My 5 Year Old Is Transgender, And I Don’t Want Your Advice.

My 5 year old is transgender, and everyone seems to know what I should do about it. As if this is a “problem” that needs to be addressed.

Everyone seems to think they know my child better than me, and they know how to “fix” this.

When he started socially transitioning and it became more obvious to family that big changes were happening, the first reaction I got from most were causes. Lists of reasons why my child was expressing gender confusion, but wasn’t *actually* transgender. You see, there were just so many other facets to our lives that I hadn’t even considered {insert sarcasm and huge eye roll}

The excuses of what was going on in our lives that most definitely caused this were endless…

“She is doing this for the attention. ”

“She’s just a tomboy.”

“She is around too many boys.”

“She doesn’t know what she wants.”

“She’s too young to understand what she feels.”

“You can’t “allow” this. What will people think?”

“She will get bullied out of school!”

And (my personal favorite) “Can’t she just be gay? She’s probably just gay!”

As if I hadn’t considered ALL possibilities before realizing the inevitable. As if the concerns for his future, the fear, the potential for my child to be bullied, to be misunderstood, hadn’t been on the forefront of my fears from day one.

Everyone had a reason as to why my son must be feeling this way, but very few agreed that it was because he was, in fact, transgender.

Anyone that I spoke with seemed to have unsolicited advice; a slew of examples on ways I could change this. Stop it in it’s tracks and reverse what was going on.

I just needed to introduce my kid to more “girl” things (as if he didn’t grow up around pink and dolls and princesses to begin with).

I had to show my child the attention he was yearning for (being the first born girl, my kid was my mini-me, my sidekick. Attention was sure as hell not lacking in our family).

I had to make sure not to encourage this because this was a manipulation tactic on the part of my five year old and I must tread very carefully (apparently along with being transgender, my kid is a freakin GENIUS because he has concocted this huge gender confusion plan to dupe us all into doing what he wants. Especially considering he had never even met or heard the word transgender before IN.HIS.LIFE.). I moved to fast, I need to stop, rewind, back up.

And all of these “reasons” and lists of acceptable reactions to this “problem” I heard from various people were cloaked in a guise of guidance and sympathy. They all said the same thing, and it was that they were just trying to “help”. But telling me horror stories of other trans kids being bullied out of school, reminding me that this is a population of people that has historically been discriminated against, giving me every piece of their mind (without merit) evoked even more fear in me. magnified my worries ten-fold because the exact people giving me this so called “advice” were the ones that scared me most. The ones that absolutely refused to accept and understand. The ones that hid behind their explanations of MY child and HIS feelings instead of admitting their ignorance and fear themselves.

All of this may have changed my perspective on how I chose to open up to people, but it sure as shit didn’t change my perspective on how to react to my child.

If I learned anything after starting to tell family, it was to proceed with caution. So after months of listening and defending his choices, my choices as a parent, I started avoiding. I stopped going to family parties as often (or not at all) and didn’t invite certain family to mine either. I avoided them like the plague because they didn’t get it and they refused to stop trying to “help me” by showing me the other side of things. Insisting every time that they had come up with some new idea that explained this all away. When really, if they truly wanted to help, they needed to stop worrying about me and my child and start taking the time to learn and understand him for who he is.

It became blatantly clear to me that the adults in our life had the largest concerns and were most alarmed by the news and after reflecting on this it was obvious that they were trying to convince me to change the way I supported my son through his journey in order to make them feel better. It was becoming so clear that this wasn’t an issue about my son at all, but an issue on how they were reacting to the news and how their mission was to fix their uncomfortable feelings by making it go away. Changing my kid, or trying to change the way I parented my kid.

Once I understood fully that this was beyond them trying to grasp their own distress but more a situation of grown adults expecting my young child to adjust to make them feel more agreeable in a place that made them uneasy, that’s when I stopped trying to educate. It’s not worth my efforts to consistently try to change someone’s mind who never had any intention of understanding to begin with.

