God doesn’t make mistakes…

God doesn’t make mistakes.  Who knew that four little words could be so painful.  I have heard these words used for many different circumstances.  Maybe you yourself have used these words to console someone during a difficult time.  The words seem harmless enough right?  And I think most Christians would agree that God doesn’t make mistakes.

I have a few friends who have children with down syndrome.  They are some of the sweetest kids I have ever met.  Their innocence and joy for life is contagious.  And these parents love their kids fiercely.  But when they first got the diagnosis, their worlds were turned upside down.  They didn’t know what the future held for their children and it was scary.  Some even wondered…worried even…that maybe they had done something to cause it.  Time and again they would be reassured that it wasn’t anything they had done.  These things happen.  It’s out of our control.  And besides…God doesn’t make mistakes.  They are told that their child is special and unique and here for a reason.  They have a purpose in life that can only be fulfilled by them…and those people are right.

I had a friend in middle school that was born with a hole in her heart.  It was discovered when she was born.  Of course her mom didn’t do anything to cause it…it was just something that happened.  She had to wait until she was 13 years old before they could perform the surgery to fix it.  I remember being so worried about her when surgery time came around.  She came through it with flying colors and is living a happy, healthy life today.

There are so many parents who deal with unexpected news about their child when they are born.  Whether it be down syndrome, a heart defect, a cleft palate, a malformed limb, autism….the list goes on.  It’s a scary time.  Parents wonder what the future of their children will look like.  And when they wonder why it happened, and if they caused it, they are reassured that it wasn’t their fault.  They are told that God doesn’t make mistakes.  They are reminded that their child is special and has a specific purpose for their lives.

In these instances, the phrase “God doesn’t make mistakes” is used as a comfort.  They are words to let the person know that they have worth.  But too many times, these same words are used in a way that are hurtful.

I don’t believe that I know one transgender person, or parent of a transgender person, that wasn’t told “God doesn’t make mistakes.”  In these circumstances, however, it is used as a way to say that who they are is wrong.

“You can’t be transgender because God doesn’t make mistakes.”  This is what they are told.  In many cases, the person telling them this hasn’t done any research.   They haven’t truly listened to their story.  They make a quick judgement.  It doesn’t make sense to them.  They assume that the person is just choosing to be transgender and they see it as dishonoring to God.

This isn’t something that someone decides on a whim.  In fact, it isn’t something that they decide at all.  The only decision in this is what they choose to do about it.  Are they going to live a lie all of their lives, or are they going to take steps to become their authentic self?

I think it’s safe to say that we agree there are differences between men and women.  It’s discussed on relationship reality shows, written about in books, and talked about in marriage counseling.  When we discuss these differences, we don’t reference our genitals as being the reasons we are different.  We talk about our brains.  Men and women’s brains are different.  I don’t know about you, but no one had to tell me that I was a girl.  And I didn’t have to check what was between my legs to determine that I was a girl.  I just knew…I was a girl.  This is the same for transgender people.  The only difference is that their brain doesn’t match their birth assigned sex.

This is something that happens in the womb like all of the other things that are out of the mother’s control.  There is a lot of information on the internet that explains this if you are interested.  Or you can contact me and I’ll direct you where to look.  When you tell a transgender person that they are wrong to be themselves because “God doesn’t make mistakes,” you aren’t disagreeing with them.  You aren’t having a difference of opinion.  You are telling them that THEY are wrong…that their very being is wrong.  And it is harmful.

Yesterday was Transgender Day of Visibility, I want to let all of my transgender friends know that you are not a mistake.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  God has a purpose and plan for you.  I see the authentic you.  I’m here for you.  And I love you.

Because love matters…

 

 

Growing up trans…

A few years ago, three brave moms that I know shared their family’s journey regarding having a trans child.  I think it’s important to revisit these posts given what has recently come up with policies regarding their rights.  I know many people who don’t know what it means to be transgender.  I have been in many conversations when someone will tell me that they don’t agree with someone being transgender.  When I ask them what it means to be transgender, more often than not they have it wrong.  That’s why I feel it’s important to share these stories.  Please read them and share them.  These precious lives matter.

The Voice of a Mom Part I

The Voice of a Mom Part II

The Voice of a Mom Part III

The Voice of a Mom Part IV

I love these families…and it matters.

#WontBeErased

The Voice of a Mom…Part IV

There was something I dreaded when my kids were younger.  Well mainly when my daughter was younger.  When she saved up enough money and wanted to go to the mall, I cringed.  I knew exactly what that meant.  Beanie Babies.  She was obsessed with them and I currently have about 4 big containers full of them in my basement to prove it. Heaven forbid we get rid of them…you know…now that she is 22 years old.

