When Your Child Comes Out – Family Can Be Harsh

Once my son expressed his true feeling to me about feeling like a boy trapped in a girl’s body, he was rapidly ready to make some serious external changes, and people started asking questions. My child was very open about how he felt to most people. At school he walked right in and announced himself as a boy. In the neighborhood kids asked “so, you’re a boy now?” and he would simply respond, “yep!” and continue on playing, business as usual. There was no doubt in HIS mind, but it sure as hell did make some heads turn or eyebrows raise, especially if this was the first time someone saw him since his appearance drastically changed.

It’s interesting to watch. Especially at this age, because kids {mostly} don’t care. They seem to breeze right over it move on to more fun things. It’s not the kids that scare me when it comes to my child. At least not yet. It’s the adults that seem to be confused, scared, and downright mean.

Since my son has gotten more open about his feelings, we’ve gotten support where we least expected it, found friends in strangers that have gone through similar struggles, and received a lot of backlash from the people I expected to be our biggest supporters.

My son made it very clear rather early that he wanted me to do the explaining. He didn’t want to sit and field questions as a child, he was still figuring this all out for himself and at four that’s hard to articulate to an adult anyway. On top of the language barrier between adult and young child, anyone that wanted to question him seemed to have an agenda of using whatever he said as a way of discrediting his feelings or making him prove to them that this wasn’t some child’s play. It. Was. Infuriating.

Everything he said and did started getting dissected. If he had played with a doll while I was at work (even though he was playing the dad and the doll was the son, as he often did) my family babysitter would call me after and say, “you know, {FULL GIRL NAME} was playing with dolls today, and SHE LIKED IT!” Huge effing eye roll from me.

Photo Credit: Trans Student Educational Resources

No one understands until they do the research that this is a spectrum, that one action does not make or not make you identify as a boy or a girl. And who am I to tell my child how they feel on the inside because of the toys they play with? I’ve always had toys for both sexes in my house. If my oldest (born male) son puts a headband on and prances around the house (and, he has) does that make him feel like a girl on the inside? No.

Comments like this made me quickly realize why he was overwhelmed and decided to defer the questions off to me to let me handle the explaining. Mama Bear mode came on strong in many cases.

Everyone had their theory, everyone had their opinion, and many times… it wasn’t favorable to the path we had already decided to take with my son. The path that the professionals, the parents, the doctors, and every other person I could tell my story to, begging for an answer, had advised us to take. I would spew out statistics and evidence-based research, but it didn’t matter. There are some people that no matter WHAT you tell them, will always think they have the answers. When my son started requesting male pronouns be used to refer to him, some family members flat out refused.

My family tried to tell me horror stories of other trans kids they had heard about (but didn’t personally know), how my kid was going to get bullied out of school, how other kids were afraid of my child. As if I wasn’t already afraid enough for my child. As if this was a choice. I heard all about how my child needs attention, is around too many boys, must be confused, is too young…. I should wait five years. See if this sticks before we do anything “drastic”.

My kid was told “NO” when he would ask them to address him by his new, shortened name. And then they would emphasize his “dead name” when they addressed him to show their opposition to his change. (Dead name is the name you were given at birth. The name you no longer associate with. And for many trans kids, a painful name. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t familiar with terms – I still am learning all of the lingo and politically correct terms relating to all of this).

I learned a lot about my family in the beginning, to say the least. And we are still working on some (most). It’s sad when you have to consider if it’s going to be safe and healthy for your child to attend something as simple as a family BBQ, or if you should just stay home altogether. It’s not fair. Hopefully, by this time next year, things will be much different. One can wish… right?

I hear from other trans kid’s parents that they sent out letters or emails, sent an announcement to their family when the situation got real for them to explain what was going on, how to address their child, and many included a number of researched referrals/articles for their family to read if they had questions. I didn’t do this. I should have. Maybe I was giving it some time to make sure, maybe I was scared. I honestly don’t know. But I think it would have helped prepare my family (and done my kid some good) if I had warned them all before we showed up at the next family function with a hair cut, boy clothes, and a new name. Lesson learned.