I do have to point out, not everyone in my life as reacted this way to my son. I have a handful of friends that have supported us to the moon and back and a few family members that “get it”. But to the rest of them, maybe one day, when they are ready… things will change and they will finally be ready and open to receive the information and the facts surrounding my son and his life. I have my arsenal of resources ready when they are. Until then, I don’t need that shit in my life, and neither does he.

And to anyone I meet in the future I will always be aware, be vigilant. There are plenty of times I ask for advice, sure. But unless I have asked… I sure as hell don’t need your opinions on how to raise my child, trans or not. Thanks.

Follow Me Here:

What If This Is Just A Phase – Every Parent’s Concern

Many parents with transgender kids discuss the changes their children are making or are talking about with fear and concern. Fear of the unknown, fear of others, fear for their futures. And one I hear people express most often (and that rolled in my own head the most in the beginning) is “what if this is just a phase?” What if we “allow” this and we (as parents) are WRONG? What if in two, or five, or seven years my son realizes he was a girl all along and he made a mistake? WE made a mistake?

Every single parent I have talked to in a similar situation as mine, has said this at some point.

And I think the bigger question we should be worrying about as parents is… what if it’s NOT a phase.

If this turns out to be a phase later, our kids will have spent years with supportive parents. They will know that no matter what they are loved and accepted and appreciated as themselves and for their strength, courage, and their individuality. They will see that their parents love them unconditionally and without judgement. But if we don’t take our kids sincerely and allow this to play out – wherever it is going – the repercussions of NOT are potentially catastrophic.

No parent ever wants their child to feel badly. It starts as soon as they enter this world. The first cry – we jump. We instantly want to fix whatever the problem is. We spend endless days and nights awake trying to solve the messages the new being we brought into this world is sending us.

The little one that has taken over every inch of extra space we have in our hearts from the second we laid eyes on them. We spend months or years perfecting how to translate their cries, their whines, their grunts. So we can eventually understand, without words, what they need most in the moment.

As kids grow older, our love and protection towards them doesn’t change, but morphs into something more intense. More fierce. We started with worrying about bumps on the head while learning to crawl and falls from the furniture, to fights on the playground, grades, and bullies at school. Our number of worries increases with every year our kids spend on this earth and our reactions become less of an instant need to fix the problem and more of an incessant need to analyze and dissect and understand. We need to comprehend them in their complexity, but my question to you is WHY?

Why in order to love unconditionally and be the parent that jumps instantly to their aid do we necessarily need to understand? Need an explanation? Why do we need proof that this won’t change? As humans aren’t we always changing? Ever evolving?

When it comes to something like gender, some children can’t put into words the exact way they are feeling because it’s beyond their scope of understanding. They just know things aren’t what they seem. They are different, they can tell. They know this. They could express that inside they feel opposite of what their body shows and it could be that they are gender fluid, it could be that they are transgender, it could be a number of things. But why can’t we take it for what it is and just be parents without over-thinking it until we need to? The supportive parents that they need MOST in this moment.

The “why” is obviously our fear. As parents we want to protect them. Make sure that every decision we make and every decision they make will not ultimately be one that haunts us. In my research and understanding of how you react and handle a transgender kid, pushing against what they are expressing, making them take time to prove they are who they say, dissecting everything they say and do, waiting for them to slip up…. the haunting outcome is suicide. Transgender individuals that feel supported by their families have a suicide rate of about 4%. Transgender people who were not supported? That statistic spikes up to almost 50%. That’s almost than half. It’s astonishing and more so, it’s terrifying. I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell do not want to take my chances with odds like that. AT. ALL.

When my son came out and expressed to me that he was a boy trapped in a girl’s body, he was 4. And yet, I didn’t question it. (I asked questions, sure, but I didn’t doubt him). I encouraged him to share with me how he felt. I expressed my concerns to everyone but him.

