It was one year ago on this date that my youngest child disclosed to me that he is transgender.
I’m not allowed to make a “big deal” about this at home today, or have any kind of celebration, or really even acknowledge it, because my son is still not comfortable with the idea of being trans and prefers to be thought of and known as himself — the dude who just is. There is a disconnect from his past that, at some point, his therapist will work with him on — helping him to embrace and integrate who he was into who he is (because he always was who he is, we just didn’t know it, right?) and to be proud of the amazing accomplishments and life he had prior to transition. But, for now, i respect his wishes and the place he is in, and for his comfort, i’m keeping today just a typical day.
However, it’s important for me to acknowledge this milestone, and so…i will do that here.
One year ago, i had a depressed young teenager who was struggling with identity issues. At the time, i did not realize they were gender identity issues, and thought my child was going through typical teen “angst” that was worsened by depression that had a possible hereditary link. This child i knew at the time as my daughter was losing interest in things he was once passionate about, and most distressing to me was him giving up dancing ballet at the pre-professional level after years of wanting to be a professional dancer. The mood in our household was dark, and when my then-daughter developed a flirtatious relationship with a bisexual guy friend, i thought maybe things would improve.
Things did improve, but not right away, and not in the way i expected. While trying on some clothes to prepare for a get-together with this guy, my son put on a dress for the first time in months and became totally distraught. I saw a beautiful girl who was becoming a young woman, and, looking back i know that he saw himself in a body that was just wrong. We sat on the edge of his bed as i tried to figure out why he was so upset, and i remember him saying through tears and while shaking that he didn’t know what was wrong, but that those clothes just did not feel right. “I look in the mirror and i know i look good and i should be happy about that, but this just isn’t me!” he had said. I was so confused. I had no idea. No idea! Now it all seems so simple, and at the time i had no idea what was going on.
Over the next few days, he fell into a deep depression. At first, he told me he was sick. After several days of him staying in bed, i realized he wasn’t sick physically, but that something was going on emotionally. At first i thought it was just the general depression he had been suffering from for a year and a half, and i gave him space for a few days. Then, one evening he said something that made me realize that he knew — there was some cause for this deep sadness — and i sat down on the edge of his bed and told him i was not leaving his room until he told me. I can picture his face and those words just like it was one hour ago instead of one year ago: “I’m a boy.”
At some point during those quiet days, he had figured himself out. His first reaction was sadness, and then anger. He didn’t want this. I think he still doesn’t want it. And i think his difficulties have everything to do with our binary, heteronormative, judgmental society and nothing to do with who he is or how he was born.
Looking back over the last year, it’s almost impossible for me to believe the changes in my son, our family, our lives, and myself, even though i have lived through them. One year ago, i don’t think i had ever heard the terms cisgender, intersectionality, or transphobia. I knew what the “T” in LGBT stood for, but i didn’t really understand what it meant. I was an ally, but not an advocate. And i thought i knew my child, but i only knew the face he presented as he tried to live up to the expectations of our family and of society. When i think back on how much i’ve learned over the last year, and wonder how much more there is to learn that i may never know, it boggles my mind.
He will begin testosterone therapy in April. Our endocrinologist has a referral for a surgeon who will do top surgery at 16, which is only one more year and three months away. He still struggles with depression, anxiety, and his eating disorder keeps trying to get its foot back in the door. It’s been quite a year, but i am so grateful and thankful to be his mom and to be part of this journey.