Just Parents in Life

Journey through our trials and triumphs of raising a transgender child and his two sisters.

Month: May, 2016

Broken

I (mom) had a conversation with our child recently and it is one that will stick with me forever. He asked me one simple question. The words out of his mouth cut through my heart like a dagger. I felt a heaviness in my gut, sadness in my heart and had to fight back tears in my eyes. But, in my typical mom fashion, I did not outwardly display my feelings and instead jumped into my quick witted mode to respond.

We were driving home from the eye doctor recently. It had been a great appointment. It was a new office, so we made the appointment as a male. He got to go in there and be his authentic self. He loved that. He loved hearing the staff using the correct pro-nouns. It made him feel good, I could see it in his big beautiful brown eyes.  He picked out a rad new pair of glasses and we were excited when we left the office. But, just as I was merging onto the freeway, he looked at me with sadness in those eyes and said “Why am I so broken?” Hearing those words took my breath away…Those five words will haunt me forever.

As I safely entered the freeway, I asked him why he would feel like he is “broken”. His response was so honest and I could see why he would feel that way. In summary, he said he needs medicine to focus, he needs glasses to see,  and his body was not made right. His words were “nothing is right with me…” Ugh…even writing this now, brings the tears back to my eyes. You see, he is right.  Years ago, when we were at the pediatrician for his physical to get into kindergarten, we learned he had vision issues. Once we went to the eye doctor, we realized how severe his eyes were and that everything had always been out of focus for him. Glasses are a necessity for him to function. He was diagnosed with ADHD in second grade and needs daily meds to help him stay on track.  And recently, we have learned that his body does not match his brain either. He is transgender. He feels broken and I don’t blame him for feeling that way. He sure was dealt a crappy hand of the cards of life.  (This is where I hope the skeptics realize no person would CHOOSE to be transgender. They are BORN this way. Another post on this will come soon.)

I had to quickly come up with something that would make my son feel better because there is no way I want him walking around through this crazy life feeling broken. I want him to know he is far from broken. That nobody is perfect. That normal is boring. That being different is amazing. That through struggles you will find triumph. I want him to feel anything besides broken. I shared that his struggles are only obstacles and that he is overcoming ALL of his obstacles. Nothing will stop him or break him or define him. Together, we will help him through all of life’s challenges, one at a time. I then shared how I feel like when it is time for him to ‘adult’, he will be so much more prepared and ready than the ‘normal’ kids who live in a bubble. I explained how life can be challenging for everyone, but those who have had more obstacles placed in front of them at such young ages, will be able to adjust to the struggles of becoming an adult easier than those kids that just skipped through their childhood merrily. I reassured him he is NOT broken, but that he is being faced with challenges that are testing his strength and that he is doing a marvelous job with all that is thrown his way. I then reminded him how much he is loved and that nobody in our family will ever allow you to become broken.

I hope he believed me because I know he is not broken.  He is strong, courageous, brave, unique, amazing, kind hearted and loving. None of those sound broken to me…

❤︎ Just Parents

 

 

Through the eyes of a child

It truly is amazing if you stop and think about life through the eyes of a child. They don’t lead with hate or prejudice or fear or worry. They just lead with their heart and that is a beautiful lesson for all of us to try to remember. Children are born pure and innocent. Life makes that all go away…

We were trying to figure out a way to tell our seven year old daughter about her sister wanting to become her brother. We bought two books that we thought would help. RED :: A Crayons Story by Michael Hall –  is about a blue crayon mistakenly labeled a red crayon and how he suffers an identity crisis trying to figure out his true color. It is a cute book and geared toward younger children. We also bought I AM JAZZ by the amazing teen activist, Jazz Jennings, a transgender girl that is the face of trans youth.

We had been dropping little hints here and there about how sister is more like a boy and it never fazed our youngest, nor did it ever spark any conversation with her. So, a couple weeks ago, on a Saturday, we sat her down in her room and read her the crayon book. Afterwards, we asked if it reminded her of anyone. She had a hesitation about herself, as if she wanted to say something, but didn’t at first. So, we asked again and she said her sisters name with a question in her voice. We nodded and said yes, it does. Then, we read I AM JAZZ and afterwards asked the same question. Our daughter said it reminds her of her sister except the “opposite”. We said YES! You’re right. We talked briefly about how this is how sister feels and that we are going to start letting her be a boy and become her brother. It all just rolled off her shoulders with such ease that it was a breath of fresh air compared to telling her big sister. She asked about the new name we would call him and we said we didn’t know and that maybe she could ask herself. She skipped down the hall, opened sisters door and asked what the new name was going to be. They closed the door and went right back into playing together as if nothing ever happened.