And I let him lead the way which ultimately led us down a road of fully socially transitioning before school started this year. (Which is NOTHING that’s not reversible. It’s his name, his pronouns, his hair, and his wardrobe. That’s it.). 

He led us to where we are today, and because of that I feel comfortable that we have made the right decisions along the way. The worst case scenario would be that he realizes he deciphered this message his body was sending him in the wrong way and it was a phase. But my child would know that all along I supported him, I loved him, and I accepted him. I let him do what he needed to do to figure it out and my feelings for and about him never faltered or changed. He was always my child and I was always the same mama bear in his corner.

That’s the worst case scenario. Considering my son is pretty headstrong and consistent about his feelings of being a boy in his brain, I don’t see us winding up somewhere that took us in and out of a phase. I just don’t. And if we don’t find out it’s a phase… then we are left where started. Allowing him to take the time he needed in the way he needed to learn how to live as his true self. 

To be himself the way he saw fit. And, again, along the way he knew he was accepted, loved and supported unconditionally.

I would never be able to live with myself if something happened to one of my children. Especially if that something was a terrible event that could have been prevented or drastically reduced by the way I reacted to something important, something they shared with me out of confidence that I could be trusted. I would hate to know my child left this world too young trying to convince me they were someone else. Or worse, they left hiding it from me completely. And for that reason alone, phase or not, I’m going to do what I have to do to support my son 100% while he figures it out.

And so, it doesn’t matter if this is a phase. My reaction and our approach would not have changed. And if you’re a parent that loves unconditionally like me, yours won’t either.

MomTransparenting

If you connected with this post here are a few others you might want to check out

Grief and Loss Of A (Transgender) Child

When Your Child Comes Out… Family Can Be Harsh

What’s In A Name?

Follow Me Here:

Grief and Loss Of A (Transgender) Child

It’s an odd feeling to miss someone who is staring you right in the face.

When my 5 year old first started presenting as male I read and read and read some more about anything and everything I could get my hands on as it related to transgender youth. I studied and learned and researched and took notes and sent links to my fiance and family and to myself (to refer back to later). I joined groups and asked questions and met with other families of children who had come out as trans. I wanted to know IT ALL. But one thing I hadn’t prepared myself for was the grief and that accompanies the “loss” of your child. Your child as you know it is gone. And with that comes an intense amount of sorrow.

I didn’t get to mourn the loss of my child like someone might mourn a death. There wasn’t a service, no meal train was set up in our name, I didn’t get calls or texts or cards in the mail to express sympathy or condolences. There was no outpouring of support from family or the community. In many cases, it was the opposite. Months, days and hours defending my child and giving explanations and resources to family and friends.

You are so busy focusing on your child and the changes you are determined to support him through that your own thoughts and feelings get overlooked. The

HUGE changes that come along with social transition shadow your inner emotions until it comes crashing down one day and you start to realize… You are sad. You are mourning. And when you take the time to sit down and think about how you’re feeling and why, you notice that you feel as if someone died. And, in a way, someone did.

My child, as I knew him, was no longer the same person. And in his place there was a new, different child that I was still learning about. I was changing words, changing the way I referred to and reacted to my child. Everything changed. When I found out I was pregnant for the first time I had eight months to read and prepare for parenthood. And even though nothing can prepare you for the true day to day of being a mom, at least you have time. With this, I wasn’t given much time at all. As soon as he expressed himself to me that he wasn’t living his true self, he was off and running. And I was just trying to keep up. 

My son asked me recently if I still think he’s the same kid “now that I’m a boy”. And it made me wonder if I treat him differently now. Is he also mourning the mom he used to have? Has his mom morphed into someone new that he is also trying to navigate a relationship with? I sure see him (physically) differently now.

Everything he does makes this all so OBVIOUS. But I think some of that is me just trying to find and make sense of it all as a parent. How could I have not seen this sooner? How did he know, and I didn’t? So alongside the grief there is guilt. Guilt that I wasn’t doing my job as a parent to the fullest. I didn’t know him better than he knew himself. Which comes full circle back to grief and loss. 

