In the beginning (of the transgender journey)

I realize that from the outside looking in, it must seem like we really have it together. And, on many levels, we really do. We have a great relationship with our (FtM) son, he is in the process of transitioning under the expert care and guidance of knowledgeable professionals, he is accepted at school and our immediate and extended community has been nothing short of amazing.

As I spoke at length to a woman this morning, whose adult child is now transitioning from MtF, I was forced to reflect back on our own beginning. Both my kids know that they can come to me with anything. They also know that my calm exterior (when confronted with said confessions) belies the internal storm that can be brewing at any given moment.

So, how did I really handle the news that my 14 year old was transgender and what did I do?

I think, if memory serves me, I went straight for Google. Did you know that there are only so many ways you can search for transgender, gender identity, gender dysphoria, gender identity disorder (did my child have a disorder?), and hormone therapy? I googled and searched and google again. I rearranged the words thinking maybe I would land on a different result. OMG.

Hunter transition ftmHunter had been living with this information for quite some time and had done extensive research. I, on the other hand, had no idea what I was doing. My head was spinning. He needed a therapist. He wanted to start “T” (testosterone). How do we find the right experts?

My husband and I were at odds. He wasn’t convinced that this was a “done deal.” I knew in my heart that it was. We were concerned about therapy. What if the therapist tried to talk him out of being trans? What if the therapist pushed him too fast to transition? What if…

So, I dragged my feet a bit. While we are very open and “out” now, two years ago I certainly wasn’t going to post a note on Facebook looking for resources.

“Hey, FB friends, anyone know of a reputable gender therapist?” Nah…that wasn’t going to happen.

In time, I began to share the news, selectively and sporadically. I think the first person I reached out to was an old friend. Jill* had been the kids’ nanny the summer Olivia was born. She was smart, fun, creative, kind and gay. I knew she would be safe and helpful. So, that’s where I started just about two years ago.

The beginning was really rocky. Teenage hormones were kicking in. Female parts were showing up uninvited. Each day brought new challenges. We were open to the idea of our child being transgender but we really weren’t ready for all the necessary steps that needed to be taken. I think at that point I didn’t fully get it.

All I knew is that I loved my child. At this point I felt that we were fighting for his life. We were fighting for the survival of our family. Yes, the beginning was rough. If I can be the crystal ball for someone else’s beginning and shine a beacon of hope on their rocky start, I will have done my job.

*names were changed

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Trans*(In)spiration

Two years ago I had two daughters (or so I thought). Two years ago I had absolutely no understanding of what it means to be transgender. Two years ago I had a teenager who hated their body, hated what it represented, hated the parts that were emerging.

mother's role mother's loveTwenty years ago I wanted nothing more than to be a mother. Twenty years ago I longingly looked at the swelling baby bumps of others and wondered when it would be my turn. Twenty years ago we lost the baby we treasured and loved and nurtured – it was the worst of times. Twenty years ago we thought we would never be parents.

Fortunately, with the help of modern medicine, our dreams were realized. Nearly nineteen years ago our first daughter was born. PURE JOY. If I could have bottled that feeling and sold it to the world we would no longer know war. SERIOUSLY. I was on cloud nine.

Lately, I have been privileged to hear stories from parents, trans* teens and trans* adults (some fully transitioned and out, others not) about their experiences, good and bad and how they are coping (or not). Most of the parents who reach out are allies. They are supportive of their child’s transition and are comforted to know that there are others out there going through the same thing. Sadly, most of the trans* teens I hear from are living in fear. They are afraid to come out to their family and to live authentically in a way that would give them a “wholeness.”

This breaks my heart.

One such young adult, 20 year old “Janine” identifies as female. Her community consists of a few private Facebook support groups where she can be herself. Otherwise, at home, at work and with extended family (even her siblings), she is a he. In the privacy of her room she can experiment with make-up and dream of the day that she can be who she was meant to be. I have become her “Ally Mom.”

Can you imagine going to work every day in a costume? What about wearing a mask to every business meeting? Transgender people who can’t “come out” to their families, friends, and place of employment walk around hiding behind a cloak of secrecy. Imagine the sadness and stress that they carry around.

I feel grateful beyond measure that our family can be open and honest and supportive of our own son and the community of which we are now a part. When my son snuggles up next to me I am taken back to that first moment when I laid eyes on my baby. This is what it means to be a parent.

When Ally Moms was formed the goal was to create a loving resource for those who didn’t have access to an accepting family and support system. It never occured to me that we would now be a resource for each other. Currently, we have about 60 moms (of trans* kids) who have stepped up to be available for a conversation and a friendly ear. As a group, we are smart, educated, accomplished, caring, kind, sensitive, understanding and creative. We are women who have chosen to be mothers. We are women who have inhaled the elixir – the joy of being a parent. These women inspire me.

One year ago our family transitioned from female pronouns to male pronouns, from Olivia to Hunter. One year ago we chose to change the way we thought about our child.

Follow me on Twitter. For additional resources browse the other pages here.

 

Inspiring Blog Award

blog awardThank you to TransgenderAndMe for nominating me. I am always humbled and awed when my words can move and inspire others. Recently, while we mourned the senseless loss of Leelah Alcorn, one by one, moms raised their hands and said, “I want to help.”