She would gather up all of her money into her little hands and off we would go to the mall.  We went straight for the Beanie Baby kiosk.  The problem with this is that my daughter loved ALL OF THEM.  She would look up at the displays of animals, scrutinizing each one, to pick out the perfect companion to take home with her.  They were all perfect in her eyes of course, but because she only had enough money each time to buy one it was a painstaking process.  We would go round and round that kiosk until I was dizzy.  “McKensie you need to pick one,” I would tell her.  “I can’t decide,” she would protest.  She would eventually narrow it down to two.  Sigh.  The customary ritual was she would then tell me to put one in each hand and then put them behind my back.  After much deliberation, she would pick a hand.  Now you would think that would end it.  Right? Nope.  “I’m just not sure that’s the one I want,” she would lament.  It always got to the point were I had to tell her she had 30 seconds left to decide and she would pick one at the last second.  Memories…

This behavior is pretty typical for kids.  Indecisiveness…wanting one thing one second…and then something else the next. I think that’s one of the reasons why parents of trans kids get such a bad wrap.  People look at their own experiences with their kids and try to compare the two.  It’s like trying to compare apples and oranges.  My daughter for instance did not like to wear dresses.  Every time I would put her in one when she was a toddler she would pull at it and say, “I don’t likey it!”  She also preferred to play with dinosaurs rather than dolls.  And Lego’s with her brother, but not the pink “girly” kind.  She was what society would call a tomboy.  But not once, did she ever say that she didn’t feel like a girl.  Not once did she ask when she would be a boy.  Because…her brain and her body match…and she is a girl.

This next and last mom that is going to share has a different experience.  Again, I ask that if you comment you be respectful. She is an amazing mom who is helping others who have children that are on the same path as her child.  I respect her so much, as I do the other moms that have shared, and I am honored to have her as a friend.

10177861_10203423196682319_2655426038570311619_nAnd now the voice of a mom part IV:

I am sharing our story with my friend Lesa at her request and with my son’s approval.

In 1998, I was single and very much wanted to have a family.  Fast-forward 3 years and I was entering a conference room in China to see the most beautiful baby girl.  She was thirteen months old, had humongous black eyes, a full head of black silky hair, an adorable rosebud mouth, and dressed in a boy’s outfit.    I was in love and so thrilled to be her mother!   Upon request of the orphanage, I changed her clothes later that afternoon and of course put her in the most beautiful dress I had brought with me.  🙂

She was a quiet child, often preferring to observe the activities around her rather than directly participating, always holding back.  She had a few very close friends, but none in her grade or even in her school.  At school she preferred the interactions with the boys in her class, yet was never really one of them.  We tried several activities, including girl scouts, but still she remained on the outside, unable or unwilling to join in.  She couldn’t connect or understand the relationships with the girls and had no interest in the activities of a typical girl.  Instead she lost herself in her books – reading was a passion for many, many years.

Around the age of 5-6 years, the dresses fell by the wayside, preferring plain bottoms/tops, begrudgingly allowing me to throw a pattern in here or there.  By the middle of elementary school, the clothes evolved into her “uniform” of jeans or plain shorts and a plain t-shirt or a unisex t-shirt with a saying or cartoon picture.  Shoes were only sneakers.  Bathing suits were as plain as possible, usually a black one-piece, as nondescript as possible.  This intensified as elementary school came to a close.

Meanwhile, her friendships became fewer, sticking mainly to wonderful family friends who loved and supported her despite her “ungirly” differences.  She became more withdrawn and sad…always an underlying state of sadness.  She told me once – “I’m always sad Mom.”

As middle school came, so did puberty.  The body changes were not welcome.  She hated them, dressing more and more to conceal the changes, slouching, head down, and becoming quieter.  She had no desire to engage in anything remotely associated with being a girl, tending more toward the activities of a boy – archery, video games, and always the books – fantasy, dragons, etc.

With the start of high school, the depression became overwhelming.  She became almost totally withdrawn, sluggish, uncaring, and very angry.  Something was clearly wrong.  We started counseling.   She wouldn’t open up, but got angrier.  I felt that she could explode at any time.  Something was working at her and needed to come out.  I suspected that she was potentially dealing with sexuality issues and maybe gender issues.   We were constantly watching her; worried she would harm herself, and anguished that we couldn’t help her.  Finally, after two months, a week and a half before Christmas, she broke.  She left an index card in my laptop and went to school.  I found it later that morning while getting my younger daughter ready for school.  “Anatomy lies.”  That’s all it said.  I stared and thought, “Okay, now we know what we are dealing with.”  Of course, that opened up whole new questions of what exactly does this mean?  How in the world can I help?  What does this mean for the future?  Will she be bullied?  Harmed?  Allowed to be who she needs to be?  And who does she need to be?

Thank goodness my mom and sister live so close to us.  Without their love and support, finding our way through this would have been so much more difficult.  I was focused on my child’s mental health and supporting her.  Meanwhile, my sister dug right in and researched local resources and support groups and found one of my saviors, Catherine Hyde of Howard County PFLAG.  Catherine is mom to a transgender daughter, has walked in my shoes, and started and grew a strong and broad transparent support group.  She was, and continues to be, a wealth of information, support, love and calmness.

After repeated talks with my child, it became clear to me that she had never been a girl.  She had always been a boy, but living in a body she didn’t understand, couldn’t identify with, and began to hate.   And “she” was drowning and would not survive, let alone thrive.  I, my mom, and my sister immediately stressed that we loved him, supported him, and accepted him.  He asked that we change pronouns and refer to him as “he” and “him”.  Eventually he chose to change his name, even though I had given him a unisex name.  But that name was associated with his life as a girl and didn’t fit him anymore.  I have to say that for me, the name change was so much more difficult and sad than the gender “change” (in quotes because only the presentation/outward perception of his gender actually changed).

He is now living life as his authentic self.  He lives and presents as the boy he truly is inside and he is finding peace in that ability.  He still has his ups and downs, the depression and anxiety, prevalent in so many of the transgender kids, is still present and a constant battle.

So now to answer Lesa’s questions.

