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!

~~~~~~~~

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

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

The 10 Things People Say to Parents of Trans Kids

Last week, our school board finally made a decision to protect our trans kids in school.

It’s been on their docket for well over a year, so it was about time.

There was an uproarious school board meeting in 2016 when one of the first trans kids came out publicly to challenge the {oh so exhausted} bathroom conversation. And the conversation continued to get louder as trans students, allies, community advocates, and parents pushed for policies and guidelines to keep our kids safe.

It took quite some time and a whole lot of conversation but the superintendent finally pushed these supportive guidelines out after ten of us spoke during September 2018 board meeting, which seemed to be his tipping point. Finally. They’re on the right side of history.

It was a big win for our small, red county in southwest Florida.

But of course, the fight is far from over.

The opposition is out in full force donning all of their ignorance and hatred. All because one uber conservative school board member dog whistled for her base to assemble. They’re digging their heels in, kicking and screaming that the guidelines are “radical”, especially because they state that parental involvement isn’t necessary if a student comes out at school; the school is to respect and honor that student, (as they should since family acceptance is not always guaranteed and home can be a flat out dangerous environment).

It’s an ongoing discussion.

And because I’m a public advocate for trans rights, specifically for students in our district, I field a ton of hatred and tongue lashings via every virtual media outlet possible. Keyboard warriors unite!

But some questions I receive are out of genuine curiosity. Questions that I believe most parents of trans kids field nearly every single day.

So, I would like to dispel some myths and hopefully even squash some outright dangerous lies. Especially since the Trump administration is attempting to erase our entire trans community by redefining gender, which scientists have fiercely rejected, yet, here we are.

Here goes.

1. You Make Your Kids Trans

Sigh.

I literally cannot get my child to do the two simple chores I ask him to do in a week. I can’t get him to brush his teeth twice a day. I can’t get him to keep his clothes neat in his drawers.

I certainly cannot make him into something he isn’t.

And I know because I tried to force him into being a girl once upon a time, before I understood what it meant to be transgender. Because I really did secretly want a girl, the gender he was assigned at birth.

I dressed him in pinks and purples with bows and headbands, up until he made his own clothing choices. And even though I allowed him to wear boy clothes as he grew, trying to support his unique character, I was still rooted in the idea that he couldn’t possibly know his gender at such a young age.

I wanted to wait and see what age would bring, despite his verbiage of feeling like a boy in his mind. Which in turn, only soaked him in shame. So much so that he was self-harming at age 8.

Once we sought professional guidance, I realized that he knew exactly who he was. He began using his new name and pronouns and like magic, he was happier, well adjusted, confident, and no longer self harming.

We don’t make our children into what they’re not. We follow their lead. Not to mention, why would we sign our kids up purposefully for a lifetime of societal rejection? That defies all logic.

They were born this way. And if you need science to prove it, there’s plenty of it.

2. They’re Too Young To Make Life Altering Decisions

Referenced above, I myself once thought that elementary aged children don’t know themselves well enough to understand their gender.

Which actually sounds ridiculous as I type this out.

Because…what age were you when you realized you were a boy or a girl?

I was 3. I loved dresses that twirled, carried around baby dolls, and embraced everything else that falls into the category of the female gender.

But more so, since it isn’t about just toys and clothes, I never had a devout misalignment between my brain and my body like our trans kids (and adults) do. I was in complete acceptance of who I was as a female in a female body.

My son was drawing himself as a male character by the age of 3 or 4, imaginary playing as male characters, begging to change his name from that same age. Because his body and his brain weren’t aligned.

So, kids know. Just as we knew.

Usually the “what if this is just a phase?!” question is asserted in this same conversation. And to that I say, “what if it is?!”. Who cares? At least I followed my child’s lead and allowed him some autonomy in exploring his gender identity. It’s really ok.

Also, we cannot confuse gender identity with sexuality. Gender doesn’t have anything to do with who we are attracted to but I believe many of us confuse the two, therefore believing kids are just too young to know themselves since sexual preference usually emerges around puberty.

Oh, and a change in name and pronouns…is not life altering, but it is life enhancing for our trans kids.

3. You’re Pumping Your Kids Full of Hormones and Mutilating Their Genitals

Um. No.

This actually makes me fucking angry.

Medical professionals are a part of our kids’ lives, as in, a trifecta of physicians including a primary care doctor, a mental health professional and an endocrinologist. And this team develops a treatment plan for our kids including talk therapy, possibly puberty blockers, which simply pause puberty since that time in life can be detrimental to our trans youth, and maybe, possibly, eventually, hormone replacement therapy that aligns with their gender identity. This usually would be prescribed in the teen years, as puberty would be occurring.

