On this day, seven years ago my world changed. I learned a new word; transgender became part of my vocabulary. Along with that I learned about the difference between sexual orientation, romantic attraction and gender identity. I learned about testosterone for people who were assigned female at birth and who wanted to transition to male. Transition was another word I learned; until then I thought it meant to move from one activity to another. All this information made my head spin, my stomach churn, and my heart ache.
On this day, seven years ago, my younger child told me that she was a he. That he was transgender, wanted to start hormones – “T” as he called it, need to bind his chest to hide his female form and definitely needed to start seeing a therapist so he could get a letter to start said “T.” He told me he had gender identity disorder and gender dysphoria.
All I could do was nod, say “okay” and wonder what I was going to do to make all this happen in a world where no one was talking about transgender people, bathrooms, hormones or any other aspect of trans identities. Apparently, my child, not quite 14 years old, had been researching, watching YouTube videos, and reading up on being a guy in a girls’ body, for the past two years. Of course, his close friends already knew.
This was a lonely place. I knew a few gay folks but didn’t know anyone else with a transgender child. I didn’t know any trans adults (at least I didn’t think I did). I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I turned to my friend google. I began to search for gender identity disorder and gender dysphoria. I reorganized the words in my search over and over hoping for different definitions, different outcomes.
Deep in my heart, I knew this was not going away. I knew I would have to figure this out and help my child be a happy, healthy, productive adult. There were too many “little” signs over the years that by themselves were meaningless. However, when I put them all together and finally connected the dots, I could see that everything my son shared was true. This was his truth and I needed to get on the transition train.
Not so fast.
We could not find a trained mental health practitioner. We could not find a pediatric endocrinologist (a doctor trained in prescribing hormones and treating trans youth). There was one in our city and the practice did not take our insurance. Every call was a heartbreak. I patiently waited on hold while being transferred to multiple departments at big healthcare facilities. No one had anything for a 13-year-old transgender child.
Eventually, our pediatrician found someone who was willing to learn and take on our son as her patient. Not ideal – but a band-aid in the short term.
We supported our child. We loved him unconditionally. We found him help. We bought binders (to hide the chest), we paid for new clothes and haircuts. We used the right pronouns and changed his name. We did everything we could to make sure that this child would get what he needed.
You know what? He still suffered. The dysphoria was off the charts. Anxiety lived in our house 24/7. School was safe but didn’t feel safe. Life was pretty chaotic. The unknown was scary and stressful. (for more about our journey, you can read archived posts on this blog)
Fast forward seven years.
I am the ridiculously proud mama to a nearly 21-year-old young man. He is a college student with a career path. He is confident and articulate. He is passionate. He is loving and kind and funny. The pain of seven years ago has dulled. In its place is a joyful, happy heart. I am so grateful to have this child in my life who is a much better version of himself. He is figuring out what he wants his life to look like and I am along for the ride.
Happy “birthday” Hunter. I hope the rest of your life has as many surprises, twists and turns and happy outcomes as the last seven years. Thank you for allowing me to parent you.
For more information about resources, support for your trans child or other trans related questions, feel free to contact me. www.standwithtrans.org