If someone ever told me there would come a day when I would miss the very child laying on my chest watching a movie with me, I would have thought they were bat shit crazy. But now, I realize how possible that is. I know with time the things I miss will get less and less as I continue to watch the development of my child in his element and becoming more and more of his true self. But for now…. it’s just a little sad. 

MomTransparenting

 

If you connected with this post, here are a few others discussing my experiences with raising a young transgender child:

My 5 Year Old Is Transgender, And I Don’t Want Your Advice

What If This Is Just A Phase?

My Son’s First Haircut – A Rite Of Passage

 

 

Follow Me Here:

My Son’s First Haircut – A Rite Of Passage

A first haircut is a milestone for any parent and their child. Most parents will take their kids in for a big to-do snapping endless photos, snipping tiny locks of hair and saving them in a book or a box to remember the day forever. (Even though we all know it just sits in a bin in the basement or attic collecting dust until we move, and then the box is moved to a bigger basement/attic to collect new dust.. but, hey, we care).

Even though there will be a million more to come, and eventually the “magic” of the first or second haircut dwindles and the routine becomes mundane like any other, we celebrate this event for our kids. For my son, right now…. haircuts continue to be a big deal. Maybe bigger than they were before. His “first” haircut was years ago, and it was very uneventful. A tiny trim to conserve his perfect ringlets that seemed to get fuller and more dramatic (and devastatingly beautiful) with age.

But now, we don’t count that hair cut. For him, his very first true and memorable haircut came after he revealed me that he is trans. And it’s a day that will forever be etched in my mind as a turning point for us, for the better. After my son told me how he felt on the inside and that he felt he was living a lie: a boy trapped in a girls body, he wanted badly to change his hair to a boy style. It was a drastic change that had us all very nervous, even just talking about it before the day came caused (me) panic.

I was anxiety ridden, he was scared kids would make fun of him after, and I might have been holding on a little too tight to that tremendous head of hair he had. Honestly, at first I thought he might back out. He seemed unsure once the moment was staring him in the face and I definitely didn’t want to pressure him into anything. Before the first scissor blade almost grazed his hair he turned his head and  stopped everyone. He asked for us to be alone to have a chat. He explained to me that he desperately wanted this change. He was dreaming about it for months. He was ready. BUT  – he was petrified. He didn’t want the kids at school to “call him names for being a boy now”. A haircut meant that his appearance would match his heart and he couldn’t hide anymore if he felt uncomfortable. He would be exposed.

School was almost out, summer break was close and my son wouldn’t be going to the same school next year. So I tried to urge him to wait a couple weeks. Once summer officially started this whole thing would be a lot less stressful, for all of us. But he didn’t want to wait another day longer. This was happening and it was happening today.

The stylist first put his long, beautiful curls in a pony tail and asked one last time before she started moving her blades through the bound locks. He nodded and… snip. It was GONE. And I anticipated the tears, the instant regret he would have once he realized that this was it. There was no going back now. But instead, my child beamed.

As the stylist continued to even out the long layers my son increasingly got more and more frustrated and my heart dropped because surely this was the remorse setting in and soon he would be crying all over the floor. Yet instead, he said, “it’s not short enough, I still look like a girl.” So my friend (his stylist) kept snipping away, looking at me for reassurance as she slowly cut more and more off until he had a Bieber-esk style cut and was grinning from ear to ear. Once he found words through his smiles and giggles he looked at me and said, “mom, I really look like a boy now, isn’t it GREAT?!?!” He was so incredibly happy and all of my fear, my panic, the tension this day had built up, melted away and all I saw was a very happy little boy who had just experienced one the best days of his life.

I walked in to that appointment scared out of my mind, questioning everything I was doing and feeling so unsure about all of my most recent decisions as a parent who’s child just expressed to them that they might be transgender. This was such a huge moment for him, and for me. Once his hair was short and he was thrilled, it all made sense. I wasn’t doing anything that I couldn’t take back (after all, hair grows back) but to my son, I was “allowing” him to make the changes he needed to feel himself, to feel loved, to feel like his body and his mind finally made sense, and to know that with me, this was all ok. And in the end, that’s all that mattered.

