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.

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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?

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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

 

 

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Mom Transparenting

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