My Trans Child And A Year Of “Firsts”

When your child comes out and starts to socially transition changes start manifesting whether you’re trying or not, right before your very eyes. Some of these changes cause stress, tears, and heartache. Others bring joy, satisfaction, and overwhelming pride. Whether you know it or not at the time, each of the steps you take along the way become little mile markers in your trip down the road to where you are leading, wherever that may be.

Every little event culminates to the big picture that creates this new person, and leaves behind the child you knew before. Some of the steps down the path are ones that you don’t realize were BIG moments until they have already passed. And some are so monumental that the anxiety and preparation to the event almost makes you ill until it’s finally over and you can breathe a sigh of relief. Whether big or small, each of these “firsts” are just as important as the last because they are what come together to make up the person your child is desperately trying to become.

In our first year (that hasn’t even come to a close yet) after my son came to me expressing that he is transgender, many things have happened that have all become benchmarks along the way. Everything we did and continue to do since him coming out becomes a fresh “first” of things I get to experience with my child. Some for the second (or third or hundredth) time but in a new light and a completely new development to mark as a milestone on his transgender journey. Even though each of these “firsts” brought on excitement and anticipation or dilemmas, tears, and “what if’s” they each have brought my child to a place that’s creating a safe, accepting, and supportive environment.

His First Haircut: This was our inaugural “first” we repeated. Something he had done before a few times, but never this way, and never with the outcome of a new appearance altogether. I wrote about this day specifically because it became a rite of passage for my child. A haircut meant he would look in the mirror and see the person he felt like on the inside looking back at him for the first time.

Our First “Boy” Shopping Experience: We’d been shopping many, many times before. But the first time we went shopping and I allowed him to pick out shoes and clothes in the boy’s section was a definite first to remember. It was him finally experiencing a trip to the store in the way he wanted, not me picking out a bunch of shirts with glitter and bows that he reluctantly accepted, but never truly wanted. It was excitement for a new collared shirt, not sorrow while I forced him to put a dress on and parade around the dressing room while I told him how “pretty” he was… while he longingly glanced over at the racks of clothing on the other side of the store wishing he was dressed in suits and ties.

His First Day Of School: Not the summer day when months of break were coming to an end where your child holds up a sign wearing a big smile on the way out the door, prepared to take on the new year and a new grade. This was a day in May, when summer break was actually around the corner, and he had been in school for eight months. But this day, was his first coming in with a new, shortened name, a new haircut, as a new person. Declaring to the world that he had finally told on himself and he was ready for everyone else to know his true self too. Expressing to the entire student body and staff that would listen that he was someone new now, and they should recognize him as such.

His First Birthday Party: It was actually his 5th birthday, but this was a different kind of party than he had seen before. One where he didn’t have a Disney Princess on his cake and instead picked Star Wars and had a “boy” theme. Full of friends instead of just family and light saber weapons made of pool noodles and finally opening a pile of gifts that wasn’t made up of baby dolls and barbies.

His First Real Friend: Someone who understood him as he changed before his friend’s eyes, and his friend didn’t blink an eye. Someone who knew my child before and after and didn’t seem to mind. This was someone he could be honest with, be himself without a filter. His friend gave my kid the confidence to keep sharing his true self with others he knew. He’d had many friends before, but this friend showed him that being him was ok. And that meant the world to my child. I hope to one day express to this friend of his how much his actions and thoughtfulness as a kindergartner changed someone’s life for the better.

The First Time A Stranger Recognized Him As A Boy: Most kids would take a little (or a lot) of offense to someone recognizing as the incorrect gender. Not my son, and not in his path of transitioning. For him, this was a HUGE exciting moment. When he first cut his hair and changed his clothes he wanted nothing more than for everyone to accept him. It wasn’t until we went somewhere in public and someone referred to my child as a little boy did he feel he had successfully achieved his goal of being a boy. It was instant validity. He beamed and it was obvious that at this moment he was finally presenting as the person he was meant to be. Inside and out.

The first time I introduced him as my “son”. This was a big occasion and a turning point for us both.But one that I wouldn’t have considered as such in the moment. It wasn’t until much later that I realized the importance of this small incident. I remember someone asking about the child standing next to me, holding my hand. And I wrestled with how to answer such a simple question. “Is this your son?” If he had been born my son, this would have been a no-brainer, but since he wasn’t and this was all still so new to me, I was stumped for a hot second. But then, I nodded and agreed. Of course. No explanation needed. And once I finally spoke and said “yes, he sure is” my child breathed a sigh of relief and revealed the biggest smile. The strangers recognizing him as a boy on the street validated him physically, but my words to the person who specifically asked about him to me, that did so much more. That sent a magnificent message of love, acceptance, and profound emotional approval that, had I answered differently, would have been catastrophic.

I am sure we have a number of “firsts” we haven’t even encountered yet. And when we do they will be all new and all memories that we think of fondly. A new name, legally, perhaps. Or changing a gender marker, officially. We aren’t there yet, and maybe we never will be. Or maybe we will. But regardless, each of these “firsts” we’ve experienced have brought more joy and hope and acceptance to my child about himself and each and every one of them has significantly made his life more fulfilling and helped transform him not only into the boy he desperately wants to be, but a child with confidence, with acceptance and understanding, and with pride.

Follow Me Here:

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:

Mom Transparenting

Instagram
Facebook
Facebook
PINTEREST
PINTEREST
Follow by Email