My hubby was worried she didn’t really understand.  A few hours later, we caught her reading the crayon book again by herself. Then, she read the Jazz book, again, by herself. I asked her if she had any questions and she said “No. I just like this book.” We figured it was her way of processing it all and we just let her be.

My hubby and I  discussed how there is no preconceived notions for our little girl because she doesn’t know or understand the struggles and trials of being transgender. In her heart, her sister is the same person because she’s always thought of her as more a boy. The eyes of a child, the way they see the world is HOW the world really should be. It’s hurtful to know that one day, she will be broken down to the harsh realities of life and will learn what the struggles are for her brother. But, by then, she will be so well adjusted, that we can only hope she will be an advocate for her big brother and help spread kindness, awareness and understanding. If only we could all see through the eyes of a child…

❤︎ Just Parents

 

An unexpected reaction

Having your child come out as transgender brings about more emotions than one can even begin to explain. We want our children to feel loved and accepted within our four walls. So, telling our two daughters was important because we needed our child to be able to be his authentic self, at least in our own home. How do we tell them? What do we say? How will they react? What can we proactively do now to help? All these questions came to our minds. My husband thought our youngest would be most affected and I thought our oldest would be. But, we had confidence that we have raised all our children to be loving and accepting and have always supported equality for all. Our child’s therapist had me role play how to tell our teen and thought I had a good handle on it. She left us with a profound quote…”Someone’s initial reaction is not always their final reaction.”

We decided to tell our teenager first…It was awful. She immediately shut down. She couldn’t stop crying. Her head fell into her hands and she sat on the edge of the couch for over 30 minutes, sobbing. My husband and I looked at each other with dumbfounded looks. We would gently and quietly say things to help her understand what is happening. My husband even left the room and motioned for me to go over and hug her, with the hopes that she might open up to me. She didn’t. All we could get out of her was she was so confused. We excused her to her room with a printout that helps understand gender identity versus sexual identity after she refused to discuss the matter with us. We felt awful. I cried. I cried a lot that night…but, the therapists words repeated in my head, over and over.

What transpired over the next two weeks was devastating. She shunned her sibling. She was mean, angry and hostile towards all of us, but especially towards her brother. We reached out to her therapist to see if she had experience in this and could help us. She did and she could, but not until the following week. We tried not to bombard her with information, but did send a video here and there for her to watch. She was so closed off, that we didn’t think she was even listening to what the videos were talking about. The therapist met with her and told me afterwards that what we need to urge her to do at this point is acknowledge her sibling. Tell him that she is still processing the information and needs more time. She never did that. But, we did have a break through one night where the two shared some laughter over a funny video that my teenager made. It made our son so happy to share in a moment of laughter with his big sister. He misses her. He is sad. But, we keep repeating what the therapist told us and we find comfort in that.

This past weekend, I (mom) couldn’t take the meanness another second and lost my shit with her. I told her that I was so disappointed in her and that I raised her better than this. I can’t believe I have a child with so much hate in her heart. I was devastated. Devastated that my son is hurting, that my daughter is hurting, hell, I was hurting. I decided it was intervention time. I sat them both down on the couch, made them look at each other and asked our son to tell our daughter how he has felt over these last few weeks. Through tears, he shared that he was sad and hurt and misses her and that he is sorry. Ugh. That hurt me. Sorry?!?! He should never feel sorry for being his authentic self, but he was, because he has a kind heart and he could see his sister is hurting. He felt bad. I then asked my teen to share her feelings. She was so upset, started crying and said she didn’t want to talk about it, but after much reassurance that whatever she was feeling was valid and that I wouldn’t be mad at her for being honest, we got her to open up. She told us she feels ashamed and embarrassed that her sister wants to be a boy and she feels ashamed and embarrassed for feeling ashamed and embarrassed of her sister.  She is also worried about what her friends will think and how to tell her friends. FINALLY.  A breakthrough we can work with. We told her we appreciated her sharing her feelings and that we will help her along the way as best as we can.

