What I Wish I'd Known When My Child Told Us They Are Trans
This story has been published with permission from the author’s child.
My child is trans. What does that mean? For me it means my beautiful child has been struggling for longer than we knew with who they are and how they are reflected to the world.
My 17-year-old told us recently they are trans. Born 17 years ago in a female body, this child proved to be kind, caring, loving, intelligent — all the things we want our children to be. This child was that and more.
One thing this child also was (unbeknownst to us) was suffering and struggling.
Struggling to understand how they fit and how they felt.
Looking back, I try to see what I missed and how I missed it.
All those days we shared building couch cushion forts, eating goldfish, watching “Bear in the Big Blue House” and “Liberty’s Kids,” was I not listening enough? Was I not seeing enough.
The thing is, I saw my child, I saw them very clear, and what I saw was a beautiful person I could not imagine came from me — too good for me to have had a hand in who they were.
I remember having conversations with both of my kids from a very early age, usually when someone had passed away, about how our bodies are just cases — cases to get us through this world — and when our case gets too tired we pass away, but what is inside us can never go, it’s always there, and no matter how we change our case, we are still us.
I guess maybe that is why when my 16-year-old stopped shaving her legs, I didn’t react with tons of questions. Were they questioning their gender or were they just tired of the drudgery of shaving?
These little clues — the not shaving, the button up shirts — they all came at a time when my baby was struggling with some serious mental health issues. OCD they had been dealing with and hiding finally became too much to hide and we were in for the fight of our lives. Six weeks in a residential treatment facility and then a few more partial stays and we had made great strides in their mental health.
The changes in appearance stayed — shorter haircuts, clothes choices that were more masculine than feminine. Then the depression and suicidal thoughts came around for a visit. Off we went to another inpatient treatment, this time I was hearing some different things from my kiddo, things like, “I don’t feel comfortable anywhere,” “It would be easier if I was dead.”
It really got me thinking, could this be because they are questioning how they feel inside and how they appear to the world?
I have been asked since our child came out to us, “If you were not surprised, why didn’t you ask them about this when you first started thinking this might be what they are dealing with?”
I guess for me, I wanted this news to be brought to me, what if I was wrong?
I also felt like in our house we have open conversations with the kids that are not the “usual.” We talk about anything and everything. I hoped if this were the case, then when the time was right it would be brought up to me.
What I have learned through all of this is that some things are too hard for a person to say; sometimes they may need someone else to initiate the conversation.
Is it hard having your child say to you they are trans? For me, yes. But not for the reasons you may think.
For me, my first concern was this world we are living in, a world where there are people who can’t accept those who they don’t understand; a world where my kind, caring, loving, intelligent child may not get to show those sides of themselves to someone else because they will be judged by one thing, and one thing only.
The other day in therapy I remembered a story. We were shoe shopping a few months ago, before my child had come out to us, appearance already changing, and asked the shoe guy for a size in a particular sneaker, he said, “You know, this is a girls shoe?” I instantly felt my temper flare, “Yes I do, can you get the size please.” I was pissed at the audacity of this guy, that’s my kid and they will wear whatever shoe they damn well please.
I hope some day in the future we can just accept we are not all the same, and if you meet someone you don’t understand, you will be kind and ask questions or be kind and walk away.
Because at the end of the day, we are all just trying our best.
Getty image by Grandfailure