1.  How do you know it’s not a phase?

When Lesa first approached me about this project, this particular question really hit me really hard.  It is one that I have received a lot.  It generates real frustration in me.  This is a pain that these kids have lived with for a long time – most of them since they are very, very young.  In trying to process my response, the following sort of just spilled out.

The depth of the depression that often accompanies a child’s recognition of being trapped in a body he cannot identify with, actually hates, possibly wants to harm, or possibly would prefer to die rather continue to live in cannot be faked and can’t be argued with.  That is not a phase.

My child is not gender fluid.  He does not feel like a girl some days and others like a boy.  He is a boy.  He knows he is a boy and he knows that the body he lives in does not reflect who he is.  Upon sharing the news with me that he was transgender at the age of 14, and finding the love, acceptance, and support from his family, my child became happier, his depression lessened and his outlook on life improved.  He smiled and laughed more, and began socializing more with friends.  He began to blossom.  That is not a phase.

This state persisted and did not abate.  That is not a phase.

The desire to live in a body that more closely reflects his true self strengthened until it became an overwhelming need. This was not an overnight decision or a whim.  This is not a desire that cisgender (a person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth) kids have.  That is not a phase.

He wanted desperately to begin his transition, to find a physical body that he was more comfortable living in.  The puberty blockers were the first step to stop development of the wrong body.  That granted some relief.   That is not a phase.

This was followed closely by the desire for testosterone.  Again, no cisgender kid is going to ask for hormones of the opposite sex; however, many transgender kids beg for them.  Most transgender individuals find some relief of anxiety and become a bit more comfortable in their own skin by the introduction of the cross-gender hormones.  They begin to see body differences that start to bring their bodies in line with their identity and they feel some relief.  That is not a phase.

No matter what the age, when a child is so very consistently, insistently and persistently adamant that they are not the gender they were assigned, that is not a phase.

So let me turn the question around.  “When did you know you were a boy/girl?”  The answer is typically “I don’t know, I just knew.”  And a transgender individual will give the same response.  They just know.  And it is not a phase.

2.  Aren’t you harming your child by giving them hormones so young?  Shouldn’t you wait until their older?

I struggled with this question myself.  My son was ready to start hormones and look at top surgery the night he came out to me.  I laughed and told him he had to slow down and let me catch up.  Through reading (lots and lots of reading!), talking with other parents of trankids and medical professionals, I came to the realization that the longer we waited the more changes would be happening and the more feminine his body would become.  I couldn’t, in any good conscience, sentence him to any more feminine changes that he would have to live with the rest of his life when there was something that we could do to stop it progressing and that wouldn’t be harmful to him.  We started with puberty blockers to stop his development where it was.  During this time I studied the pros/cons of starting cross-sex hormones, for him, this would be the addition of testosterone.  After much research, I realized that the most permanent and extreme side effects are the ones that he wanted the most – voice change, Adams apple, facial and body hair, body weight redistribution.  And there are no side effects that would be harmful to his future health beyond that of what a person with natural testosterone would face.    At that point, the pros so far outweighed the cons, that there really wasn’t any other possible decision but to move forward with the hormone therapy.

3.  What’s the big deal about the bathroom?

Ah, the hot button topic.  I really don’t know how to explain this to someone who doesn’t understand that transgender people are not “pretending” to live as the other gender.  My son isn’t “dressing up” as a boy, or just presenting as a boy – but is actually a boy living inside the wrong type of body.  He is not trying to pull a fast one.  He does not identify with being a girl in any way so going into the girls bathroom is as wrong and uncomfortable for him as it is for me to go into the men’s room.  He doesn’t belong in the women’s room any more than I belong in the men’s room. Moreover, the transgender individual is not the only person uncomfortable when in the wrong bathroom – the cisgender individuals who are not expecting the “wrong” gender to be there are also be uncomfortable.  He was pushed out of the girls room several times during his transition because he “didn’t belong there – go use the boys bathroom”.

On a broader note, transgender people have been using the bathroom they identify with for as long as there have been public bathrooms – and this went virtually unnoticed.  You know why?  Because they keep a low profile.  They don’t want to be noticed – especially where they feel the most vulnerable in public – in the restroom.  They want to go in, do what they need to do, and leave.  Just like the rest of us.  By making them use the “other” restroom, you are putting them in a situation that they don’t belong in, putting the others in that restroom in a situation that they don’t belong in.  And for what reason?  Because it is not understood, it is different, and our society doesn’t handle “different” all that well.  The argument that by allowing transfemales to use the women’s room (and let’s face it, no one is arguing about the transmales using the men’s room), we are making it easier for “perverts” to enter and get to the wives and daughters, is actually backwards.  Because forcing a transmale back into the woman’s restroom, assuming that they will actually do so, means that they will be entering that restroom as their authentic self.  They are not going to change their appearance just to pee.  So they will be entering as a male.  Now a woman who sees a man in the woman’s restroom will not automatically be able to state that they don’t belong there – their internal warning radar that something is not right will be called into question, which will actually put them, as well as the transgender individual, in more danger.  And no one is more vulnerable or at risk in a restroom than a transgender person.