And gender confirmation surgery might be discussed as a young adult. Possibly.

Not every trans person follows the above mentioned treatment plan.

Everyone’s transition is different.

But I assure you, we are not pumping our young children full of hormones or surgically altering them.

Just no. Stop.It.

4. Being Transgender is a Mental Illness

I might hate this one the most. Not because there is anything wrong with mental illness. I live with one myself (severe anxiety).

I loathe this one because it’s used in such a dismissive, oppressive way towards the trans community.

The World Health Organization historically classified being trans as a mental illness, just as homosexuality was at one time, but it is now considered a “health condition”, solely for the purposes of allowing access to medical treatments that trans folks might choose to seek, such as hormone replacement therapy, so their body can align with their identity, so they can minimize gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria, the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex, does remain in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual as a mental health diagnosis, where professionals, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have agreed that the only course of treatment is that of the affirmation model, meaning to guide them in transition socially, and possibly medically {hormones and/or gender confirmation surgery}, if diagnostic criteria has been met.

To put in perspective what that means- not all mental health issues listed in the DSM V have a cure per se, or aren’t exactly mental at all, such as restless leg syndrome or narcolepsy which are also listed. They require a diagnosis for a treatment plan but they’re not something to be undone or medicated even.

So, the only time mental illness comes into the conversation might be if the individual experiences anxiety or depression, which usually is the result of family, peer, or society’s rejection of them.

Family rejection remains high, unfortunately, even given all of the scientific data that supports that being transgender is, indeed, real. And statistics show that suicide rates can be as high as 58% when a young trans person is rejected by their family, comparatively to 4% if accepted.

And of course, most of us acknowledge that the general population remains grossly undereducated on this subject, which results in stressful social situations, which can certainly contribute to emotional distress.

So, we have to do better about educating one another. And stop the stigmas.

5. You’re Pushing Your Liberal Agenda

I’m not even sure what this means but I hear it all.of.the.time.

The way I translate this is, “we need to just ignore this entire community to preserve everything we view as ‘normal’ because it threatens the patriarchy”.

But I doubt anyone would own my interpretation.

So, what I’ll say is- ok. Sure.

Our “liberal agenda” consists of fighting for equality for our kids and for all trans people. Because they’re American citizens and they deserve some equity in society. And they need to stop being “other-ed” by society.

Our kids aren’t political pawns. They’re humans. And because they do happen to be trans, they need advocates fighting for their basic civil rights.

If that’s “pushing a liberal agenda”, yep. You’re right. That’s what we’re up to.

We prefer the term “social justice warriors”, but potato, pata-toe. “Liberal agenda” will work.

6. I Don’t Understand What it Means to be Transgender

This sounds innocent enough, innocuous even. And I’m always, always happy to educate when I hear these words.

But this usually results in people steering clear of the scary family with a trans kid. They might not outwardly spew hate, they might even do a great job of tolerating us, but because they’re not educated, they keep at an arm’s length.

Which is fine. But personally, I would rather they ask questions, even if they’re invasive.

Questions are good. Sticking your head in the sand is bad.

7. What Will I Ever Tell My Cis (non trans) Kids?!

This is an easier question to answer than it sounds.

Kids are easy. And whether you are onboard with what it means to be trans or not, you frankly don’t need to say much.

It’s as simple as, “well, little Sally, your friend at school who you’ve known as Lily is now going by the name of Dylan and will be using he and him instead of she and her. He feels like a boy in his heart and brain and so this is honoring him. Try your best to respect his new name and pronouns. It’s ok if you make a mistake. Just gently correct yourself”.

And, like magic, kids will simply say…”Ok!”.

That’s usually that.

Yes, really.

The remainder of the conversation is really up to you and how much you want to explain.

There are some great books available for young kids. And older middle and high school kids, trust me when I tell you that they already know.

Because kids are very accepting and loving.

It’s the parents that teach bigotry and hatred.

Keep the conversation simple and honest.

8. You and Your Child Are Going To Hell

I cant even with the religion conversation. And I hate the phrase “I can’t even”.

There’s so many things in the Bible that aren’t honored on a daily basis, like, hello, you’re not supposed to touch the skin of a pig? Or be around a woman on her period? And you’re supposed to gouge a man’s eyes out if they force him to sin?

Get the hell out of here. No pun intended.

But other than that, my God wouldn’t want you to be an asshole. He would want you to be accepting and loving and He will sort us all out.

And yes, God does make mistakes so don’t come at me with that shit either about Him “not making mistakes”.

