When my daughter was growing up it never crossed my mind that she had any issues with her gender. I have no stories to share about her insisting she was a boy, no stories of my struggles to persuade her to wear girls clothing, no stories of how she was a tomboy or played on the boys soccer team. I have nothing like that to share. My stories are of a beautiful and creative little girl who loved her princess dolls, her My Little Ponies, her coloured hair clips, bows and fairy wings and the silver glitter star she made into a magic wand.
It was never on my radar that my daughter could be transgender nor that one day when she was in her early 20’s our lives would be turned completely upside down. I cannot remember clearly how my daughter told me he was a boy, or whether he used the word transgender. The panic that I felt at that moment thinking there must be something terribly wrong with my child has wiped some of my memories of that day. But I will never forget the anguish I saw in my sons face. I knew whatever he was struggling with, it was massive.
I didn’t know what I should do and I turned to a diagnostic manual which at that time was the DSM IV. I looked up gender and I came away worried that my son could be suffering a disorder and be mentally ill. I saw a psychologist specialising in gender issues and I told her about my son and how he behaved and dressed like a girl. But I also told her about the distress my son felt during puberty, his anxiety and discomfort with his female anatomy and of his breast binding. She said that she believed my son was transgender.
I worried about my son’s future, how difficult his life would be and how badly he would be treated. How could I ever keep him safe? What had I done to cause this? How had I not known? I fluctuated between denial, fear, depression and guilt. And there was an acute silent grief of losing my only daughter, a painful grief and loss with no grave stone to acknowledge it.
In those early years it was hard for me to see that I could get to the place I am now. Or to see that I would gain so much from the journey. I have a transgender son and I am enormously proud of him. I feel positive about his future and all of his potential. He is interesting, inspiring and courageous and I fully embrace him as my son.
The reason I am sharing my story is because I want you to know that it does get better! You will come to a place of acceptance. You will get used to the new name and pronouns. You will feel proud of your child and positive about their future. You will feel confident that your child will find happiness and love. You will learn that your transgender child is a natural part of human diversity.
There are many, many parents with transgender children. You are not alone.