 4.  What do I want people to know the most?

Artwork by Jennifer White

Artwork by Jennifer White

What I really want people to understand is that this is real.  Transgender people aren’t pretending and they aren’t confused.  This isn’t a choice (and seriously, this one ticks me off the most – really, who would choose this!?).  These are real people, who have real feelings, wants, dreams, and goals.  They are loving and kind and want to be free to live their lives.  They don’t want special privileges, but rather the same rights and dignities that are afforded to the majority of the population – the rights and dignities expressed in our Constitution.  And the same love and acceptance expressed by the Golden Rule – due unto others as you would have them do unto you.  I know this is hard to understand – you can’t really understand until you walk in these shoes or love someone who does, but I implore everyone, please try.

Lesa here…well this wraps up my first ever series on my blog!  I’m so thankful for the moms who have shared a piece of their journey and heart with us.  As you can see, there are many similarities to their stories.  I have found that to be true of the parents of gay kids that I have met as well.  I think there is something to be said about that, but I will leave that for another day (smile).

When you are out and about and hear someone say something negative about someone transgender, remember these stories. Remember these kids…and stand up for them.  They need our love…

Because love matters…

The Voice of a Mom…Part III

I have a secret.  It’s one that I’ve been holding onto for 44 years.  My younger cousins will be shocked to know this secret as they think I never did anything wrong as a child.  I’m not sure I’ve ever told anyone this secret.  It happened when I was four years old.  My mom and I were carving a pumpkin for Halloween.  My dad was on night shift so it was just the two of us.  We started the process and cut the top off of the pumpkin.  Next we scooped out the guts.  My mom needed to use the restroom and before doing so she left very strict instructions not to eat any of the guts that we just scooped out while she was gone. Well that made me very curious.  I waited until I was sure she was all the way up the stairs and in the bathroom before I proceeded to take the teeniest, tiniest, ittiest bittiest piece of pumpkin pulp…and popped it into my mouth.

She came back downstairs and we completed the carving of our pumpkin.  And then it happened.  I got very sick.  I mean really sick.  I don’t remember how many times I threw up, but it was a lot.  I can only remember one other time 44 years later that I was as sick as I was that night.  She asked me over and over again, “Lesa are you sure you didn’t eat any of that pumpkin?”  And each time, “No I didn’t eat any.”  Liar, liar pants on fire!  I have no idea if the pumpkin made me sick.  I mean…isn’t that where we get the pumpkin for pumpkin pie?  Maybe you have to cook it before it’s edible?  Could it have been my guilt from knowing I did something I wasn’t supposed to do that made me so sick?  I guess we will never know…unless there is a pumpkin expert out there that will indeed tell me that raw pumpkin will make you deathly ill (smile).

My mom was trying to protect me and in return she got a sleepless night with a very sick little one.  Protecting their children is something that is just a natural instinct that comes with motherhood.  I have lots of examples of her fierce love and protective nature over me and my sister.  This is just a small example and it’s a simple one.  But for many moms, protecting our young is one of our greatest tasks.  I think you will hear that in the “voice” of the next mom that is going to share with us. As you read her story about her transgender child, you will hear the protective mama bear coming out. And when you have a LGBTQ child, this task is even more daunting as so much of the world is against your child. (here is another article that will help explain that transgender is not a choice).

This mom has a child a bit further in the journey than the first mom who shared.  Again, a very personal story will be shared with you.  Please be respectful if you decide to comment.  She is another amazing mom with a beautiful daughter and I am so happy that I’ve gotten to know her and proud to call her my friend.

10177861_10203423196682319_2655426038570311619_nAnd now the voice of a mom part III:

I am doing this writing for my friend Lesa that asked me to speak on behalf of myself & my transdaughter. I am doing this in hopes that it opens people’s eyes & hearts.

First some background…Although our journey that led us to another daughter began in my eyes many years ago, it has really only just begun.  Let me explain…Drue is my 14-year-old daughter.  She was born as Andrew (a boy).  I was so excited to have a child and didn’t care of the sex as long as my child was happy and healthy as most moms I am sure would say.  Drue joins our family with 2 other sisters. My husband and I are pretty easy-going parents and do everything with our kids.   Never in the mom handbook or “What to expect with your toddler” did it ever have a chapter on raising a transgender child.  I am damn glad it didn’t.  I didn’t need some book telling me how to prepare myself for the amazing transformation my child was about to undertake in the future ahead.

We have been so blessed with this amazing, talented, fun-loving gift.  I could tell from a very young age that Drue was different from the other little boys.  He was always very nurturing, kind, loving & sweet, so artistic and loved to learn.  He would watch every move I made and try to mimic them. I thought, “Ok, this is normal because my oldest daughter did the same.”  He carried a blanket around everywhere and would put it on his head and pretended it was his long beautiful “girl” hair.  He would wear my heels around the house and even outside on the concrete to hear them on the sidewalk.  I told myself, “What kids don’t do that?”

At around age three, Drue would play with toys that I thought were enjoyable “boy” toys, but he never seemed happy when doing so.  My oldest daughter had Barbie dolls all over the house.  One day Drue picked a Barbie up and an enormous smile filled his face…one that I haven’t ever quite seen. It was a different kind of happy.  Drue joyfully played with that doll endlessly and Barbie went everywhere with us

When we went to the store, he always chose the “girl” aisle of toys and I thought “Ok, so what…it’s just toys.” I would try to take him and almost force him to pick out “boy” toys.  Sometimes, unwillingly, I could tell he would just pick one only to satisfy me.  Finally I said to myself, “That’s it.  It is plain to see that girl toys make my child happy.”  And if he is happy so am I.  Parenting sometimes involves compromising.  You learn this pretty early.

