Stand with Trans is here for trans youth and their families. Our intention is to be a resource, a source of support, a safe place, a non-judgmental-all inclusive organization which is growing and evolving every day. Vocabulary is changing. As a community, we are becoming smarter about gender identity. As a mom of a trans masculine identified teenager, I work everyday to be an ally and an advocate. I have made mistakes. I am not perfect. I hope to be a strength to other parents out there, whether they are just beginning to come out or have been on this journey for years. On National Coming Out Day, I thought I’d share a bit about my own coming out as a parent.
When my son told me he was transgender in 2013, I was clueless. The word transgender was unknown to me. It wasn’t part of my vocabulary. The phrase “gender identity disorder” sounded scary. Did my son have a disorder? What did all of this mean?
Many of you have heard our story. You know that I talk about unconditional love and what parenting choice is all about. However, I’ve never given much thought to talking about my “coming out” or my family’s “coming out.” I’d like to share a bit here in the hope that other parents who are just finding out who their child is, may learn from my words.
Let me preface this with a caveat. Talking about a parent’s coming out in no way minimizes or erases what a transgender person goes through when they decide to tell the world that they have a different gender identity then they were assigned at birth. What I want to point out is that parents, too, have a journey and it begins with their child’s coming out, regardless of what day it is.
In March 2013, my younger child told me that she was a he; that he was transgender. I didn’t know what to do with that information. Honestly, initially I thought it was about shopping in the boys’ department. I had never given any thought to my own gender identity much less that of my children. I never questioned that I was female. I did often wonder why my “daughter” had male avatars in all the games and wanted to wear “boy” costumes and clothing but beyond that, the internal dialogue ended.
I told my husband about the “coming out” conversation. Then, I began to google. I knew, deep down, that this was not a phase. I knew that my child was going through something really BIG that would change the course of his life. Little did I know that it would change mine as well.
Beyond discussing this with my spouse, I told no one. I didn’t know how to bring up the subject. I didn’t fully understand what this all meant. I wasn’t ready to come out.
About a month after my son told me he identified as a trans guy, my husband and I went to visit some friends across the country. This was my best friend (friends since 7th grade) and her husband. I could tell her anything and knew she would not turn her back on me. During the visit I wanted so badly to “come out” to her; to tell her what was going on in my world with my child. Every day of our trip I wanted to spill the beans. I just couldn’t. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for all the questions I couldn’t answer, for all the conversation that would ensue, for the topic that would monopolize our visit. So, I kept it to myself that week and for many weeks to come.
For my son to come out to me and then to the world (of social media) not long after, it took an enormous amount of courage. He spent two years researching so he could figure it all out. He didn’t choose a special day to tell me; it was a an ordinary day that included a request to schedule a haircut appointment. The only significant thing about request is that the style he chose was a boys’ hair style. This was unexpected. Surprising, in fact. That was his “coming out” moment. That otherwise perfectly normal, “I need a haircut” statement, became a monumental marker in the turning point for our family.
He had never been so sure of anything in his life and I had never been so unsure and shaken. I didn’t want it to be true. I didn’t know how to talk about it. I had nowhere and no one to turn to for advice. I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t ready to come out.
When my son, Hunter, decided to come out on Facebook, he neglected to let any of us know that he was taking the public, social media plunge. Once he hit “post” the floodgates opened. Many of his sister’s friends didn’t know. She wasn’t ready to “come out” to them. She was still processing what it meant and how to manage the fact that her baby sister was now her little brother. Her phone erupted in a steady stream of pings as the questions and texts from friends began to flow. She wasn’t ready or prepared to come out.
For those of you out there who are choosing this day to “come out” I honor your courage and respect your choice to share. If you are a trans youth who is just coming out, remember that you’ve been thinking about this for quite some time – likely years. You may need to be patient with your parents. Help them with resources and statistics so they can learn and help support you on your journey to becoming you. And, most of all, remember that you are enough just the way you are. Let your light shine.
Stand with Trans is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. You can find more information at http://www.standwithtrans.org or @standwithtrans on Facebook or @standwithtransmi on instagram.