We have glasses for bad eyesight, braces for bad teeth, hair color for grey aging, and so on. Sometimes, bodies aren’t perfect in terms of how we see ourselves. And trans people are no exception.

God loves everyone. Full stop.

9. If Your Child Has A Penis, They Are Male, A Vagina, They Are Female

First, the obsession with genitals is alarming. It’s very strange to me when grown adults talk about children’s genitals.

But if you must, I’ll engage.

This is fake news.

Because, did you know that 1 out of 1500 babies are born intersex, which means they have sex characteristics of both male and female, such as a penis and ovaries.

Which gender are they?

Unfortunately, for many years, doctors were making that decision and surgically modifying these babies at birth…only to choose the wrong gender in some cases. Some intersex people never even knew this about themselves. Some that do are very private about it.

All of this to say, genitals do not always determine gender. Even though many of us do identify with the gender assigned at birth, gender lives in the brain. And science, once again, has drilled down on this with research.

10. But! Bathrooms!

I know, I know. You don’t want your precious girl in the bathroom with a penis lurking.

This whole bathroom debate is a complete fallacy with zero substance.

Studies have shown that not one incident is on record of a trans person perpetrating in a bathroom. Not one. Cis men are the ones we need to watch out for. Not trans people.

When is the last time you saw someone’s genitals in a bathroom anyway? I never have. Because I go in the bathroom to do my business.

And I have news for you- you’ve shared a bathroom with a trans person whether you realize it or not. That’s a fact.

But the bathroom debate that was sparked a few years back, and just won’t die, is all a distraction and aimed to continue to the oppression of and discrimination towards trans people. There’s no other basis for it to exist.

Not to mention, when my child was still identifying as female, he was policed in bathrooms constantly since he presents in such a masculine way. Everyone assumed he was a boy and would call him out when he was SEVEN YEARS OLD.

This is unacceptable. Don’t police genitals, friends. It’s weird. It’s creepy. It’s unnecessary.

And if you’re along this line of thinking, shouldn’t you also be concerned about gay and lesbians in bathrooms? I mean, they’re attracted to the same sex, yet they miraculously don’t go around humping and molesting in bathrooms. Because they’re far more focused on peeing.

And if you’re worried about high school locker rooms and kids seeing the opposite sex genitals, our tran kids are very private about their bodies. They’re acutely aware that their bodies and brains aren’t aligned. They tend to use the stalls. And again, I never saw any genitals in my years of changing into my PE clothing.

So, please. Just take a shit, pee, change your clothes, whatever, be sure to wash your hands and exit the bathroom. That’s is all.

*******

Whew. That was information overload. But all very necessary to work through for those that need to catch up.

We are in desperate need of an education so we can see more allies rising up for this amazing, resilient community.

Our kids are the bravest of the brave and we, as their parents, are the fiercest of the fierce.

Once you break down your biases, challenge everything you’ve known in terms of gender, and get to know our kids, get to know our families, you’ll find that are all the same, navigating this thing called life. Doing the best we can.

No matter what happens in the world, our trans kids will always exist and we mama and papa bears will always love, support and advocate for them.

Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

In This Climate of Attempted Erasure: Parenting a Trans Child

I’ve had such a difficult time finding my words within this past week. But I need to do some processing here.

Last Monday, I woke up to the news of the Trump administration’s attempt to erase trans people out of existence. 

Like many parents of trans kids, I felt as though I was living in an alternate universe when the news went viral. This couldn’t possibly be real. This couldn’t possibly be something that could materialize. These are our kids, our flesh and blood, that we are already fighting like hell to be seen and acknowledged and affirmed.

This made it heavier.

I’ve sat through the past 18 months with my mouth agape, unable to truly accept what this administration has managed to rollback not only for the trans community but across the political, lawful board. Nothing ceases to amaze me these days.

Yet, I had to work pretty hard to wrap my mind around the reality that yes, this might certainly happen. That my child’s whole life might have just become a hell of a lot more challenging.

As if the trans community needed this on their shoulders. As if their life isn’t already a warrior march.

This redefining of gender, as they aim to do which would be based on genitalia only, would limit my son’s entire life, no exaggeration. It would require him to live his life as female, as assigned at birth, completely undermining the scientific advancements, the medical bodies affirming this community, the insurmountable research that’s been collected in support of this community, and then most obvious – that trans people simply know who they are.

Several policy rollbacks for the trans community had already been implemented since Trump has been president.  But this move is bold. And it’s inhumane. And its void of any compassion, to say the least.

And its frightening.

There are an estimated 2 million transgender Americans. And they are being told they aren’t real, that their lived experiences aren’t viable.