I sent them back to their own rooms for a bit to process their feelings and settle back down. I know it wasn’t easy for our son to hear those words from his sisters mouth, just as it wasn’t easy for our tough, closed off teenager to share hers, but we repeated the therapists words again and we know that with time, it will get better. It’s not easy to be transgender. It’s not easy for the family either. There are so many hurdles and obstacles and road blocks and worries and fears and, and, and…I could go on forever. But, we made a breakthrough and hope that sooner, rather than later, our teenager will come around again…

❤︎ Just Parents

Where is the manual?!?!

When your child is courageous and brave enough to share their deepest, most interpersonal feelings with you at the age of 10, you find yourself feeling proud. Proud that we are raising our children right. Proud that despite all the hurdles in your child’s life, they still were brave. Our ten year old was brave enough to tell us he is transgender. Brave enough, despite the statistics out there about rejection from parents. So brave. So courageous. So strong.

The days that followed our child’s bravery were a whirlwind. Emotions were high. Many tears were shed (not in front of our child). There was panic, fear, worry, confusion and many more emotions I am sure I am missing. My hubby and I were processing it differently and tension was high. I was looking for a manual. I needed to know what step 1 was and, as is my nature, I just wanted to put on my big girl pants and start doing what was in the best interest of our child (although I had no clue where to begin).  My husband wanted to research, research and research. That’s how he processes things. He needs to learn all he can about the subject and enjoys surfing the net for information. That created some great fears in him as he read all the horrific statistics out there that relate to transgender people. As he was sharing all these fears with me, I didn’t want to hear them. I shut him down. I just couldn’t go there yet. I just wanted to do step one. I needed to take it day by day. It took us awhile to get to a good place of understanding that we are both different. We process differently and in the end, I believe that is what makes us a good match for each other. We are opposites and that helps, so long as you can come together, recognize that and balance each other out. It was a journey, but we got there.

I researched local PFLAG (http://www.pflag.com) chapters the very next day. I stalked the pages, read peoples comments, and found myself watching a powerful video that was a mother sharing the story of her teenage daughter transitioning into her son. That video will forever stay with me. After I watched the video, sobbing like a baby, I did something I have never done before. I Facebook messaged a stranger, this mom in that video. And guess what?!?!  She immediately replied to me and asked if I could talk instead of text. We spoke for 45 minutes. Well, she spoke. I listened and cried. Her words were so comforting and helpful and just what I needed. I ended up attending the very next meeting this chapter had and this woman, who did not know me, showed up to the meeting to support me. I was in awe that a total stranger cared that much. She was amazing and just what I needed at that time. The meeting was emotional and raw, but very profound and left me feeling like I am so thankful our child came out as a kid and didn’t suffer for years into adulthood like a few of these amazing people I met that night. I haven’t been back yet. My hubby has decided he wants to go with me the next time we can get to a meeting.  I think it will be good for him too, to see the support this community shows to everyone who walks through their doors.

That PFLAG meeting got the ball rolling for myself and my hubby.  Over the next few weeks, we researched therapists, doctors, hormone blockers, hormone therapy and all things transgender related to children.  I started making phone calls. We got our child into therapy, which in my mind was step one. We asked our child what we could do for him right now, that would help. The answer shocked me. Our child wanted boys underwear. I never really thought that would be the answer, but it was. And, when you stop and think about it, it makes sense. I could NOT imagine putting on mens underwear even for one day, but our child has had to wear girls panties all these years. So, I went out and bought boys underwear and some boys shorts and slowly started making over the closet. He cleaned out all the remnants of girl clothing that were still in the closet and smiled proudly when I showed him the underwear. Just a small simple step, but it meant the world to our child. It was then that I knew our journey was moving in the right direction.

We are now at a place in our lives that we are slowly telling family and friends that are close to us and are overwhelmed with the love and support they have given us. We have seen the pediatrician and are now awaiting our appointment to see the adolescent medicine physician that specializes in the care of transgender youth. We are moving in the right direction…New underwear and all! 😉

 

What set the wheels in motion…

Our daughter was always a bit different. We loved her uniqueness. We fostered her individuality. We tried our best to instill confidence, to stand up to those who said mean things to her. We taught her to be brave. We even had a beautiful hand painted sign made for her a few years ago that said “Why try to fit in when you were born to stand out?!” Everyone always told us “she’s just a tomboy” or “she will grow out of it”. We just let her be her, whatever made her happy.

