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.