And here I sit looking at my child, talking with him, living with him, raising him to the best of my ability, seeing him through so many challenges already…he couldn’t be any more real, tangible, worthy, and valid.

Yet, here we are. It’s surreal.
I’m not sure what happened to empathetic, rational beings. Do they even exist in this climate?

And in the same week that this federal news floated down, our local school board did something amazing and finally set forth guidelines to support our trans kiddos. A battle that been fought for well over a year in our district.

This was a big win.

However.
The backlash has been overwhelming. An entire community of parents are largely digging their heels in, protesting and fighting to rescind the new guidelines. Because BATHROOMS. And because of the constant irrational, illogical vilification of trans people.

And because I’m a public advocate (that’s me in that news link above), I’ve fielded an unfathomable amount of hate.

I’ve been told by local people that:
My child is mentally ill.
My child would be better off if I were dead.
Trans kids should be completely segregated.
“Normal kids” shouldn’t be around or exposed to my child.

Amongst other vile things.

The response has been far more terrible than that of anything community advocates have ever seen. Citizens are more concerned about this than issues that are far more problematic such as school shootings, forced testing, budget woes, or anything else related to our public schools. Even though our trans kids do not pose any threat whatsoever, that they are the ones at risk. And that’s based on facts that are being widely ignored.

Yet, here we are. It’s surreal.

It’s exhausting. It’s defeating. It’s lonely. It’s scary. It’s isolating.
And that fight-or-flight response in the depths of my being is palpable.

I’ve considered Canada. I’ve considered Costa Rica. Both countries protect and affirm my child far more than this “Land of the Free”.

But then I take a breath and I look around.
I look at so many amazing trans friends that we’ve made. I look at all of these beautiful lives. These beautiful faces. These souls that simply cannot be erased. These souls that need our advocacy, need our activism, need our voices, need allies standing next to them on the front lines.

Parenting a transgender child in this climate of attempted erasure feels like we are on the brink of an all out mutiny. It feels like the dog whistle for social justice warriors, for additional allies, is loud and permeable, leaking into the universe for the most giant call to action.

It feels like equality is never found riding in the center of neutrality.
And we must march far off course to rally and assert the need for justice.

It feels like resistance rising.

This is my child. This is my whole world whose life is being threatened.
This feels like the fight of my life.

And I will remain in this fight not only for my son, but for those who have lost their lives to suicide because they weren’t accepted, for those who struggle everyday to been heard, to be seen, for those who are in the closet, for those living loud, for those who can’t fight, for those who are afraid, for those with no other support, and for those who aren’t even born yet.

This administration has completely underestimated the resilience of this entire community.

Erasure is quite literally impossible.

Parenting, Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting

Why Parents of Trans Kids Are A Special Kind of Tired

Yes. All parents walking the earth are tired.

We are all absolutely in solidarity with that fact.

We could all use about a week on a deserted island without any children, technology, or responsibilities of any kind.

But I feel the need to tell you about the special kind of tired that parents of transgender kids are experiencing.

It’s different than most versions of tired.

And this isn’t to “one-up”. And this certainly isn’t to take away from an LGBTQIA child themselves, their own struggles and hardships. This isn’t to take away from, or distract from… anyone.

This isn’t a competition.

This is just to simply explain and shed light on how we’re feeling, since it’s of my belief that we, the parents of trans youth, are living in our own marginalized community.

Unless we happen to live in some uber progressive area, we are all acutely aware of the discrimination that the trans community faces. We see it everyday, especially on social media. We hear it on the news, we see how the current administration is rolling back Obama-era LGBTQIA protections.

Or maybe we all aren’t as aware as I hope we are. Maybe that’s utopian of me. Because it doesn’t matter to most if it’s not personal, if it doesn’t hit your heart.

I’m not sure.

I digress.

Although the conversation about trans folks is seemingly becoming more expansive, even a bit more accepted amongst the general public, (especially with headlines such as the American Academy of Pediatrics recent policy statement on how to care for trans youth best is by affirming them), we still have such a long way to go overall.

And who is leading the fight for trans youth?

Parents. {Mostly. But not ever to slight or dishonor our trans warriors themselves.}

And it is indeed a fight.

The pioneer parents in this fight have been visibly on the scene for less than a decade. True publicity and awareness for trans youth has really only been discussed for the last 3-5 years. And amazing strides have been made in many ways.

I, myself, just joined the fight within the last 9 months.

And I. Am. Tired.

In the short amount of time I’ve been on a mama bear, warrior path, yes, I’m a special kind of tired.