Several years of pain and suffering inside his own head trying to figure out who he was and where he belongs really took a toll on his life.  At around 4th or 5th grade, he was bullied in school and begged me to remove him and home school him. It got to the point that he asked me to take him to the hospital for help and even said to his older sister I just don’t want to wake up. I knew at that moment I would do anything I had to do to make sure I didn’t lose my child.

After years of therapy and loving support, our child finally figured out who he was and where in this world he belonged. Andrew was always a girl trapped in a boy’s body.  It was so clear now. There is no doubt this is how our child was born.  I brought this child into this world and I made a promise to love and protect this child no matter what life brings. I told her we will make it work. We will do whatever we need to do and that she had mine and her dad’s support.  As I was saying this out loud to her, I meant every word… I really did.  I just didn’t know if I really could follow through with that.  As a mom, we always fear for our children’s safety.  This was so out of my control that I really didn’t know if I always could protect her but I know I will do my best.

As a parent I never felt a loss of a son. My child was always there…just in a different body.  I love my child for the person she is and the heart that she has.

Now for the questions that Lesa outlined:

1.  How do you know this isn’t just a phase?

A phase is a small part of life that someone can go through, but it’s not followed through with for a very long period of time.  It’s kind of like when someone changes their hair color all the time to keep up with the new “phase”.  You know it’s not a phase when it has always been there and showed up in many different ways.  When I hear people say that this “lifestyle” is a choice it burns me up inside.  No person, especially a child, would ever choose this life. It is a life full of questioning, wondering, re-building. It’s full of bullying, harassment, depression, drugs and sometimes suicide.  I wish people could understand that these are precious children full of a ton of love that are simply born in the wrong body.

2.  Are you hurting your child by giving them hormones or puberty blockers? Should you wait until they        are older?

The answer for my child’s situation is absolutely positively without a doubt NO!!  It would actually harm my child to not have blockers or start on hormones.  My daughter received a puberty blocker at age 13.  This is all a part of saving her life. So along with doctors who agreed it was time to start, the puberty blocking process began. The reason it’s so important is if you can only try to imagine being born a woman and growing a beard…no woman wants that.  Well that’s horrific to my trans daughter. This process stops facial hair, Adams apple, and voice deepening etc…   For our daughter to survive this had to be done.  In a few short months, she will start hormone therapy so she can feel more and more like a young lady as her other girlfriends do.

3.  Aren’t you saying God made a mistake?

God doesn’t create junk or mistakes.  God loves all.  This child was NO mistake. This child is one of the absolute greatest gifts in not just my life but everyone she meets. She loves deeply with no judgment on anybody.  Frankly, I feel that more of us could learn from her.  I firmly believe she was brought into my life to teach pure love & acceptance.   If we say God made a mistake, then that’s passing judgment and how can we do that as Gods children?  Are handicap children mistakes? Are drug addicted born babies mistakes? No and neither is a child that was born in the wrong body.

4.  What’s the big deal with the bathroom?

This is a touchy question and it’s been a battle that I hate arguing about.  No person understands what it’s like to walk in the shoes of our transgender children.  The bathroom and locker room is a very scary place for my child.  My child has changed clothes for gym and uses the toilet in the nurse’s office for 2 years now. The nerves and anxiety kick in and its tears and so many fears about what someone is going to say next. The funny part is when we go into a bathroom…we are going in there behind a door to use the toilet. We are not standing there to check people out. Hate to break it to everyone also but transgender people have used the restrooms for decades and guess what?? Nobody’s ever known.  They are human beings like us and they deserve to share the same rights we all have.

In ending, this is definitely not the life I pictured having, but I honestly can’t imagine it any other way.  I am the blessed one because I get to see life through Drue’s eyes.  She wants to try to better this world and I will continue to do so for her and many others.

I recently asked her if she wanted the pictures removed off the wall of her past…the old “Andrew” photos.   She said no because it was all part of who she is and the journey we are on. I couldn’t be more proud of her.  She is a pure loving child that I know is exactly where she is supposed to be in life.

Thanks for listening with open ears and I hope you have an open heart now as well if you didn’t before.

Lesa here:  Thanks once again for taking the time to read another mom’s journey.  I think it helps us to understand (as best we can) what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.  I also think it is an act of love to step outside of ourselves to try to gain an understanding of something before we have a strong opinion on it.  I love this mom and her family and I would protect her “cubs” as if they were my very own.

Because love matters…

The Voice of a Mom…Part II

As most kids, when my sister and I were little we would get very excited when we would hear the ice cream truck music close by.  We would quickly run in the house jumping up and down begging for some money so we could get back outside to flag the truck down.  We would run down to the curb and wave our arms frantically to get the drivers attention.  It was a sad day when you didn’t make it out there in time to catch his attention.  One of these occasions caused my sister great angst.  We perused the side of the truck and carefully picked out what we wanted to order.  We stood in line and waited our turn trying to be patient.  When it was my sister’s turn, the man behind the counter loudly proclaimed, “And what can I get for you young man?”  My sister immediately burst into tears and quickly ran up the steps to our house without any ice cream.

It was an honest mistake.  She was about 6 years old at the time with short hair, a simple t-shirt and shorts.  But this mistake totally devastated her.  Being on this journey, I think of that story often.  Even though I don’t have a transgender child, I am friends with some transgender people and I know many moms of transgender children.  I can’t imagine how hard it is for them to deal with this on a daily basis…people seeing them as a different gender then how they see themselves.

