October is LGBT History Month. To honor transgender people and their unique histories, I will be featuring transgender people and parents of transgender children all month long. Through sharing their stories, I hope to raise awareness of this amazing population of people who still struggle for basic human rights.
By Gail Boone, creator/author of Transgender Kid and proud mother of Kat Boone
At first it feels like a shock that an intimate family situation exposes you and your child so publicly. It is as if someone has taken a can opener and ripped off the protective layer of your family shell and because of this something you need privacy to work through becomes a public spectacle and issue. You realize you have lost the ability to navigate through your family “crisis” and figure everything out without everyone peering in, raising speculation, and questioning every word you say and every action you take.
There is no hiding when your child transitions from presenting as one gender to another. The changes hit you head on and you have to work your way through the grief, pain, worrying, and questioning in front of family, friends, foes, and allies. Living a new life as a parent of a transgender child in front of naysayers is the most difficult part. Your skin gets thicker as your tolerance for them causing your child heartache gets thinner. You wonder “Why me?” and ”Why my child?” You wish it would all go away because you do not want your child to face a challenge that is more difficult than one most adults have to deal with.
You can’t imagine yourself in this situation. You can’t imagine the agony of their circumstance. You see bravery in your child. You see glimpses of a strength you never knew they had. You see a sadness and discomfort that you want to take on for them because their pain is palpable. At that moment you can’t comprehend why the stage light shining on your life is necessary but over time you are able to take a step back and realize that your life and this seemingly personal journey have the potential to make a global impact. You are part of the wave of a societal shift.
And so it happens, your personal journey becomes part of a greater movement, a social movement that you are intimately involved in because your situation is part of the change in consciousness for, well, everyone. There is no way to minimize the importance of the phenomena of social change and the magnitude of how the swelling of a change in awareness moves from a possible crisis of unacceptance -to a higher place of acceptance -and then to historic change.
The journey of being transgender at this moment in time and in this place in history is at the point of dramatic transformation in humanity for understanding this condition.
When my daughter told me 3 1/2 years ago that she was not a boy but a girl, the onslaught of media about being transgender had not yet been a reoccurring theme in movies, TV, social media, and publications. I was faced with lack of information and uncertainty of what to do and where to go for help. There were no instructions on what steps to take or readily available information of the best way to navigate through gender transitions. I had nothing to go on but an overwhelming desire to do what was best for my child.
There was no way I could have known at that time that my daughter would be part of many firsts. The first to transition in her high school. The first of generations to be part of this snowballing progression of transgender awareness and acceptance. The first teens to be part of this social change. The first to help all those that would transition after her in making the areas of health care and medical coverage easier to access. The first to educate doctors and therapists by being their first transgender patient. The first transitioned transgender teen to be featured on the cover of a major newspaper.
This is a gut-wrenching journey for transgender people like my daughter and even when things progress in a positive way, the emotional and psychological impact is crushing and overwhelming. We, as parents, are raising a generation of strong and resilient gender barrier breakers and it is arduous but they and their stories will change the planet.
Not unlike many things that have happened throughout history in these moments of great social change there is a lack of education, there is lack of understanding, there is prejudice, there is discrimination, and yet there is a hint of the future of acceptance. There are many allies and many supporters and a great need on many people’s parts to understand, learn, and embrace what it means to be transgender because they realize that we have all been down the road of similar types of social change before.
With past moments of great cultural change and uprising shifts in acceptance whether it be racial, sexual, religious, cultural, or lifestyles choices, there were those that adamantly opposed the change. Then with time and exposure people open their minds and hearts and we assimilate the changes as part of “us”. In all societies and across all aspects of humanity there have been those that oppose change, those who are open to it, and everything in between. When the tides of change come through we, as a people, are not immediately swept up in the acceptance, it takes time and struggle and heartache and tragedy to enforce change. There is an understanding however among many that when the next “new” integration of lifestyle or belief or being comes along, it is another in the layers of complexity of the human spirit and room must be made for all. As a people we have to grow and understand our differences and embrace them so we can coexist.
My daughter originally wanted to go through life and not have her transgender status known to other people. She wanted to be stealth, as they call it, but then something miraculous happened. She began to be called on to speak at small group meetings, forums, and conferences. The New York Times interviewed her and they did a beautiful video about her and her journey. She wrote a website and that has helped many people.
People reach out to her and ask for help and guidance and affirmation that they too are important. She was inspired by Laverne Cox after seeing her speak at Syracuse University and has taken on a role as also being an advocate for the trans community. The presence of relatable transgender teens and young adults will bring further understanding and acceptance to the community at large and my daughter wants to be a part of that, she wants to help save lives. I have the feeling she has done that already without even knowing it. I couldn't be prouder.
Let's be on the right side of history. Let's make this about people and respecting their individuality. Let’s not make this about who is using a bathroom or inappropriately lumping sexuality and gender together. Let's not make this about arguing that it’s only a choice or forcing people into boxes they don’t belong in, but see it for what it is: Another beautiful facet of what makes us unique and therefore individuals in this one world we all call home.
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Special thanks to Mary Tyler Mom who inspired this unique and beautiful way of honoring LGBT History Month.