Because we are the advocates, the fierce allies, the public speakers, the meeting schedulers, the school board meeting attendees, the researchers, the therapist seekers, the medical professional seekers.

We are the ones out in front of our kids with swords and shields, fighting like hell for equality and basic human rights.

We are fighting for our kids to be heard. To be seen. To be viewed the same as every other child.

We are fighting for policy changes, locally and globally.

We are fighting for bullying protections, for bathroom spaces, for name changes, for gender marker revisions, for medical care.

We are thinking about our children nonstop while they’re at school, wondering if others are being kind, if the correct name and pronouns are being used, if teachers are abiding by our requests, if our kids are being bullied, assaulted, chastised, outcasted.

We are wiping our kids’ tears for far different reasons than that of any other parents, fielding emotional meltdowns, especially when dysphoria hits our kids, when they loathe their bodies, when they’re frustrated.

We are navigating emotional issues when their peers reject them, when they can’t find jobs, when they can’t participate in sports with the rest of their cisgender peers, when others refuse to use their chosen name or intentionally misgender them, when adults harass them, when people tell them God hates them and they’re going to hell. When their classmates tell them they should kill themselves.

We are running to doctors to treat urinary tract infections because they held their pee all day so they didn’t have to use the bathroom in which they feel unsafe.

We are sometimes not even the biological parents fighting this fight. We are the amazingly unselfish, loving adoptive parents, accepting and affirming someone else’s child who was rejected by their own family, by their own blood. Just for living their truth.

All the while, we are simultaneously defending ourselves from hate.

We are falsely accused of pushing agendas, of having some sort of “liberal” brainwashing scheme that we are somehow instilling in our children and poisoning every other child within a 100 mile radius.

We are falsely accused of administering hormones and “mutilating” our children at the young ages of 7, 8, 9, and 10.

We are falsely accused of being crazy, of making our children mentally ill, of abusing our children, of allowing them to be transgender.

We are told we are wrong.

We are told that our children are confused, sick, misguided.

We are fighting false claims coming from anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups, Christian extremists, politicians, none of whom base their claims on facts or research. We fight the ignorance and dismissiveness of the general public.

We are the educators, the question fielders, the soundboards.

We are losing friends and families, fighting battles that our children might know nothing about.

We are fighting online trolls, personal attacks, worrying about safety for our families, especially since trans women are being murdered at alarming rates.

We are also having to pack away the child we thought we birthed, the assigned gender of our child, the hopes and dreams we had tied up in that little human. Some of us are even grieving a loss of sorts that’s very difficult for others to understand. We are grappling, struggling to understand what’s happening, how our child is feeling, how best to help them.

We are putting old pictures away that are hurtful to our kids, literally packing away our memories, careful to not use their birth name, vigilant about using the correct pronouns even though it might feel profoundly unnatural to us.

We are doing an unbelievable amount of emotional work.

And we are tired.

Because none of this is for us. This isn’t about us.

Because when we have children, nothing is about us, our needs, our wants.

Because this is about loving fiercely, loving unconditionally, and loving unapologetically.

Because this is about paving the very best path for our children that we possibly can, leading with love and acceptance, working with what we’re given in our hate-filled society.

Because that’s what makes our tired a different kind of tired: our tired involves fighting hate, discrimination, prejudice, erasure, and bigotry.

Unfounded, unacceptable, misaligned hate is pervasive in our lives. Just because our kids are trying to live their lives as who they really are, without hurting anyone or interfering with anyone else’s life.

They just want to live. And we just want them to live.

This isn’t an attention grab. This isn’t a post for accolades. This isn’t for praise.

This is for knowledge sake.

This is for awareness.

Because we are tired.

And we just want our kids to be able to have the same rights, the same opportunities, as every other human.

And we won’t rest until that’s real.

———————–

Edit: I had no idea this post would resonate with so many and make it around the internet. Thank you for reading.

I’ve upset some wonderful people and I’m so sorry if you’re one of them. Please click here if you’re a trans teen.

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

Gender Best Guess Parties

Hi.

My name is Vanessa and I hate gender reveal parties.

There. I said it.

I can already hear the clicking off of my page, and your eyes are rolling so hard that they might pop out of your head, because my opinion doesn’t matter. But listen, I have some valid reasons that might make sense to you if you read on.

I’m not aiming to change thoughts on these parties, because, at the end of the day, you do you, but just hear me out and you might learn something from my rambling. Or, at least I’ll give you a good excuse to argue in the comment section.

Around 2010-2011-ish, a year or two after I birthed my child, these gender reveal parties started popping up everywhere.

And I was so confused.

