It was the winter of 2015. Our then 6 year old “son” was riding in the backseat of the car, and said to me in a quiet yet desperate voice, “Mom, I want to be a girl all the time.” While I was calm and collected on the outside, I was panicking and doing everything I could to hold the back tears.
In retrospect, this should not have been a surprise. The signs had been there for years. By then, “T” had a closet full of “girl clothes,” only played with girls, was dying to grow “his” hair long, and loved all things princess and Barbie. We had been seeing a therapist who confirmed that “T” was on the gender non-conforming spectrum but who also said that “T” was too young at this point to predict how gender identity was ultimately going to shake out.
While hearing “I want to be a girl all the time” was not entirely a shock to us, it was still pretty shocking because it felt like the final piece of a puzzle being put in place. When “T” finally told us “this is who I am – I am not a boy, I am a girl,” our journey raising a transgender daughter began.
At first, I felt very isolated and completely overwhelmed by fear. Fear of our community not accepting our child, fear of T’s friends not accepting her for her authentic self. Fear of losing my friends and my family — what would they think when I told them that we don’t have a boy but a transgender girl? My biggest fear, however, was for my child’s safety and well-being. Early on, I’d learned that for a transgender person, bullying and harassment are often not a matter of “if” but “when.” Would she be strong and confident enough to hold her head high in the face bullying and harassment?
There were days when I was mad: why is this happening to us? I was envious of my friends whose biggest concerns were whether their children cleaned their rooms or which clothes their child wanted to wear to school that day. Did they have any idea what our family was going through?
As days became weeks and weeks became months, we slowly realized that the fundamental choice we were making was to support our child simply being herself, and our family slowly began to feel “normal” again. Pronouns changed, our friends were supportive, and our family rallied around our daughter. Our child was thriving. We were going to make it.
We know that our journey has just begun. “T” is now 9. We have many years and many challenges ahead of us, and our family will continue to love, support, and advocate for our child.
There are still days that I get sad. The world can be unforgiving, and when I think about bigotry and discrimination and how cruel people can be, it makes me sad for the challenges “T” will face as she gets older. I think about that a lot.
I’m not sad, however, that I have a transgender daughter (in fact, quite the opposite). This journey has taught our family invaluable lessons about equality, bravery, empathy, and the simple power of loving unconditionally. “T” has taught us that living your authentic life is living your best life.
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