It is this sincerity and heartfelt coming together that creates community and a stronger future for our children. I hope that this effort, known as Ally Moms, will inspire others to not only love their children unconditionally, but show the world that transgender individuals need understanding, support and acceptance even if we don’t fully have the answers.

I was asked to recognize other bloggers for their words and efforts as well as to post random facts about me. I am not very good at following the rules…There are a couple of bloggers whom I follow. I will call out their names and respective links in another post.

This is just a quickie to acknowledge being acknowledged. I am flattered and honored that you chose me to be among your list of wonderful bloggers.

Thank you for loving your (trans*) child

love your transgender childSomeone just wrote me a note citing the irony of cheering on parents who are supportive of their transgender child(ren). Do we pat our friend on the back and say, “wow, love how supportive you are of your child with aspergers/down syndrome/adhd/dyslexia?”

Why is this different?

Let me tell you that as a parent of a child with attention and learning issues, I have long worn the “advocate” hat. Not until recently have I been so applauded for being there for my son on these cloudy days. I know I’ve said this a million times over, but I can’t imagine not being a loving, supportive parent no matter what my child is going through.

Don’t get me wrong — I fully appreciate a community who recognizes what I’m doing for my son. If I can change the course of someone else’s life because of the way I am parenting, then I will have done my job. Truthfully, I have never been more fulfilled.

This past week has fed my soul in a way that is, in some ways, indescribable. Women from all over the country (and some men), including a few from Canada and Europe, have raised their hands in support of transgender kids who are looking to find their way. Sadly, often it takes a tragedy to set the wheels in motion. The world lost a beautiful young woman, Leelah Alcorn, all because her parents did not love her enough.

They did not love her enough to get past their own fear and insecurities and religious upbringings. They did everything in their power to alienate, isolate and invalidate their daughter’s life. They forgot that when you bring a new life into the world, it is a parent’s job to nurture and guide and encourage and instill a feeling of self worth and independence. To do otherwise is abuse. To read another’s opinion on this, check out this article by Jessica Valenti.

OK…I will stop the rant now.

Over the last several days I’ve had the privilege of reading stories from other “transgender” families; really great stories. The concept and message is just so simple. If you love your child unconditionally amazing things will happen. All it takes is one loving, understanding adult to change the way a child feels about his or her place in the world. Ally Moms, dads, siblings, teachers, religious leaders — we are all able to make a difference, one child at a time.

I am reminded of the We are the World song release in support of the AIDS epidemic in the mid 80s. Listen to the lyrics. The message is so powerful and timeless.

Please share this. Hug your children. Practice tolerance. Open your arms and your hearts. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

How to be an ally to someone who is transgender

If you are reading this, chances are you know someone who is transgender. Maybe you are a friend of mine. Perhaps you suspect your child is gender non-conforming. Are you trying to understand one of your students? Did a family member just come out? If you are reading this, it is likely that you’ve come here with an open mind.

transgender allyAs with any situation that we don’t fully understand, sometimes we are afraid to ask questions. We don’t want to offend or use the wrong terminology. We want to show that we care. We want to demonstrate acceptance. We want to talk the talk and walk the walk.

So, I asked my transgender son where he thought there was an information gap regarding understanding the “trans” community. He gave me some pointers to share when talking with, about or on behalf of a transgender individual.

Hunter’s Advice

If you have a friend who has entrusted you with the extremely personal secret of being a trans person, do yourself and your friend a favor; go on the internet and research what you don’t understand. This shows that you’re not just pushing the secret aside; knowing the basics can make it so much easier for the friend trying to explain themselves to you.

Use correct pronouns. He, she, they, them, and xe are some that are widely used. If you aren’t sure of their preference, ASK!! It may sound weird saying in your head “so what pronouns do you prefer?” but it isn’t weird. No one will be offended.

Refrain from using derogatory terms like tranny, he/she, she-male, “a trans”, it, fake, etc. The phrase “a transgender” is incorrect grammar. Transgender individuals are people. The word transgender is an adjective not a noun.

Another important factor is the person’s name–the transgender individual’s chosen name is their name no matter what it says on their birth certificate.


It took us awhile to transition to using male pronouns and changing names. We took our cues from Hunter. When he asked, we complied. Some want to change names as soon as they come out. For Hunter, it was a slower process. For that, I am grateful. The months that passed gave us a transition period. We were able to get used to changes in little bits and pieces.

Remember, to quote a famous poet, “a rose by any other name smells as sweet.” Just because your child wants to be called by a different name or dress differently doesn’t mean he is a different person. If your friend identifies as a gender other than the one she was assigned at birth, she is just expressing a desire to live authentically. She is the same person.

Please share and encourage others to be an ally to the transgender community. Plenty of teens and young adults are supported. However, many are not. They could use a friend, an ally.

This post is in honor of Leelah Alcorn’s memory.

If you are a transgender individual and need an ally, you can click here for a list of Ally Moms.

I stumbled across this video about being an ally. It’s a really well done YouTube video and worth a couple of minutes to watch.