I mean, I saw couples go all out for these events. Fireworks, and smoke, and balloons, and surprise cake filling, all filled with the color that supposedly suggests the sex of the baby. Sometimes, like, super over the top shit goes down at these parties. This is a big deal for a whole lot of people these days.

But. What’s the purpose?

When these parties surfaced, I wasn’t some warrior on a path to dissolve the gender construct and it wasn’t because I’m a feminist who thought them to be inappropriate since they perpetuate the gender bias and ultimately the patriarchy.

I just simply thought they were silly.

Aside from feeling that they’re a bit lavish and silly, it also occurred to me that these parties are literally celebrating genitals. And that’s weird.

As expecting parents, typically, we can’t wait for that 20-week big ultrasound, for the tech to exclaim “It’s a boy/girl!”. And they do that solely by looking at…genitals. So, these parties feel a lot like, “Hey, come and guess what kind of genitalia my baby has!!”. You might as well have penis or vagina shaped cookies on the table, too.

Ew.

And I know you’re pushing back right now, arguing that it’s a celebration of the gender itself, right? But is it? And if so, why?

Turns out, for me, I became the mom of a transgender son. I was one of the thousands who thought that I had birthed a gender, a girl in my case, one that would love to go shopping with me, share make-up and maybe love gymnastics, only to be oh so very wrong. I had the nursery painted purple, donned my child in all pink at his first birthday, complete with a tutu and headband, tried to shove him into that gender conforming box.

And he would have none of it.

As soon as he could assert his opinions and his choices, around the age of 2-4, he was all boy. For him, his gender identity didn’t match his genitals. And that does happen more than you probably realize. So, it would have been a complete waste of good pink unicorn poop shooting out of a cannon, had I celebrated that way.

But aside from that, what I’ve learned is that gender is nothing more than a social construct. If you don’t believe me, dig into history and read up on how gender roles have changed over time, how that up until the 1920’s, little boys wore dresses and kept long hair until they were between the ages of 6-8. That these pink and blue boxes that we all like to put almost everything in life into didn’t really surface until the last century. Girls like pink, and make-up, and princesses. And boys like dirt, and sports, and trucks. That’s what we’ve been groomed to believe in modern day society.

It just seems narrow to me to celebrate these gender roles and societal norms for girls and boys. Especially since you have no idea what your child will gravitate towards and what they’re going to capable of. It might not fit into the box that you’re hoping for.

And if you’re saying “No, no, no! My child can like whatever they want! My girl can love sports and the color blue and my son can dance if he wants!”…then what on earth are we celebrating at a gender reveal party if that were true?

Even if I can’t get anyone on board with any of the above, here’s my final thought: Oftentimes, we hear “I don’t care what the gender is, as long as they’re healthy”, and if we mean that, why have a party to reveal the gender? What significance does it truly hold? I can’t think of anything worthy or reasonable to answer those questions.

I’m all for a good, fun party, for sure, but this is one party theme that has always rubbed me the wrong way, even before I knew my son was trans. When I’m scrolling my feed and I see pictures or videos of pink or blue sky writings announcing the sex of babies, I have relabeled them as “Gender Best Guess Parties” in my head.

And then I imagine a rainbow of colors shooting out of that firework, or oozing out of that cupcake.

Because our kids are so much more than just pink or blue. Let them be colorful.

Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Uncategorized

How We Knew It Was Time

This piece is deeply personal.

My inner battle whether to make this public was a bit tormenting.

I felt as though I was treading on thin ice, whether this is telling too much of my child’s story, which is his to tell, and wanting to help other parents who happen to be in my same shoes of raising a transgender child.

Because, what if others hadn’t shared? Where would we be in this journey?

What if, in December of 2017, my son wasn’t able to scroll social media with me only to see Jacob Lemay in my feed? A trans boy exactly his age. That was a pivotal moment for my son. What if his mom didn’t share publicly? Would my son have trusted me enough to share more of his feelings, without seeing one of his peers going through the same exact journey? I don’t think so.

Ultimately, I’m hoping to help others, as others have helped me, because I know I so appreciate those who have told their story.

I want to de-stigmatize, normalize, and hope to help humanize. (And yes, my son has given me permission to write this, absolutely.)

I want kids to stop taking their lives because they feel alone. I want them to know they matter and that they’re loved.

So here it is:

3 years ago, I wrote this  about my non-gender conforming child. I went pretty public with it.

When I read it now, I laugh a little at myself, cringe a little, and realize just how ignorant I was. And still am on so many levels. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t do all of the proper research, I didn’t really listen to anyone, not even my own child. I pushed it all away a bit.

I needed my denial.

