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, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

Parents Don’t Have a Right to Know Their Child is LGBT

I’ve been a strong advocate and activist for the transgender community for only two years now, since my young son came out.

It’s been such a journey.

I went from complete ignorance about what it means to be transgender, to shouting loud and proud about what our transgender youth needs are, in a very short amount of time. It became apparent to me very quickly that LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk for emotional trauma, self-harm, suicide, bullying, assaults, homelessness, and drop-outs. The statistics don’t lie.

My son was a statistic before he came out. He was hurting. He was self-harming. At the young age of 8. Talk about a wake-up call. It was a scary time.

Trans folks suffer widely due to how society perceives them and how they’re treated, specifically how their family responds and reacts to them.

These kids need ears that listen. And they need validation. And they need to be met with compassion, understanding, and affirmation. They need protection.

Their needs are simple: basic human rights, respect and dignity.

Once I realized how simple this was, did my research, and learned, it came quite easy for me, especially to save my child’s life and ensure he’s happy. What we are afraid of, as parents of transgender kids, is all of the hate that our children face, all of the ignorance, all of the fighting.

The bigoted stay rooted in their beliefs, unwilling to learn, assuming that their way is the only way, that the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t deserve “special rights”, as they call it, and that others’ lived experiences, their own identities even, aren’t valid.

And with that comes the fight for equality.

I’m still new here, still green to advocacy and activism, still learning. Allies can only listen, learn, act, help educate- lather, rinse, repeat. So, that’s what I do.

The Role Of The School

A big piece of my advocacy has been in our local school system since my child is in elementary school.

Ensuring that trans students have the same rights as every other student has been a national discussion and progress is all over the spectrum. Gavin Grimm pioneered this discussion in the now well-known lawsuit, which was won by Grimm just last week. We are seeing more and more courts siding with our students in these cases across the United States, which is resulting in many school districts reacting by implementing some version of inclusive policies to protect trans students.

Our small, conservative area of southwest Florida is one such county district that chose to be on the right side of history with this conversation.

Last November, after local advocates fought for over two years, the battle was won. Shortly after Drew Adams’ case, (heard in Jacksonville, Florida) was settled, followed by many of us speaking out {again} at a school board meeting, our superintendent implemented the policy to allow trans students to use their name, new pronouns, as well as use the bathroom that they feel the most safe.

{Our school board meeting, November 2018. That’s me in the Free Mom Hugs shirt, trying to hold my shit together after all of the hate being spewed from my son’s classmates’ families.}

{Lots of media ensued.}

Parental Rights Are A Fallacy Within This Discussion

What dog-whistled the media most about our county’s new guidelines, outside of the ridiculous bathroom debate, was the “parental rights” discussion, as you see above. Two of our school board members honed in on how these new guidelines “strip parents of their rights”.

In the guidelines, developed by a task force comprised of students, teachers, parents, counselors, advocates, and administrators, it states that parents do not have to be notified of any discussion surrounding their child’s request at school to go by their new name and pronouns, or any LGBTQ+ information brought forth from a student to school officials.

And everyone lost their damn minds over this piece.

I continue to see and hear this argued constantly and it seems to be something widely misunderstood.

It seems as though everyone has forgotten that children are humans, independent of their parents, and they too have their own rights. Rights that are scared to them, rights that keep them safe.

Because, not all parents are accepting. Not only are they not all accepting, home can be downright dangerous for them if they were to come out as LGBT. Sometimes school is their only safe place, a place to be themselves, a place that creates a safe environment to learn.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) deemed it illegal for schools to relay such info to parents for these exact reasons. Outing an LGBT student to anyone is illegal.

Ideally, parents are creating a safe space for their kids at home in every single way, including if their kiddo comes out as gay or trans. And if parents are creating this safe space, then no one should be discussing this fallacy of parental rights because their child will trust their parents with this proprietary information. We all hope for this. We all hope for parents to be involved in these aspects of their child’s life.

But it just isn’t the case.

Because I’m a public advocate, especially on social media, I receive a lot of messages. Some filled with hate from bigots, some filled with threats, some filled with accusations of child abuse.

But, those messages don’t phase me.

The messages that gut me are the ones from trans youth:

You’re everything I wish my mom was. I’m 17 and I don’t live with or speak to my mom anymore. I had to find my chosen family and live with my friends”.

“You inspire me and you give me hope that maybe someday my parents will understand. I’m not allowed to talk about being trans in my house or my dad said he will kick me out”.

“I’m 17 and my parents don’t accept me. They’re very unsupportive and said that I can’t make this decision to change my name and pronouns, let along start hormones, until I’m 21, and that even then, I won’t be considered their child anymore”.

“I’ve attempted suicide 3 times in the past 7 months and my mom knows why. She knows its because she won’t let me out of the closet. She doesn’t care. She would rather have a dead child than a transgender one. Every time I feel like cutting or attempting suicide again, I read your message of hope”.

“Sometimes I wish I could have the confidence to actually strip down and show the extent of self-injury scares I have all over my body. It started as a habit to deal with the sheer fact that my parents wouldn’t let me be myself…”

If those messages don’t rock you to your core, I have dozens and dozens more that I could share of similar content.

These examples of rejection are why parents don’t have the right to know everything about their children.

These examples of rejection tell some of the story as to why our trans youth struggle emotionally and why they need a person to trust with their secret. Sometimes, that person, or people, are teachers, administrators, coaches, counselors, and friends at school. If my son would have come out to someone at school before he came out to me, I would have been so grateful that he had someone he trusted with that information.

They need that space. They deserve that space. To be exactly who they are. To be free. To be themselves. To be safe. To be safe while they learn.

When I see and hear parents arguing over their “rights being stripped” by these policies, I have to wonder what these parents are so afraid of?

Children aren’t property. They’re not to be thought-controlled. They’re not to be molded into what we believe they should be. They’re not to be designed by their parents. They’re their own people, their own individuals who should be free to exercise their uniqueness and show all of their colors.

So, what is this fear about?

My guess is that it’s about bigotry.
The parents that are screaming and yelling about their rights being stripped are the same ones exampled above in the heartbreaking messages I receive on the daily from their kids. They’re the ones rejecting their children, telling them they don’t know themselves, insisting that they’re something they’re not, just to make themselves comfortable in the terrible information that’s been handed down to them.

And they’re scared to learn, accept, and embrace something new. They’re afraid to face the fact that everything they’ve learned…might be…wrong.

Parental rights in relation to knowing that their child is LGBTQ do not exist. It isn’t a right to know how your child identifies.

It is a privilege. 

If you’re a parent worried about what your child tells someone other than you in relation to their gender or sexual identity, please ask yourself if you’re doing everything in your power to make sure you’re a safe haven for them. Be prepared. Arm yourself with the knowledge as if they’ll come out to you tomorrow. Unravel your biases, your hangups, and all of the outdated, archaic information that was passed down to you.

Because you never know.

And to all of the teachers, coaches, counselors, and administrators who have had a student trust you enough to come out to you, thank you for being that student’s person. Thank you for keeping them safe. They’ll never forget you.

And to every district who has adopted inclusive guidelines, or even gone a step further and incorporates LGBTQ+ information and history into your curriculum: you’re saving so many lives. Thank you for seeing and affirming our children.

LGBTQ youth are sacred. They’re everyday heroes.

And their rights matter.

 

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!

~~~~~~~~

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.