As promised, I have a guest today who is going to share a very personal part of her family’s journey.  She has the youngest child out of the three moms that will be sharing with us.   She is an amazing mom with a beautiful little girl and I am proud to know her and glad that she considers me a friend.   I ask that you be respectful if you decide to comment.  (to learn some scientific information about what transgender means – here is an article that you might find helpful).

10177861_10203423196682319_2655426038570311619_nAnd now the voice of a mom part II:

Hi, 
My dear friend Lesa asked me to share some of my experiences as a parent to a transgender
child, since she has been getting some questions and would like to share as much 
information as possible.  She provided specific questions that she’s been getting.  These 
questions are all valid and are honestly questions that I’ve asked myself and professionals.  I 
also want to thank you for reading this.  It means that you must be open enough to want to 
learn about a topic that is hard to understand if you aren’t living it firsthand, and I appreciate 
that.  First, it probably makes the most sense to begin by giving a brief synopsis of my family’s 
story. 
 
I am a mom to a six (and a half – she would want me to add) year old transgender girl, which 
means born anatomically male, identifies as female in gender.  I’m also married to a 
wonderful husband, have three step-children who I adore, have a Master’s degree and work 
full time in a helping profession.  When my daughter was born, she was assigned male at 
birth.  I was ecstatic to have a little boy.  He was perfect, healthy and loving – what I often 
referred to as an “easy baby.”  I loved everything about being a mom.  At age three (some 
examples were as early as two), when he was able to begin expressing himself verbally more 
clearly, he would often express a desire for more feminine things.  He wanted to wear female 
clothes, went straight to the girls side of the Stride Rite shoe store and the ‘girls’ toy aisle, 
insisted on dressing as a female character for Halloween, and played with dolls.  At the time, I 
wrote this off as being a phase, knowing that gender is often explored pretty broadly during 
this age.  In hindsight I knew something was different about my child even then.  I remember 
having a sinking feeling every time he told me he wanted to wear a dress or nail polish, and I 
felt guilty when I firmly told him he could not dress as a girl for Halloween, but I was trying to 
(naively) guide him in the “right” direction.   
 
By age four these expressions had become more common.  Because of the constant 
requests to paint his nails, wear dresses and perfume, play with dolls, etc, on occasion we 
allowed this in the house.  He would say he wished I would let him be the girl that he was.  My 
sweet little boy started to become more introverted and seemed more sad.  At preschool he 
preferred to play house and only played with other little girls.  Even though I made him dress 
as a boy, he always insisted upon wearing one or two subtle feminine items like a scarf or 
toenail polish.  I would occasionally receive comments from others about how feminine by 
child was.  At this point I deduced that my child would likely be gay, and started preparing 
myself for this.   
 
Almost to the day of his fifth birthday, the mild requests about his gender identity became 
insistent, persistent and consistent statements that he was, in fact, a girl.  He started acting 
out in preschool.  He would cry for over an hour and beg not to go out of the house unless he 
could go as the girl that he was.  One evening he told me that I should have named him 
“sadness” because he was sad “all the time.”  We started looking for counselors.  One night 
soon after, at five years old, my child – who has generally lived a pretty charmed life – told me 
that if I didn’t allow him to be the girl that he was, he wanted to kill himself.  To this day I don’t 
know how my sweet little five year old even knew those words, or how she could know herself 
so well or express herself so clearly, but I knew this wasn’t going away.  I didn’t know what to 
do except hug *her* and say okay, I’m listening, and we will figure this out together.   
 
Once she made that statement my world turned upside down.  I could no longer continue to 
live in denial about what was happening.  I had a lot to learn and a lot of people to talk to, and 
fast.  The next morning I met with the owner of the preschool, who said they had suspected 
she was transgender for some time now.  I took her that night and bought her her first dress. 
I have never seen her happier.  Words can’t express the happiness she expressed over this. 
The more parents of transgender/gender fluid children I talked with, the more I heard the 
same story we were living.   After gaining a wealth of information we started using female 
pronouns and it was glaringly obvious that this was the right thing to do. Over the following 
months we established a relationship with a therapist who has supported our path, and I 
made it my other full time job to learn everything I could about this topic.  I attended support 
groups in three counties as well as gender conferences.  I talked to so many people with 
either personal or professional experience on the issue.  I read everything I could get my 
hands on.  I cried…wept at times.  I lost countless hours of sleep, and 30 pounds since I could 
hardly eat.  But every single problem we encountered with my daughter immediately 
dissipated once we allowed her to socially transition – to live as the girl that she is, or as the 
gender she identifies with. 
 
She now lives as the female that she is.  She is excelling at school.  She laughs when I 
remind her that she once asked to be called “sadness”, and often remarks how happy she is 
and how much she loves her life. I could go on and on about ways this difficult decision has 
ended up bettering her life, but there isn’t nearly enough time.   
 
