When I brought children into this world, I promised myself, as a parent that I would be their biggest champion in life.
I vowed to be the shoulder to cry, the hand to feed, the kisser of boo-boos, the teller of stories, and the one they could rely on. Always. No matter what.
When my son was only 4 he revealed to me that he is trans. He confided in me that he was living life as a girl, because that’s what he was told he was, but inside…. inside he was someone else. He felt different, he felt wrong. Like his brain and his body didn’t match up but he couldn’t put his finger on it, exactly. At least not until he started communicating all of this to me and we sought help, found professionals and had more and more conversations. It became abundantly clear to me rather fast that my (then) daughter was, in actuality, my trans son.
And he needed my acceptance and support more than anything else.
Learning this “secret” of his didn’t change my role as a parent or an advocate, if anything it magnified it exponentially because now I was the one holding his hand while he navigated where to go from here. Helping him decide on big decisions like hair cuts, a name, pronouns, and who and how to tell his secret to.
Being young, he was off and running once he expressed his true self to me and understood that my love for him didn’t change. He was telling people, confident, and open.
I, on the other hand, was scared.
I was worried about other’s reactions, how I was going to explain this and how I would defend him, because I knew it was inevitable that I would be doing more defending than anything.
I was worried about what kind of parent I was going to look like, despite knowing that the kind of parent I was is exactly who I wanted to be all along.
As things progressed in their natural way for him, I found it harder and harder to find support for myself. I turned to complete strangers to share openly with and they welcomed me with open arms. They became my solace, a group of like-minded parents with similar kids who all just wanted the same thing, to love, support, accept their kids and shield them as much as humanly possible from the terrors of the world.
It was great to have this network to turn to, but it was also very lonely and isolating that the only way I found “my people” was in a cyber world. A world of supporters that didn’t exist in real life.
In real life, things were much different.
I can count on one hand how many close family and friends I can turn to and OPENLY discuss my son. Using the correct language and pronouns, using his chosen name, and talking as if life is absolutely normal, as it should be.
And then… there is the rest of my “support”. My family that I love more than anything in the world, but with whom I have to tread carefully. I have to consider the words I use very carefully.
I have three children. And I can speak freely about two of them. But one of them, the one that happens to be trans, I have to be very cautious and tread carefully with my words, with my expressions, with my stories. I can’t over share or I offend. I can’t leave him out or it’s obvious. If I address the issue head on it becomes an argument. More defending. More explaining. And very little understanding. Even less acceptance.
It’s become the very large elephant in the room. And it’s an awkward room to live in.
It’s very lonely living as an ally to your trans child. Sometimes you feel like you’re speaking to a brick wall, you’re loaded with an arsenal of research and statistics, knowledge and education and you’re ready, willing, and able to share it with whoever will listen because all you want is for your child to be understood. To be accepted and to be treated and SEEN equally among your others, as the person he is, the person he presents as to everyone else in this world.
You want to be able to go to family functions and not get the side-eye or have people bombard you with their opinions on your life, your child, your decisions because as outsiders, they seem to have all of the answers to your very intimate and personal dilemmas.
Being an ally to a young trans child means being the one who has to have the tough conversations. It also means sometimes being the one who has to decide whether or not to sever relationships.
When you’re your child’s ally, his PARENT, you just want people to start coming around to your side of the fence so you can stop toeing the line and start living life to its fullest, like you’re urging your children to do every moment of every day.
Like you promised yourself you would, until it meant you might lose family if you weren’t careful. So you toe. You tread lightly. And you hope that one day they will come around so you can have your relationships back, your life back, and your family back. In a new, better, more authentic way and without censors and boundaries that went up necessarily but not permanently. At least you hope not.
As an ally, you want to be understood, but you also want people to comprehend WHY you are taking the actions and making the tough decisions you are because of the importance to YOU that your child receives a message of unconditional love. Of immense support. Of nothing other than a message from the champion you promised yourself you would be to your children before you knew what kind of champion or advocate they were going to need.
As an ally of a trans kid, and a member of a family you now feel like you’re on the outer skirts of, you get lonely and you wonder if things will ever get better, but you hear stories from your “friends” in your cyber space and you see it IS possible. They’ve done it. And you can too. You will, eventually. At least that’s what you tell yourself.
Until then, you thrive off of watching your child flourish and grow into their true self and seeing them become more and more the person they were meant to be helps the sun burst through some of the gloomiest of days.
Being an ally means being the one I always wanted to be for my child. The one they could rely on and depend on without question. The person that would be their rock and walk down any rough path right beside them.
Being an ally to my son means the world to me. I just sometimes wish others would see how much love, compassion, and understanding it takes not to deal with him…. he’s easy. But to deal (or not deal) with everyone else.
If this piece resonated with you here are a few others I’ve written about my experiences with parenting a young trans child. Good luck to you, moms and dads. You’re doing great <3