Dear Mr. President and anyone else who thinks being transgender is a phase, a bad choice, or not real:
Being a parent is the most incredible job in the world. It is the hardest, most challenging job I’ve ever had. Most days, it is the most rewarding job – ever. When I stop, and think about my children, I am awash with the biggest love imaginable. My heart is full when I think about these human beings that I’m raising. I can’t imagine a world without my daughter and my son.
Four years ago, I thought I was raising two daughters…. that was until my then 14-year-old came to me and told me that she was a he. My younger child, who is now nearly 18, was assigned female at birth. All his life he felt different. He felt like he didn’t belong. He felt like the weird kid. Thank god, he figured it out and had the courage to let me in; the courage to finally tell me that he identified as male, that he was transgender.
I wasn’t shocked – BUT my head was spinning with questions and emotions and the knowledge that we would help him get what he needed. BUT HOW? I didn’t know what it meant to be transgender. I didn’t understand one thing about this. But, I was OPEN to possibilities.
That day, my job as parent got a little tougher. Could I love him enough so he could overcome the dysphoria and feelings of otherness? Could I gather enough support and resources so he could transition socially and medically? Would he be able to find a life that welcomed him? Would he have a future? Would he find love and social acceptance?
When we choose to become parents, we don’t get to choose what our children will look like or what their interests will be or their hair color, eye color, IQ, etc.
What we do get to choose is what kind of parent we’ll be. My choice was to love my children unconditionally.
57% of trans youth without parent support have attempted suicide! More than 40% of transgender individuals have attempted suicide. That’s about 8 times the norm.
When kids don’t have parent support, only 15% report have good self-esteem.
My son is one of the lucky ones. I can’t imagine turning my back on him because he didn’t fit inside some box.
A few months back I asked my son how our support has helped him – his words were so profound. He looked at me and answered, “I now have the confidence to be myself. I don’t feel ashamed about who I am.”
It’s easy to over identify with our children’s successes and failures. The achievements fill us with pride – we take on their successes as if they were our own. For some, the failures bring embarrassment and shame on the family. That shame sends a big fat message to our children and those around them. It tells them that they are not good enough. They are a disappointment. They are not worthy.
We all have hopes and dreams for our children – some days I need to be reminded that they are my hopes, my dreams, my expectations. NOT my children’s dreams and desires.
I really believe that you must love your children unconditionally. That means that you still love and support them even when their dreams are not your dreams. And, by the way, there’s a difference between loving them and approving of behavior that is destructive or illegal or dangerous. My kids know that even if I don’t like their behavior I don’t stop loving them.
As a nation made up of diverse citizens from all walks of life, we have an obligation to embrace differences. We learn from each other. My neighbor’s viewpoint may not agree with mine, but I can hear him and at least, try to understand why he sees the world through a different lens. As a nation, it is our job to ensure equality for all; access to the same learning environments and public facilities. Children in school deserve a guarantee that they will not be treated differently because they were born in the wrong body. My son’s gender is not defined by his body parts. Just because he was born with a vagina, does not make him a girl. He is a young man. He uses the boys’ bathroom at school, he rooms with the boys on class trips, he wears boys’ clothes and looks and sounds like a guy. He does not belong in the girls’ bathroom.
Over the past 4 years, I’ve learned how to be more open minded, how to accept something I don’t understand, and how to be an ally to the transgender community.
So, hug your kids. Love them unconditionally, teach them to tolerate differences and show them how to accept others even when they don’t fully understand. Support organizations such as: Affirmations, Ruth Ellis Center, Stand with Trans, the ACLU, Equality Michigan, NCTE, The LGBTQ Task Force and others who are providing resources for LGBT youth. Reach out in your community and learn how you can be an ally. It does take a village and without the support of peers, community, friends and family, my son would not be able to walk as tall as he does.
Mr. President, I understand that no laws have changed. Title IX protections are still in place. However, by rescinding the specific guidance which supports transgender students, you are sending a message that these kids don’t matter. You are telling me and every other parent out there with a transgender child, that our family doesn’t matter. Maybe my child has an accepting school and allows him to use the bathroom of his choice. But, what about all the others who don’t have that privilege. What should those students do? Tell me.
Feel free to contact me.