So, onto the questions Lesa outlined: 
 
1.    How do you know it’s not a phase? 
            Even though I tried to give some general examples above, it’s very difficult to put into 
words all of the ways it is abundantly clear that my daughter’s gender is innate, versus a 
phase or a result of “nurture versus nature.”  I would like to pose the question to you as the 
reader:  When did you know you were a male or female?  For me, I always knew.  It takes no 
thought, I just know.  I am not overly “girly”, like my daughter.  I don’t wear dresses often or 
much makeup, but I know innately that I’m female.  My daughter would tell you that she’s 
known she is female since birth.  This never changes.  Even the most subtle of details are 
consistent.  She naturally gravitates toward other girls for play.  She always chooses the 
female avatar when playing games.  She is happy and thriving being able to live as her true 
self, and she’s not hurting anyone by doing so.  I’ve talked to families who tried to force their 
child to live in denial of their gender.  These children usually faced issues like depression, 
anxiety, self-injurious behavior, addiction and suicide.  Even though allowing people who are 
transgender to embrace who they are challenges us to be accepting of things we don’t 
understand, there is so much evidence that in doing so, these people thrive and become 
productive members of society.  I have attached a link to a recent research study, in which my
daughter is a participant, that shows the benefits of allowing these children to live as their 
identified gender versus natal sex.  Also, I have learned that it is very common for 
transgender people to begin expressing their gender identity as early as they can start talking, 
so this is not uncommon.  The overwhelming majority of people, including myself, were taught 
very young that gender and natal sex are one and the same.  Many people would swear this 
to be as true as the earth is round.  I now know that this is not true.  Gender and natal sex are 
two different things.  Usually they match, but in relatively rare instances they don’t.   
 
2.    Aren’t you hurting your child by giving them hormones?  Shouldn’t you wait until they’re 
older? 
             I am going to defer to my other friends with older children for this question.  I am 
learning to take things one step at a time with this process, so we still have multiple years 
until we address this.  I can say that we plan to see a renowned endocrinologist when my 
daughter turns seven.  Not to start any type of medication, but because we want to establish 
a relationship with this doctor, and be as open and transparent as possible as we plan for the 
possibility of hormone blockers and hormones in the future.  This way the endocrinologist can 
get to know my daughter, give us any feedback she has, and make recommendations as 
appropriate.  I can also tell you that I know that the pain of living in a body you don’t feel 
matches your identity is tremendously more painful than anything else.  My daughter already 
asks when she will be able to have a baby, when she can “not have a penis anymore”, and 
generally expresses anxiety about having to develop in any way masculine.  She says these 
things and it still shocks me.  These aren’t thoughts I ever would have had as a child, yet 
what she says is textbook for transgender people. 
 
3.   What’s the big deal about the bathroom? 
            So, if you would again take a second to think about this for yourself:  If you’re a parent, 
and someone told you that your daughter had to use the boy’s bathroom, how would you 
feel?  For my daughter, the thought is so distressing that at times she would cry or refuse to 
go to the bathroom at all versus having to go with males. Transgender people have been 
painted in the media as men that dress up as women to get into the women’s bathroom.  This 
is just untrue.  I could go on and on with statistics about this issue, but I won’t bore you.  I will 
simply say that children are in more risk at school, church, and with family than they are 
sharing a bathroom with a transgender person.  This is a huge issue, and one that keeps me 
up at night.  My daughter looks, acts, and carries herself as the female that she is.  You 
wouldn’t even notice if you were in the girls bathroom with her.  If she had to go into a male 
bathroom, she would be mortified, likely mistreated, and cause more trouble than being 
allowed to simply use the bathroom that coincides with her gender.  Side note:  you likely 
have known transgender people in your life without actually realizing it.  They are so scared of 
being judged they often work very hard to fly under the radar, especially in the bathroom. 
 
4.  Aren’t you saying that God made a mistake? 
     This is the most difficult question for me to answer.  Short answer after a long, 
frustrated sigh: no. Long answer: I don’t believe there are mistakes in life.  As a person 
who is agnostic, I am very open to all possibilities, religious views, and am deeply 
spiritual.  What I am not open to is any person or doctrine who ascribes to judgment or 
mean, exclusionary behavior in the name of God.  I don’t think God makes mistakes, 
and I believe in life there are only lessons. Would you ask a person who had an autistic 
child if they were a mistake from God?  What about someone with birth defects or 
hermaphrodites?  Or cancer?  Are these mistakes from God?  There are certainly 
endless examples of things in this universe that we don’t fully understand, but denying 
their existence when you haven’t taken the time to learn, or because they aren’t like 
you, or because something is rare is unacceptable.  It saddens me that the people who 
scare me the most in this world, in regards to my transgender daughter, are those who 
are the most religious.  Isn’t that sad?  God is love, and I would hope to find shelter in 
people who follow God, but it’s often where I find the most heartache and judgment.  
Sometimes, when I need to make myself feel better about the turn our life has taken, I 
tell myself that my child is even closer to the likeness of God than most of us.  I’ve read 
that some cultures (like certain Native American cultures) celebrate and honor people 
who are gender variant.  I know our culture will likely not celebrate this anytime soon, 
but I wish it was more accepting of our differences.  I don’t doubt that God is divinely 
accepting.  My six year old recently asked me why God put her in “the wrong body.”  
I’m still figuring out the answer to that, still learning the lesson.  For now, I just 
reassured her that she is healthy, happy and that down the road there are ways we 
can correct the parts of her body that feel “wrong” right now.  She was content with that 
response and skipped away.   
Lesa here…thank you for taking the time to read this special post.  I have the utmost respect for this mom and all the moms I know that have LGBTQ children.  The road we travel is a hard one.  I love them all and I feel like their kids are my kids.  I would do anything for any one of them…and I love them all dearly.
Because love matters…

The Voice of a Mom…Part I

I love nature.  There is such a peace I feel when I’m out in the woods, on the beach, or just sitting on my deck surrounded by the tall trees that are behind my house.  If there is water involved, like a babbling brook or ocean waves that is an extra bonus (smile).

