I have been asked “Why do a blog about your family? Also, shouldn’t I hide my name or use a pseudonym? The answers to these two questions are intertwined. This was not a quick or easy decision, but one that came about after many months of thought and consideration. The decision goes back to the very beginning of this journey and farther back to my upbringing.
When I found out A is transgender I was home, all alone, because my husband was out of the country on business. I knew almost nothing about transgender people, and I had many misconceptions. I was more scared than I had ever been at any time in my life. I had visions of people beating up my child, worries that A would try to commit suicide, and worries that they would be rejected by family and friends. So I did the only thing I knew to do to deal with this situation – I started trying to learn everything I could.
My siblings and I were raised to value education and to be curious about the world around us. Our parents encouraged curiosity, reading, and learning and made it fun. As a result, I have had a life-long love of learning. It has been a refuge for me. It seems that many of our fears arise from ignorance about that which we are afraid of. Learning the facts and truths about the subject of our fear often reduces, and sometimes eliminates, our fears. Ignorance augments feelings of fear.
I started with our pedicatrician, who also knew very little. This was not very reassuring! From there we found our first therapist and eventually the therapist we are with now. I started reading everything I could find – books, websites that help families with transgender children and relatives, medical information, websites by transgender people, anything I could find. As I learned more, my fear lessened.
There were a few things I noticed. There was a lot of information that targeted parents of gender variant children or was for transgender adults. Very little information existed for parents of transgender teens, and the information that was out there was often hard to find. As A slowly started coming out to more people, I found that the same questions kept coming up. People were willing to learn, but didn’t know where to get the information. And people did want to learn. The teenagers already know this stuff. It’s the adults who are behind the curve.
I considered other parents and families going through what we are going through. Finding and sifting through the information was time consuming and difficult at times. So I wanted to help other parents whose teenagers came out as trans.
Ignorance and fear have always gone hand-in-hand. When I first thought about this blog, I considered being anonymous. I considered everything I had learned about the violence committed against transgender people and their allies. I considered the statistics about transgender adolescents who successfully commit suicide. And I considered the world I was leaving my children.
I considered other parents and families going through what we are going through. Finding and sifting through the information about this topic was time consuming and difficult at times. I want to help other parents whose teenagers come out as trans. Adolescence is hard enough on teenagers and their parents, and adding gender dysphoria to this emotional time of life is a major stressor. Finding a resource like this would have helped me through the initial phases of our journey.
And then there is the promotion of “conversion therapy,” the North Carolina bathroom law, and, more recently, the election of people who are trying to pass more laws legalizing discrimination against transgender Americans. My children, in fact no child, should have to hide who they are because of the ignorance and fear of other people.
I considered the fact that we really can’t hide that A is transgender – even if we wanted to. And yes, early on, there were moments I wanted to do that. I did a lot of soul searching about my prejudices and fears. It’s very hard at times to separate yourself and your needs from your child and what’s best for them.
And I prayed. A lot.
So, I decided not to be anonymous. Being anonymous is giving into the fear. It gives power to the bullies and the ignorant. I will not give in to other people’s fear. I will stand up for and defend those who are vulnerable, fragile and just trying to live their lives as who they truly are. Transgender people are outnumbered in our world. They need the help of many, many other people to support, protect, and defend them.
Transgender people who transition are very brave. They realize the risks far more than you or I can ever understand. For transgender people, the risks start with telling their families. All of the support websites tell transgender adolescents that before they come out to their parents, they need to have a safety plan. Where are they going to live if their parents reject them and kick them out of the house? How will they support themselves? Will they be able to continue their schooling? I cannot even imagine what that is like when you are 13, 14, 15 years old.
I will stand up and fight for my children and for what is right. Is there a risk for my child? Maybe. For a person intent on causing harm to find my blog, figure out where I live, figure out who my child is, find and harm them would be a lot of work. Bullies are lazy. They look for easy targets to pick on – which means people who live in their neighborhoods. The people in our area know who A is. Being anonymous won’t protect her from our “local” bullies.
So I am not anonymous. I am proud of both of my children and want to show them that giving in to fear is unacceptable, as it gives power to haters. Helping to educate and make this world more understanding makes it a safer and better place of every one of us.