Happy 16th Birthday, Hunter!

Hunter transition ftmIt’s been quite a year! Lots of highs and lows. Numerous stops and starts. Unexpected tears and endless laughter.

We’ve been to the pediatrician, the therapist, the pediatric endocrinologist, the pharmacy, the lab (for blood work), the courthouse and the passport office. Hunter started on testosterone, experienced his voice changing, grew a little taller and even began to have more of an appetite (some days) especially when the day started with three slices of homemade French toast dipped in real maple syrup.

Not only did we officially begin using male pronouns, but Hunter got a revised birth certificate, a new passport and a legal name change. He sailed through driver’s ed and is the proud owner of a “permit” with his legal name and male gender marker.

Hunter’s confidence swelled in direct proportion to the amount of love and acceptance he received from family, friends, the community — strangers he may never meet.

Leelah Alcorn committed suicide because she could no longer live with parents who insisted on calling her a he knowing they would never acknowledge the girl she was born to be. Ally Moms was born. Jay Ralko lost his battle with his demons. I spoke to a room full of Jay’s friends assuring them, that as a mom, I would love our transgender children, always.

We shared our journey publicly. Hunter’s story appeared on the cover of The Detroit Jewish News, The Detroit Free Press and USAToday.com. We organized an event for transgender youth and families where attendance exceeded our wildest expectations as nearly 250 spilled out into the chapel lobby. We founded a non-profit organization, Stand with Trans, to benefit and support transgender youth (and their families) so kids would have the tools to feel confident, validated and loved.

regina boone photo

photo credit: Regina Boone, The Detroit Free Press, staff photographer

What a ride this past year has been. What a surprising 16 years. From the much anticipated birth of our second child to tom-boy tantrums, academic angst and social anxiety, Hunter has become a true mensch. He has come into his own over the last few years. He doesn’t focus on the rough patches but on the fact that he has gotten past them. The transformation from an unhappy, moody, withdrawn, dysphoric adolescent to a positive, loving, open, confident 16 year old has been nothing short of remarkable.

Hunter is kind and caring. He is compassionate. He understands that his weekly time at the Friendship Circle means so much more than just an after school activity. He is tolerant and patient with those less nimble. Hunter is not your typical 16 year old in many ways and very much a teenager in others. He knows what he likes from music to television to video games. He is not influenced by his peers. He has worked really hard to be who he is at this moment in time.

Hunter 2Together, we have traversed the past year. As his mom, I showed Hunter that he was loved unconditionally. He knows that even when I am angry or disappointed (in a choice he made) I will ALWAYS love him. I will NEVER turn my back on him. I will FOREVER be his champion.

Hunter, happy 16th birthday, son. I cannot wait to see what the next year will bring. You are a beautiful soul, a piece of my heart, a force to be reckoned with.

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An apology

mother's role mother's loveA while back I made a statement that I felt very sure of. Today I am retracting my statement and offering an apology. When my son told me he was transgender (FTM), I was surprised to hear those words spoken by him. However, I wasn’t shocked. There had been little signs all along and more recently, lots of signals – like cutting off his hair and asking to shop in the boys’ department. As we stepped off the starting block and inched along on our journey I began to meet parents who told me they were SHOCKED by their child’s confession.

“How could that be?” I wondered. Surely, when one reflects back and starts put together all those little pieces, signs, and nagging intuitions, the result is one big message; a billboard of sorts, screaming “how could you have missed this?”

I have always believed that if a parent is tuned in to their children they would never miss something so important.

The other day I had the privilege of talking with a woman who just found out that her daughter wants to be male. Her “girlie, long-haired, pink skirt-wearing” child can no longer live in secret. Anna* was SHOCKED. Listening to her anguished, desperate account of the prior week, where her daughter spent several days in the psychiatric unit on suicide watch, I knew I had been wrong. There had been no signs.
Now, Anna did tell me that her daughter has suffered from depression since an early age. Perhaps this was the red warning flag. Tatum* didn’t have the words or understanding or ability to articulate what was going on. Most likely, the root of her depression was that she was assigned the wrong gender at birth. Her vocabulary didn’t include the word “transgender.”

As a side note, one of the reasons we chose to tell our story publicly was to be a resource for others. It was our hope that by coming forward in our community, at least one family would be helped. Anna told me that while in the hospital, Tatum asked to read Hunter’s story. Never having met us, Anna had no idea how Tatum even knew about Hunter or the recent article that ran in the Detroit Jewish News. Not having their own subscription, they googled the story and were able to print it out, delivering words to their daughter that would bring a source of comfort and hope.

After spending quite a bit of time speaking to Anna, I realized that it is possible to be caught entirely off guard. It is possible to love your child so much that you become deaf and blind to anything that is a bit “off.” We often think, “they march to their own drum,” or “they just aren’t that social,” or any other phrases that make allowances for our children’s differences.

So, I am sorry. I am sorry for making a judgment and pretending to know what goes on in another family. We do the best we can to love and provide and nurture and educate. As parents, we learn as we go. We don’t always have all the answers. As friends and community members we need to reach out and support each other, sharing the knowledge we do have so we can raise stronger families.

*names have been changed to protect the privacy of this family

Call him Hunter

It is my pleasure to share today’s post with you. The story is written by my friend Ronelle Grier. The article appears in this week’s Detroit Jewish News on the cover. A must read. Thank you to Ronelle Grier for writing this and Keri Cohen, Story Development Editor at the Detroit Jewish News for publishing this. Read the entire story here. Detroit Jewish News Call Him Hunter

Enchanted Photography by Marla Michele Must

Enchanted Photography by Marla Michele Must