Because after all, he was “so young” and I just wanted to see where this gender piece would go with “a little more maturity”. That was my thinking because apparently there’s no manuals that come with raising kids, let alone kids who gender bend.

When he was 6, he looked up at me with his big green eyes when I went to tuck him into bed one night and he said, “Mama. I feel like a boy in my heart and in my mind”, my response was, “Aww, that’s totally ok, babe. And we can talk about this when you get older!”. And every question after that when he asked about “becoming a real boy” was met with that same answer: “We will talk about that when you’re a little older”.

I thought I was being so very supportive since I was allowing him to dress how he wanted, choose his own toys, cut his hair off.

Yet, I was so dismissive.

I knew the stats. I knew the high suicide rates of trans youth. I knew the mental health struggles of non-affirmed trans youth. I also supported those parents who affirmed their young trans kids, allowing them to socially transition. But because my child was seemingly happy, well adjusted, and well liked, I didn’t think we fell into this category.

Because I thought I knew better than him. A 6 year old can’t possibly know more about himself than his mother does, right?

Oh how very wrong I was.

So much has changed since my child was 6 years old. We’ve grown so much physically, emotionally.

What I do know now, in this moment of this day, of this month, of this year, is that what was best for my child, who was assigned female at birth, was a social transition.

He has a new name and male pronouns.

And I have a happy, energetic, out-going, self-confident child. Something I didn’t have before.

The reason why I’m writing this is because after we came out on my private social media page, I received so many messages filled with questions. Many of which came from a place of personal experience, because they have a close family member, or even their own child, who is similar to mine.

And they want to know how I knew that transitioning at the age of 8 was the right thing to do.

My answer is this: it was the only thing to do. Because my child was hurting. And it was obvious.

In the fall of 2017, he started self-harming. He was biting himself to the point of giant bruises and bleeding. His answer when I asked him why he was doing this to himself was…”Because I like the pain. It feels good”.

He was withdrawn a bit from friends, especially at school, struggling to fit in, and he wouldn’t talk to me about his emotions, even denying that he was struggling with friends. He didn’t know how to articulate it all. He was full of shame. He was internalizing everything and he was hurting.

I’ve never felt more terrified in my entire life.

I assumed it was the gender component rocking him at his core because it’s been so prevalent in our lives since age 3-4, but if I’m being honest, I was hoping it wasn’t. I was hoping it was the divorce or some innocuous thing that we could tackle. Maybe even hopeful that it was a sensory issue. I was hoping for almost anything else to be behind this.

Because I was scared. I was scared of the label of “transgender”. I was scared because I don’t want his life to be any more difficult than it would as a cisgender (a person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth) or even as a lesbian.

So, we sought help from a professional. Someone amazing who has experience with the transgender community.

A few months into his sessions, he began to open up, telling her how he feels. And how he feels is that he knows he’s a boy in his heart and in his mind. And he just wanted the inside to match the outside.

So, we played with the new name amongst ourselves, in our home.

And a different child emerged.

One that is so full of life and light.
One that is so full of confidence.
One that will now look us in the eye.
One that has a different shine to his smile.
One that isn’t full of shame.
One that isn’t withdrawn.
One that isn’t self-harming.

He was a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly. He needed his wings.

And that’s how I knew.

This is the answer. This is how we fixed his hurt. We lifted the shame and the confusion. We let him be himself.

I’m listening now. And I’m sad I wasn’t listening then.  I screwed up, as we all do as parents.

But I’m here with him, I caught up to him, following his lead now, letting him explore every aspect of this new world, his new freedom.

This is how I knew. And it was the easiest decision I ever made.

And I’m not scared anymore. He is changing hearts. He is showing me what it means to be brave.

This was our experience, what led us to where we are, but this certainly isn’t everyone’s. It’s really ok to follow your child’s lead if they’re expressing, consistently and persistently, that they’re a different gender than what they’re assigned. My advice would be to let them explore it. Allow that space. Let them play with a new name and pronouns. It’s really not a big deal to allow this exploration.

You might be beautifully surprised by the discoveries that are made. They know themselves. They truly do.

Let them lead with this, you follow.

**********

Good reads:

https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/03/15/transgender-people-are-born-that-way-a-new-study-has-found/

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/science-pinpoints-dna-behind-gender-identity-3vmrgrdnv

https://news.utexas.edu/2018/03/30/name-use-matters-for-transgender-youths-mental-health

If you would like additional resources, or have any questions, please ask me.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Social Media

The Bullies Have Arrived. And I’m Ready To Use My Words.

My daughter was bullied for the first time two weeks ago.

Unfortunately , I’m not surprised. But that doesn’t mean it hurts any less as a mom.

