin, my gender identity, and my sexual orientation did not cause any of my hardships, they afforded me opportunities.}

I was well on the road to becoming a better ally before my son came out as trans simply because I wanted to grow as a human. I matured and I chose to listen and learn when people spoke to me about marginalized communities. I asked questions, I sought information, I volunteered for organizations, voted for candidates that value equality, but the real work has been within the last year or two while raising a son who will live in a marginalized community for the rest of his life.

A community that is told every single day that they don’t exist, that they’re not real, not valid, not worthy. A community where the teen attempted suicide rate is hovering around 51% because of lack of acceptance. A community where they have to live in fear because they might be murdered just because they’re who they are. A community where medical care isn’t easily accessible. A community where certain religious organizations, therefore certain religious people, have deemed them unlovable, so much so that families reject their own flesh and blood completely.

I’ve never been overly involved in organized religion. I went to church with my grandmother as a kid, I dabbled with church in my adult life, I’ve studied numerous religions on my own, but organized religion never felt good to me for reasons I won’t dive into here. But it’s safe to say that I have my own spirituality that does not include attending church. Organized religion has hurt me more than it’s helped me, personally, and now it’s hurting my son.

I’ve been on the receiving end of many a tongue lashings from numerous Christians over this past year.

I’ve been disowned by family members in the name of religion.
I’ve been sent hate mail to my home address by strangers citing Bible verses from Christian journals.
I withstood 2 hours of a school board meeting where I listened to people that I know, parents and grandparents of children that my child goes to school with, call me a child abuser and compare my child to a school shooter, all while citing the Bible.
I’ve received countless messages and emails telling me I’m going to hell and so is my child.
I’ve been told that my son would be better off if I died so he has a “chance to go to heaven”.
I’ve had face to face conversations with strangers who have told me my child is mentally ill and that him and I are going to hell.

This is all in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. This is my reality.

And If I’m hearing this as a mother of a transgender child, just imagine what trans people are hearing every.single.day.of.their.lives.

Just imagine the invalidation. Only, you can’t imagine. Because you’re not living it. But I implore you to try. Try to visualize what that would look like, to have religion used against your being, against your very existence.

I have too many stories to count where religion has been used as a weapon.

When I share these stories on social media, I receive messages now and then from friends who say, “I hope you realize that not all Christians are this way”.

Yes. I know. I understand.
And I know these messages are well intended.

But you must understand that religion has been what’s harmed the LGBTQ community the most. It is why so many people are broken. It is why 41% of homeless youth are LGBTQ. It is why our kids are swallowing bullets, taking their own lives, because they are told that they’re not loved or seen in the eyes of God.

Just because you aren’t one of the “bad Christians” doesn’t mean this isn’t true.

I know many Christians who love my son and who love me. I know they do. And I know there are so many Christians who are true allies. I know many Christians with LGBTQ kids and I also know many pastors that are in the LGBTQ community themselves!

I’m so glad you put feet to your faith. You live it and don’t just say it. I believe you’re doing exactly what Jesus would want you to do.

And no one is asking you to defend Christianity. It’s your faith and yours alone.

But until our trans kids stop killing themselves because of rejection, what we are all doing as allies is not enough.

So, my ask is this- instead of messaging me that good Christians exist, just be that good Christian everyday. Don’t show me, show my son. Don’t be a closeted ally…because that’s not how allyship works. Show him by being a true ally, whether you’re Christian or Jewish or Atheist or Catholic or Buddhist or whatever.

Ask if your church is affirming, and when I say affirming, I mean they love and accept the LGBTQ community and recognize that these humans are born this way.
Call people out on their transphobic, homophobic bullshit.
Call people out on transphobic and homophobic “jokes”.
Open conversations about trans people, bring some education and data and research and medical facts to the table.
Seek information. Research. Read. Follow people on social media that are influencers in marginalized communities.
Speak up.

Additionally, as allies, we cannot make anything about us. We will hear truths that will make us uncomfortable. We will. And we will want to defend ourselves. But nothing is learned when we say things such as, “I’m sorry that happened to you BUT I don’t do that, blah blah blah”.
Get rid of that “But, I“. Stop it.

Instead, try, “I’m sorry that happened to you. What can I do to help make a difference?”

And as allies, we will screw up. I certainly have {even recently} and I will again. But we have to be committed to learning. Every fucking day.

Show. Up. For all marginalized communities. Show the fuck up.

Open your mind to the possibility that there’s more to life than your reality. And that although you don’t believe you’re doing anything harmful, there’s always something else you can be doing to be helpful.

Uncategorized

The S.H.A.R.E. Movement Is Here!

Welcome to S.H.A.R.E.!!

Supporting Happiness, Acknowledgement, Respect, and Equality: A card sharing movement for LGBTQ+ friends who could use some cheer!

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I have an amazing friend I met through advocacy work, Ashley, and she brought this amazing idea to me yesterday. I just had to copilot this movement.

The holidays can be a difficult time for so many of us, specifically for some of our LGBTQ+ friends that aren’t in contact with their families or maybe just need a little boost of love.

So, we’re here to spread CHEER and POSITIVITY through greeting cards filled with heartfelt messages.

What a way to spread JOY and LOVE!

Here’s how it works:

  • Click this link.
  • Sign up as a sender and we will contact you with details on how to help.
  • Sign up as a receiver, or someone you know who would appreciate a holiday card, and they shall receive!
  • Share, share, share, share this S.H.A.R.E. Movement on social media!

We hope for this to grow into a huge movement for other holidays, birthdays, weddings, graduations, or any event where an LGBTQ+ friend needs a pick-me-up.

{Please note that home addresses are needed for greeting card deliveries. Privacy, security, and safety is our top priority so if sharing an email address feels more comfortable, do that! And we will send some virtual cheer!}

GET SHARING! Let’s spread some love this holiday season!!

Questions? Email me: VanessaVNichols@gmail.com

Thanks for being a part of something special,

Vanessa and Ashley