Last Summer when fourth grade ended, she told us she wanted to cut her LONG hair off. My response (mom) was “its just hair, cut it off if you want to. It will grow back if you don’t like it.” The smile on her face was priceless, so we googled short hair styles and made the appointment. When she looked in the mirror at her new short do’, it was like a load of bricks came off her chest. She looked content, proud and confident.  Over time, the hair cut got shorter and shorter, to where we are now. But, it was this moment that set the wheels in motion in her brain, in our opinion.

Shortly there after, June of 2015, just barely 10 years old,  we could see that something weighed heavily on her mind. My hubby and I assumed she was struggling with her sexuality and was going to essentially “come out of the closet” so to speak. One night she asked to speak to me privately. I just knew in that moment that she was ready to tell me. I sat on her bed and watched her struggle to find the words she needed to say. I told her she had to be able to say what was on her mind and that maybe she wasn’t ready to tell me yet and that when she is, to let me know and I left her room. My brain felt like she needed to be able to be brave enough to say to me what she was struggling with. I didn’t want to speak for her. Shortly after, she called me back in and handed me a piece of paper and said “I think…” and the paper said “I’m gay.” The first words out of my mouth were “I already knew that” and embraced her with my arms. I told her I love her always and forever and have always told my children they are free to love whomever their heart leads them to, so long as they are a good person. She asked me why I made her tell me if I already knew and I said because she needed to be brave and say it herself. It was her story to tell, not mine. We embraced and cried and I told her all will be alright in the world because no matter who you love, you are too young to like anyone right now, anyways 😉.  Then, she asked to speak to daddy and he was just as loving and accepting as I was. There was peace in the home and I was happy to see her feel free and lifted of the burden she felt she was carrying.

This was the Summer that “I am Cait” aired. Our daughter watched the Barbara Walters 20/20 special on Bruce Jenner with me. She intently watched the entire show and I could see her brain spinning a bit.  I answered a few of her questions and that was that. I felt that some of the context in “I am Cait” may not appropriate for a 10 year old, so my hubby and I watched the season together once the kids were in bed.  I found myself crying every episode and even told my hubby what if she is this…this life seems so much harder and scarier and I am not sure I would be able to parent through this. My heart hurt for these women and all they struggle with on the daily. I thought that is just such a difficult path and I hoped that our daughter was just a lesbian.

Over the next 8 months, things started shifting with our daughter. The hair got shorter, the choice of clothes got more masculine and we could just see a change. In February, she was struggling again with something. I just knew in my heart what it was, but wanted to stay in denial. One night, she did the same thing, asked me into her room to talk. I sat on the edge of the bed again, but this time, with fear in my heart and head. I knew what was coming, but didn’t want to hear it. She struggled and couldn’t get the words out just like last time. So, I said the same thing as last time and left the room. She called me back in and this time handed me some papers that said “…I’m not who I should be. I feel like I should be a BOY. Like I am transgender.” My head got dizzy and I blurted out “Do you even know what transgender means?” Which she replied through tears, “yes mom, I do.” I said some stupid things like “Are you sure?” “Do you understand what all this means?” “This is a difficult path to go down.” (All things I am not proud to admit out loud, but we want to be honest with our journey.) Then, I looked down at my brave child who had tears streaming down her face and I just hugged her and told her I love her still and so much and always and then I asked for time. I needed time. I asked for her to let me process, research and understand what this all means and how to best help her. She agreed and then asked to speak to my hubby.

He was prepared because he knew too. We had some light discussions about transgender over the last several months and he saw my face – red, puffy and filled with tears when I came out to get him. He went in alone. It was his time with our child. While I don’t know exactly what was said between the two, I knew he loved her, always and forever too. I asked him today, what stood out during their conversation that he would want me to share in our blog. He told me she said “I was afraid you wouldn’t be accepting.” Those words still ring through his ears, 3 months later… with which he replied, “I will love you no matter what.”

❤︎ Just Parents

 

Our first blog post…

We started this blog as an outlet to document our journey of raising three children, one who happens to be transgender. Our hope is to share the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with raising kids. We know we are not alone in the fact that parenting can be tough, but we are also learning that we are not alone in raising a child that is transgender. As we have walked through this journey the last several months with our child, we have discovered how little support there is for families trying to adjust to this new normal. There are so many emotions that we experience in any given day, that writing about our experiences will not only serve as a journal for us to look back on and see our progress, but maybe to help another family who may be walking this path as well.

There have been some very significant moments that have happened in our lives since our child found the courage to come out as transgender and we will be writing about all these moments over the next few days to get up to date.

❤︎ Just Parents