When you’re a little girl that appears to be a boy, when you don’t fit into a perfect little societal norm box in this hateful world, bullies will find you.

She was on a play date in a different neighborhood. Her and her friends went to the community’s playground and met two boys around the ages of 10-12.

All started out well and fine, they all played together, until they didn’t.

The two boys began picking on my daughter, before even knowing she was a girl, making fun of her clothes, her shoes, her hair. When she corrected one of them for calling her an “ugly boy”, telling them she was a girl, they then called her a “tranny”, a freak, a fag, and gay. None of such terms were even understood by my child. Because she’s 8 and ignorant to such slurs and hatred.

She handled it well enough. She talked it out with me when I picked her up. She asked a lot of questions about the words they used and just seemed overall confused, but not overly sad.

She is the type to stuff emotions a little bit so I’m not sure the validity to her dismissive attitude but I was proud of her strength. We keep open communication about the incident and I made sure to tell her that these boys were just mean because they didn’t understand her and that they must have felt bad and ugly inside to do that to someone else, to which she responded well.

As for me? I didn’t handle it quite as gracefully.

I was so sad. I am so sad.

This is a tough pill to swallow for a parent. This bullying epidemic is some scary shit, especially when you bring the notion of social media into the conversation. It’s fucking terrifying.

I analyzed the incident for days. And by analyzed , I mean obsessed over it. And by obsessed over it, I mean I lost sleep, I cried and I thought about running away with my child somewhere it feels safer than this. Anywhere that posed promise for more open mindedness.

Because I know this won’t be the last bullying incident. I knew this was coming and it was the day I dreaded for years.

When my daughter’s gender identity adventures began at a very young age, of course I was hoping it was a phase. Of course I was.

Who would want their child to have a more difficult life? Who would want their child to be different, to stand out, to struggle? No one. Absolutely not one parent on the face of the earth.

But alas, she continued to express herself in the same patterns: “boy” toys, “boy” clothes, “boy” haircut, all with a bit of a masculine nuance to her mannerisms since age 4.

I’ve never labeled her transgender, as I’ve written and talked about publicly. Let me be clear here and interject- I would label her transgender, and let her socially transition, if she asserted herself that way, if she affirmed that in her heart she feels like a boy, if she ever went into depression or anxiety over it, or if she attempted suicide over it as many young children do when they’re trans. Because I now know that being trans a science based fact, because I’ve done my research, because I know families that have had a suicidal 7 year old because their brain doesn’t match their genitalia.

But thus far, that hasn’t been the case. We keep an open dialogue and yes, she sees someone that specializes in gender issues. Because it’s confusing as fuck, for her and more so for me. This is not a made up thing.

So, for now, she’s a girl with a very feminine name who looks like a boy and confuses so many strangers.

Which is where the bullies will continue to dive in. Because they’re afraid. Because whether you’re a child, a teen, a young adult, or full grown, fear breeds ignorance and ignorance breeds terrible behavior, as we have all been privileged to witnessing.

People are afraid of things and issues and other people that they don’t understand. They’re afraid and they react out of that fear. And the bullies aren’t taught to filter that out by their parents. Ignorance is perpetuated in their homes, it’s learned behavior. And that behavior translates into hatefulness. Just look around social media. Adults are the absolute worst offenders.

People ask me all of the time. “why do you write about this? Why do you put this information out to the universe to get scrutinized?”.

And all of this analysis of this first bullying incident solidified my answer- to preach the word of kindness. To maybe, just maybe, educate one person on what it is that makes my child different. To advocate for all differences.

I posted a little blurb about this incident on my personal Facebook page, trying to spread a message of kindness and teaching children to not say anything if they don’t have anything nice to say.

I received a private message from a person I knew from high school who stated that I set my child up for this bullying, that this is my fault, because I “let her dress like a boy”. To which I replied, I simply will not shove my child’s wants and needs aside, force her into a box, for the comfort of everyone else. No way. That would certainly make it better for everyone else wouldn’t it? But that is not allowing my child room to be who she is. That is not setting her up on a solid foundation.

She is who she is.

And that’s why I write.

For her.

To create a better world for her the only way I know how.

And to those that believe writing about this topic is over exposing her- that’s a fair concern but listen, she will grow up knowing her mother is a fighter for equality. And I hope that makes her proud. I will absolutely stop writing about this the moment she asks me to.

But in the meantime, I will fight for a better place for her to exist just how she is. Her authentic self. I will use my writing as a super power of education and plea for kindness.

And hope for a day where acceptance is commonplace and bullies have no place in the world.

A mama can hope. A mama will fight.