 

Until next time, be the mom that sticks up for your kid. Even if it’s to family and even if it brings you pain. Be in their corner. And be proud of that.

 

MomTransparenting

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The Day I Told Someone I Have Two Girls And A Boy, And My Son Was Devastated

There are endless opportunities for you to screw up as a parent. Every single day there is some situation, some reaction, some word that you said that you regret. Endless moments that at the end of the day as you reflect on all of your mistakes you realize you could have done differently, more loving, more understanding, more patient. If you weren’t so tired, weren’t so overloaded with sports to get to and birthday parties to remember to buy gifts for and doctors appointment and school registration and…… as your list continues the list of reasons that magnify your chances to screw up become endless as well.

We all, as parents, have those moments. But one of mine that will always make me cringe with absolute heartache happened shortly after my son came out to me as trans. We are only currently about 6 months into this process, so this was {maybe} 4 months into his path of transitioning.

I was on a work call, and wandering aimlessly around my yard while the kids were all playing with their random toys that didn’t belong outside, that would normally make me squawk at them to take back in the house, but…. I was on the phone… and so they know, this is their chance to get away with murder. I believe all kids of all ages, shapes, and sizes know this offspring life-hack.

Mom said no? Well then, just wait until she’s is on the phone, and then…. ask for whatever you want. The world is your oyster once she has someone important on the receiving end of her cell. She will say yes, and if you’re lucky, the call will take just enough of her focus and energy that by the time she hangs up, she will forget you even did this to begin with. Kid WIN.

My son was currently practicing this little snippet he learned from theĀ  children’s secret society we have no intelligence of (or maybe it was Pinterest, who knows where they figure this shit out): he was asking me for something (I couldn’t remember what if I tried), and I was waving my hand in the “go ahead do whatever you need/want be quiet this is important” mom motion. Meanwhile, the person on the other end of the phone heard my kids in the background which prompted him to ask about them. And I quickly responded, I have two girls and a boy, and continued our business discussion without another thought.

My child was off playing again with his siblings until the next epiphany would come to them to request from me before my phone call ended and their time ran out. It wasn’t until I hung up the phone that my son came up to me and tugged on my shirt ever so gently with a single tear rolling down his cheek. I thought for sure he had fallen off his bike or tripped on the sidewalk and had a boo-boo for me to kiss somewhere on his little body. But instead, he simply said, between the most inaudible but tragic sobs, “mom, you told your friend that I was a girl.”

UGH. Those little words, that devastated face, the wretched shoulders. In that moment I felt so small. So lonely. So undeniably AWFUL. I couldn’t believe I did it and I also couldn’t wrap my head around how intensely upset he was. It wasn’t an obvious visual or audible upset. It was as if someone had just died and the initial shock hadn’t worn off but the emotion was so deep. So hurt.

I’ve since explained in great detail to my son that I am determinedly trying and making a very conscious effort to change my language in regards to HIM. But, there are times I can’t get my kids names right when I am looking right at their faces! I call them out as their sibling, the dog, the neighbor boy, whoever’s name pops in my head first in my fit of fury. But to my trans child, when I make a (avoidable) mistake like that it cuts him on such a deeper level, and so I really need to be more careful.

I haven’t made that mistake in public or with an “outsider” of our family since. And after that moment, I don’t think I ever will. As parents, we always want what’s ultimately best for our kids and we never (intentionally or not) want to be the one that causes their pain. Ever. The excruciating hurt of that one slip was way too much. For us both.

Until next time… be the mom you want to be. Even if she has faults. Even if she gets through her day and promises herself that tomorrow she WILL do better, and tomorrow comes and so do the new day’s errors. Nobody is perfect, but you are trying. Always give yourself credit for that.

 

MomTransparenting

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Mom Transparenting

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