Since then, we have had many haircuts. And every time he wants it just a little shorter than before. And afterwards he still walks around rubbing his head and smiling in disbelief. Like he went to bed a frog and woke up a prince. As if he never thought it was possible to look in the mirror and see someone staring back that matched how he felt inside. But it was possible, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I was the one that stood by and held his hand while that transformation took place. I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I will forever remember his first haircut as a defining moment for him, and for me. Maybe more so than I will remember my other kids hair cuts. Because this haircut was one of the experiences that made him who he is.   

Of course I held on to those long locks of his from this very official day. Bound together by the very same ponytail and wrapped delicately in a ziplock bag…. sitting in a box… in my attic.

Follow Me Here:

What’s In A Name?

 

There are so many facets to coming out as a trans person. As an adult or even older youth, I assume many transgender individuals are constantly thinking about all the ways their life would be and will be different before they begin revealing to people how they feel inside. When a young child presents as transgender, despite professionals advising parents in this situation to follow the child’s lead and let them pave the way to wherever the path is going, ultimately the responsibility for all major decisions lies on the shoulder’s of the parent. A parent who hasn’t spent days or weeks or years day dreaming about how differently life could be for them (unless you count what I think my life might be like as a Kardashian. But I don’t. Should I?). There are many situations that have come up that I haven’t even come close to contemplating until the instant it’s shoved in my face and I’m forced to make a BIG decision on the fly. One I’m not sure I’m ready to make on behalf of my dependent. One I’m scared to take the credit or, more likely, the blame for later.

I have joined every parenting group I can find to connect with other moms and dads with children like mine; to bounce ideas off of them, to share my fears, or hear their successes and horror stories, to prepare myself for the journey ahead of us. But sometimes, no matter how much you research, how much you prepare or plan, there is no warning for situations you are going to have to tackle.

One topic that comes up a lot is names. And more specifically, legal name changes. I’ve heard of parents petitioning for these legal name changes as young as 3. Kids that haven’t even been able to put their feelings about their gender into words (because they didn’t have words) for very long. Kids that don’t know how to articulate how they feel yet, just that they feel wrong or different. 

Until today, I couldn’t wrap my head around why someone would go through this excruciating process with a young child to officially and legally change their name. In my thoughts, there is a good possibility the child’s feelings on the name they choose may change. Many times. I can’t even confidently select a sandwich to make my child for lunch for the following day without concern that their taste buds will change overnight and they will instantly reject PB&J and only eat ham from that point on (until Friday, then it’s something else, isn’t that how all kids work?). In my experience, kids are notoriously indecisive.

I guess perhaps this is where some of my misunderstanding or my personal bias comes in. I think about how when I was younger I wanted people to call me Dorothy for many months because I had watched the Wizard of Oz and wanted to be the girl in the blue and white plaid dress with ruby slippers who could click my heels and transport to other parts of the world, whenever the hell I wanted to. I didn’t respond if you didn’t call me by my new, chosen name, and most people thought it was adorable and would play along. Fancy that, because when my trans son asks people he knows and admires to please call him by the shortened version of his name, some have flat out refused… apparently it’s not “adorable” when it’s serious and a matter of acceptance and mental well-being. {eyeROLL}. I digress. My parents would have never ran out and changed my name to Dorothy even if I had been consistent and persistent about this. And, as luck would have it, the phase ended and I was back to answering to my birth name in no time. Maybe this is a bad analogy, because, for trans kids, a name is a BIG deal.

I have read about changing a child’s name, legally, but I have not embarked on this journey yet. It’s a big step. One many parents and trans kids will consider a huge milestone and success to be celebrated. It’s a process that includes court filings, court hearings, money, and going in front of a judge pleading your case to prove this is in the best interest of your child. I don’t know what the statistics are on getting denied, but I do know it certainly happens. And I couldn’t even begin to imagine the disappointment families must feel at the mercy of the judge who just denied their child’s existence as their true self, in a way.

