CELEBRATING MY SON’S 3RD BIRTHDAY, 20 YEARS AFTER HE WAS BORN…

Next month we will celebrate the third anniversary of the day my son officially became my son. The day I finally, sadly, let go of my much-loved daughter and accepted my no-less-loved son. The fact is, I never had a daughter, not really. In his mind, he was always a boy, trapped in the confusing and inappropriate body of a girl.

I can admit now that when he first told me he was “he”, I was not only completely devastated, I was a complete idiot. I was so utterly ignorant of what being transgender meant that I didn’t hesitate to give him a long list of ways in which his life would be completely destroyed if he “chose” to do this.

Like that would be helpful to him. After he had spent years agonizing over the exact same thoughts. Fortunately, he was amazingly patient with me. And it took a while, but eventually I got on board and launched myself on a very steep learning curve. Here are just some of the things I know now that I wish I’d known then:

Being transgender is not a choice. Well, duh. Just like being gay is not a choice, it’s the way you’re born. I was stupidly slow in coming to this realization, but it’s blindingly obvious now. Trans people choose how and when to come out, whether it’s at six or sixty; they don’t choose to be trans.

Being trans is not equal to being gay. Gender and sexuality are two completely different and unrelated things. As the saying goes: sexuality is who you go to bed with, gender is who you go to bed as.

Being trans is not a tragedy. Back then, I ignorantly assumed it would be impossible for a trans person to lead a happy, normal life. But of course they have just as much chance of happiness as anyone, and the number one factor in making that possible is being accepted for who they are by other people.

Being trans is not a new thing. Transgender people have existed throughout all of human history, in all cultures and all walks of life. The only difference is that now, with the internet and mass media, they are more visible, and (somewhat) less vilified.

Being trans (or the parent of a trans kid) doesn’t make you a freak or outcast. My first visit to a parent support group was a massive eye-opener. I realized that there were countless people just like me, with kids just like mine. The only reason transgender people have been treated like outcasts in the past is because there’s so little understanding about what being transgender means.

What’s between your legs doesn’t matter. Nobody knows how it happens; nature fucks up, gets the wires crossed, or something. But the irrefutable fact is that gender is between your ears, not between your legs, and if the two don’t match, so what?

Everyone is awesome. Early on, I was really nervous about telling people about this. I’d reacted so badly myself, I assumed they would too. And the emotions were so raw back then, I didn’t think I could say the words without bursting into tears. But I’ve been blown away by the support and acceptance we’ve received from our extended family, neighbours, friends and colleagues, and from all the institutions – banks, schools, government agencies, etc. – that we’ve had to deal with over my son’s change of name and gender.

In fact, people have been so accepting and understanding, it makes me wonder why I didn’t post this story sooner. I guess it’s partly to protect my son’s privacy. He doesn’t want to be known as “the trans guy”, he just wants to be known as a guy. And maybe it’s also due to a lingering fear that not everyone will react well. But I don’t care any more. My son is a fantastic kid, and I’m incredibly proud of the courage he’s shown in dealing with the difficult hand he’s been dealt. He never fails to amaze me with his spirit, his determination, his sense of humour, and the complete and utter squalor of his bedroom (but that’s another story).