10177861_10203423196682319_2655426038570311619_nThis tree is in my back yard.  I know it is hard to tell by the picture, but it is indeed one tree.  And yes that is both white and pink flowers that you see gracing it’s branches.  I LOVE this tree.  It is so unique. It was here when we moved into our house 18 years ago so I’m not sure how it came into existence, but I am so happy that it ended up in my backyard.  In many ways, this tree reminds me of the journey I’ve been on the past several years.

On the one hand, it reminds me of my faith.  The branches on the tree that have the white flowers grow up towards the sky.  The branches that have the pink flowers grow outward and spread out as if they are reaching for something.  The white version of the tree is my connection to God while the pink version is my desire to reach out to others to share His love.  To me it’s also a symbol of my once rigid belief system entangled with my quest to let God out of the box.

When I look at this tree, I also see the struggle of my son.  He tried to stay on a path that he thought was required of him. In doing so, he had to deny who he really was inside.  He tried desperately to stay on that path while on the inside he felt his true self reaching out trying to break off of the path that was never meant for him.  I see the part of the tree that grows upward and has the white flowers as the path, while the pink side is him reaching out to be himself.

I also can’t help but think of the transgender people I’ve met when I look at my tree.  Born as one gender while truly another. My tree is two trees intertwined into one.

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know that things have gotten very heated towards transgender individuals.  The bill that was passed in NC and the whole Target bathroom announcement has caused some pretty ugly banter on social media.  What really surprises me is that some of these people who have the loudest voices don’t even know a transgender person.  Sadly this recent activity has caused suicide hotline calls to increase with the incidence of calls from transgender individuals doubling.

As I’ve shared my personal journey, I’ve tried to share the journey of others that I have met along the way.  I try to speak on their behalf and not speak for them, but that is really difficult.  As I’ve tried to relay what I’ve learned, it’s been in my voice.  It is so much better to hear it from the person who has experienced it themselves.  So I think this is the perfect time to hear from some other voices.  Voices that know first hand what it’s like to have a transgender child.  I have three amazing moms who have agreed to be a guest on my blog and share a part of their journey.  I know all of these moms personally.  I have witnessed some of their struggles first hand.  I’ve seen the pain of their children through their eyes.

I will be posting one story a week beginning next week and I will use the picture of my tree as the series picture since it is my symbol of this journey.  I’m excited for you to meet these moms through their written words.  It gives you a chance to step into their shoes.  To me, being willing to learn about another person’s story is an act of love.

And love matters…

 

The face of courage…

In the weeks following speaking at church, people have been telling me that I am brave…that it took a lot of courage to do what I did.  I appreciate their kind words.  It would have been much harder to get up there if I didn’t have so many people praying for me.  I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true.  I really felt like Jesus was sitting on that stage with me.  It gave me the strength to share what I did.  The harder part for me has been the aftermath.  I knew it would be difficult…living in the tension of wondering what people are thinking of me.  The tension of worrying about people being upset and possibly leaving my church…just for having the conversation.  I know that discussions are taking place, but I don’t know the content of those discussions.  I knew all of this going into that Sunday morning, but courage doesn’t mean things will be easy.

Courage looks different depending on the circumstances:

The little girl who is afraid of water, but trusts her dad and leaps into the pool into his arms…has courage.

The little boy who rides his bike without the training wheels for the first time…has courage.

The child who raises their hand in class to answer a question…has courage.

The parent who teaches their child how to drive…has courage…can I get an AMEN (smile).

The recovering addict who swings their legs over the edge of their bed in the morning and faces the day sober…has courage.

The soldier who defends our country…has courage.

The family who waits for their soldier to come home…has courage.

There are many courageous things that people do every day.

I didn’t want to write about this topic.  I felt there had already been a plethora of discussion about it already.  You would have to be living under a rock to not have heard all the verbiage about Caitlyn Jenner recently. Especially when she received the Arthur Ashe award for courage.  Many were up in arms about her receiving such an award.  I like the saying…’Comparison is the thief of joy,’ but I think comparison is the thief of a lot of things.  I don’t think anyone has the right to tell someone they aren’t courageous just because their courage looks different then someone else’s. My guess is that the people who had a problem with her getting the award have never known a transgender person…or the parent of a transgender person. They’ve never buried a transgender child or held vigils at a hospital bed because someone tried to murder them. How would they know what any of them have gone through? How can they judge their courage?

I felt prompted to write about this when I first saw the courage comparisons that were being posted.  I ignored it.  Like I said…so many people had already written about it.  Unfortunately, I still see the jokes on FB about Caitlyn Jenner.  And I guess the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back…was my birthday.  On July 23rd, a transgender woman was murdered…the eleventh this year.  She was 66 years old and was stabbed to death…left for dead in the street.  So you see, the meme’s that you post on FB about Caitlyn Jenner and others make a difference…in a bad way.  They contribute to the misunderstanding of other human lives.  They portray that person themselves as a joke…and I think that is dangerous.

So whether you agree with the person or not…think about what you post.  Think about who may see that post.  The suicide rate among transgender teens is staggering.  Please don’t contribute to their pain.  Think of what it might be like to walk in their shoes…

 

walk_a_mile_in_my-101006

 

Love each other because love matters…but how we love matters even more.