A trans person’s birth name associates them with someone they used to be, someone that was in pain, someone that was misunderstood and living a life that wasn’t true to themselves. Their birth name (also known in the trans world as a dead name) isn’t THEM anymore. They are now known by a new name, one with hope, with peace, and most importantly (and hopefully), acceptance. So to refer to a person who is trans by their old name is considered offensive and hurtful. It can cause emotional trauma, especially if it’s done intentionally. It can remind them of all of their terrible experiences living as someone they were not. And as a parent, no one wants to knowingly put their child in a situation where that could happen. Ever.

Getting to the point (finally)…. I met with the school this week to talk about my son and his situation. We are just starting elementary school and as if coming into kindergarten isn’t scary enough for a child, my child socially transitioned from a girl to a boy since we registered last winter and it has put us into a tailspin of explanations and preparation before school starts. I feel the need to give them some insight as to how he likes to be referred to, what staff members should be included in his circle of trust, and what situations we can try to prepare for.

It wasn’t until this meeting that it clicked. I now understand why parents of young trans kids are changing their names. The principal informed me that per state law there are certain forms, certain cards or documents that will have to be received by my child with his full (girl) name on it, because that is the name that coincides with his birth certificate. If he has to sit down and take a state exam, there will be a box he will have to obediently check that says “yes, this is me (dead name )”.

The summer camp my kids attend is one my son has been registered with for years. They had his girl name on the roster, and this is another one of those situations that had to punch me in the face for me to be like “ahhhh, shit, this isn’t good and I should have prepared for this”. We walked in the door and he noticed his name tag and got upset, hurt, and didn’t want to go inside the classroom. I quickly alerted the counselors who swiftly changed his name tag, attendance list, and cubby holes for backpacks, and that was that, problem solved. But in school, it’s not going to be so easy.

If the teacher is a sub, the lunch staff is in a hurry, or the librarian doesn’t make a conscious effort to correctly call my child out by their preferred name over the name they will see on the computer screen or card he hands over…. this might devastate him. This might “out” him to whoever is in line with him, to his classmates or peers, and it could be terrible. I instantly felt pressured with the decision of keeping his legal name and preparing him for these anticipated situations that WILL arise through the school year, or starting the process of changing his name legally and hoping that as a 5 year old he has the wisdom to pick a name he will want to carry for the rest of his life. What kind of pressure is that for a child? It’s immense. He has a name picked out, he’s been testing it out for over a month when strangers he meets ask him his name. He likes it and ironically it was one of the first names he told me we should call him on the VERY DAY he told me that in his heart and in his brain, he is a boy. Maybe he will stick with that name forever. But what if he doesn’t?

But am I? Pressured… that is. Is this a national or state-wide law or just a district policy? Is this something I’m being told is a requirement when really it’s just never happened before at this level in the school and they don’t know how to address it? Stay tuned because this is something I’m going to get to the bottom of. This is one of those times when being an advocate for your child is so important. Therapists and doctors will talk about putting your child on hormone blockers to keep them out of puberty and give them more time before making long term decisions, and this is one of those circumstances that warrants more time to decide.

So on top of getting my kids prepared for a new school year and trying to learn as much as I can about what is going on with my child, I am now going to start researching what the hell the law says and why a name has to be officially and legally changed in order to get a report without your kid’s full girl name on it. I’m scrutinizing district policy and what it will take to have the system changed so that I can give my kid (and myself) more time to think about this. More time to be sure before we go making a drastic change that is something I vowed not to do until years down the road. Something that isn’t easily reversible.

I guess we aren’t in Kansas anymore.

Follow Me Here:

Mom Transparenting

Instagram
Facebook
Facebook
PINTEREST
PINTEREST
Follow by Email