This post began my story in May of 2015. At that time, I invited and still invite, my readers to share my journey with me. However, my choice of pronouns in this story were not always accurate. I made the choice to use them, then, not knowing better. I know better now. You are welcome to read about that change at Reaffirmed Mom of an Amazing Child.
I am a mother.
I am a wife.
I am a teacher.
I am a friend.
I am a director.
I am a good enough actor.
I am a darned good top of my lungs in a closed up car singer.
I am a sometimes vegan.
I am a Unitarian Universalist.
But of all these things…
I am a mother first.
It was seven years ago, when I became a mother. Seven years ago when my life changed forever. I’ve often said, and will always say, that having my first child saved my life. But this isn’t that story.
This is the story of a mother who loves her child very much. Of a mom that would move heaven and earth for her child, for both her children, no matter the consequences. Of a mother who has struggled to do the best for her children, who has made choices and decisions, failed and succeeded. Of a mom who has wept alone in the dark of night and danced for joy in the middle of the living room. This is the story of facing challenges, beating odds, blazing trails, and learning acceptance and courage and patience. This is every mother’s story who has ever loved her child unconditionally, with her whole heart and being.
This is my story.
I am the mother of two children. My youngest, Rudy, is spoiled and he isn’t afraid to let everyone know. I joke that he’s lucky he’s so cute, because seriously, he is. Lucky. And cute. My oldest, Jake, he’s a whole different story. Jake was assigned female at birth, and at the age of six, transitioned socially to a boy. But that’s also not what this story is about either. Not exactly.
This story is about me, learning to embrace who my child is, regardless of the plans and expectations I had for him. And we all have plans and expectations for our children, even if we like to think we don’t. We plan for them to grow up healthy, happy, to meet someone they love and who loves them back just as much. We expect them to go to school and learn things, to take up hobbies and pursue interests. We plan for them to have great friends, do well in school, maybe go to college and have a successful career. We expect for them to be able to walk into a public bathroom without it being an ordeal.
Yeah, we don’t always put it into such specific terms, but the truth is, we do.
When my child told me he wanted to be a boy, I thought the world had ended. The bottom had fallen out. I knew I had to let him. “Let him”. Like I had a choice in the matter. But I didn’t want to. I was ashamed. Frightened. Depressed. So very alone. I had no idea where to turn to, who to talk to, where to find answers to questions I didn’t even have yet.
I knew a little, of course. We had a therapist. This wasn’t a surprise, it had been coming since he was two. But you talk yourself into believing a lot of things. It’s just a phase. He’s just a tomboy. Maybe he’s a lesbian. Maybe he’s a butch lesbian. Then you start to bargain. I’ll let you wear the boys pull ups, but you have to wear a dress. You don’t have to wear a dress, but you have to wear pink or purple. You can wear blue, but we have to get it from the girl’s section. You can wear boy’s clothes, but not the underwear. You can wear boys’ underwear, but you can’t shave your head. You can shave your head, but…but you can’t change your name.
That’s where I drew the line. I loved his birth name. I chose his birth name. I tenderly and lovingly bestowed his name upon him the day he was born, as I kissed his sweet smelling forehead as it lay against my breast. This was the child I called daughter and I would not, could not let that go.
So when I had to let it go, when I had to lose my daughter and welcome my son…you have to let go of a lot of things. There is a poem, called Welcome to Holland, that talks about raising a child with special needs. The poem compares having a child to planning a vacation to Italy. You’ve bought guide books and made plans to see all the sights. Halfway through the flight, the flight attendant says, Welcome to Holland. So you go to Holland. And Holland is great, but it isn’t Italy. You don’t have any guidebooks and you don’t have any plans. And all your friends are talking about Italy, tweeting about the Colosseum, posting selfies in gondolas on Facebook. While you’re stuck in Holland. Tipping windmills. Alone. All the while knowing that you were supposed to go to Italy.
Transparenthood compared that poem to raising a transgender child. Except the poem doesn’t get it all right. When you’re raising a transgender child, you weren’t told on the airplane. You got to Italy. Saw everything Italy had to offer. You loved it so much, you made a home there, developed friendships, learned the language, loved the cuisine. And then got dragged off in the middle of the night to somewhere else, I don’t care where else or how lovely it was, because it wasn’t Italy anymore.
That has been, perhaps, the hardest part of all of this. Learning to forgive myself for feeling this way. Ashamed and afraid and missing my daughter. I’ve had to learn that all of these feelings, they are perfectly okay, natural, and in time, will pass. Because ultimately, I do love my child, my son, and my goals as a parent haven’t changed. I want to raise healthy and happy children, who know they are unconditionally loved and who love themselves unconditionally. And I couldn’t do that from Italy.
And that is my story. The story I want to share with the world. The story that I hope reaches other parents, parents of all kinds with children of all genders and backgrounds. I hope it reaches parents of kids who never question the gender they were born. Those parents that might judge me, reject me. Maybe tolerate me and my child. To those parents, I ask that you love…just love. And then listen to my story in that space. I hope it especially reaches parents who feel as alone and afraid as I have. To those parents, I can only say love…just love. And then listen to your child in that space.
I am many things, now, that I wasn’t before.
I am brave.
I am proud…of my child, most of all, but also, of myself.
I am able to state without fear that my child is transgender, and not shrink from that truth.
I am a whole lot stronger than I ever thought I was.
I am still a mother, first. But now I’m an affirmed mom.
I am an affirmed mom of a transgender child.
Don’t miss my video on Listen to Your Mother where I share my story of Jake’s transition.
I’d love to hear your story. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to share.
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