Oct 16, 2016
"Mom, I'm Transgender!" A Christian Mom's Journey
This is a copy of something I published on Hub Pages. I know it has helped other
parents, and I hope it will help you. To read more of my stories (none are
transgender-related), go to: http://debet.hubpages.com
How to begin. That is my problem. How do I begin to share what it is like to be the
mother of someone who is transgendered? How do I write with the perfect balance
of compassion, honesty, understanding, spiritual witness, and personal struggles and
still leave a legacy for my adult child to remember in a positive way?
These are my questions. I have stalled on writing about this for almost 10 months – the
imeframe in which I ceased to be the mother of a daughter and became the mother
of a son. The timeframe that included huge amounts of worry, wonder, confusion,
prayer, fear, research, and relief. The timeframe that tested the truth in the words “I love you no matter what.”
I have finally decided that what I need to share is this – people will always surprise you.
Going to a meeting with PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) was eye-opening. There was a parent of a so-called transgender FTM there. I thought, great! Here’s someone to connect with as a Mom. The conversation went like this:
ME: We (husband and I) just found out about our FTM (female-to-male) adult child. We know a little, but thought it would be helpful to learn more.
PFLAG MOM: My daughter is bisexual queer – and is marrying a FTM person at our house this June. We are overjoyed! We just couldn’t be happier!
PFLAG MOM: We’re planning this big wedding – all our family and friends are over-the moon excited about it, and we just love her partner. I couldn’t have asked for it to turn out any better!
PFLAG MOM: When she told me she was bisexual queer, I was completely fine with it – it was not an issue.
This really happened. Not word-for-word as above, but literally a bubbling fountain of joy and happiness and tranquility! It was totally unreal to me. And by that I don’t me “unreal” in the sense of it being way cool – I mean, what Mom or Dad is that happy about this? It just seemed so fake – like there is maybe an unwritten PFLAG rule that says “Always make it positive, no matter what!” I’m not saying there is such a rule, but I would not be surprised if there is one. Must. Not. Rely. On. PFLAG.
Now, on the other side of the coin, my Christian friends are supportive in prayer. They have all said “We love you, your child, and we support you all.” That doesn’t mean they all agree with the decisions, but they have been gracious to listen and let us share. However, I have come to the conclusion that sharing must only go so far with this topic – eventually, you push the boundaries of their personal convictions and beliefs. Must. Be. Careful.
So, I have ended up feeling a little like I am out on a lake in a canoe with no paddle– I just float wherever the water takes me.
It takes me to the dining room, where testosterone injections are administered.
It takes me to websites about transgender clothing options to purchase – to help lessen the stress.
It takes me to the men’s department – and to arguments about fit and style – the one I see and the one he wants everyone to see.
Mostly, it takes me to the heart of my family – to my now son – who has struggled and fought, and been broken down to the core fighting what he knows in his heart – that he’s a he after all. Time to stop the struggle. Time to move forward and find a place in the world. Time to live honestly and make that imagine in the mirror match the one in his mind and heart. Time to take bold and brave steps towards a life you and your parents did not plan or imagine.
Someone said to me, “Do you pray that God will take this away and change his mind back?” I answered that I couldn’t ask that of God because it would be showing that I didn’t love my child unconditionally – no matter what. God already knew about this – I’m just catching up! He made my child and He makes no mistakes, ever! Yes, my child was physically born female. I get that. But, someone who has known “her” for many years, upon finding out about “him” said “Well, that explains a lot.” Looking back, I can see the connections to being the other gender for my child – and the struggle to put on the societal face of a female. And as a parent, I don’t feel any guilt or anything like that because I was a great Mom and truly just never had this on my radar. And you never really know how kids will turn out in the end – although we all have our wishes and dreams for them and for their future. It’s true my dreams have changed a little, but not that much…don’t we all just want our kids to be happy?
My prayer and hope is that people will treat my son with respect, fairness, and the same courtesy as anyone else. For those who knew him as a girl, this will not always be easy, but it is the right thing to do. For those who have a conviction (religious or otherwise) that this is just wrong – I hope they will take the stance I believe Christ would take – love the person. That’s all – just love them and accept them and support them – 100%. You don’t have to agree with everything. But for those of you who believe that LGBT people are sinners, I ask you, can you let God worry about the “sin” aspects of life, and just make sure you are not committing a bigger sin by judging another person, or shunning a person, or turning your back on a friend when they need you? I hope you can. I hope you can let God help you put aside the questions you don’t know the answers to, and just let Him help you love one another. No matter what.
I love my son. He is actually one of the coolest people I know. He’s trying hard to work through this “transitional” period with as much diplomacy and strength as possible. He knows he has two parents who love him unconditionally, but who are also going through their own personal transitional phase. I mean, I’m not doing things perfectly right, but I am trying. I struggle – sometimes daily, sometimes minute-by-minute. I still call him by his old name once in a while – it’s not second-nature to me yet – but I’m getting much better! I worry like a mom – will he make friends? Will he meet someone and fall in love? Did that shot hurt? Will he get that next job?
Gender has nothing to do with these “Mom” questions – we all ask them. And isn’t that the point? Love your child – no matter what – and whatever the “what” turns out to be, give thanks to God, who made us all and loves us unconditionally – no matter what.
Oct 16, 2016
During a recent winter frost as I was sitting in my car, I got out my phone and zoomed in. Look at the beauty of this picture. It's life, really, in so many ways. It is hard and cold and makes us feel chilled, but at the same time, it is beautiful and has depth - swirls and facets of frost that look like a tapestry. Nature in its purest form, and beautiful.
Being a parent of someone who is transgender is a lot like this image to me - you can see through it to the sky, but if you do, you miss the beauty that is right in front of you. If you focus on "others" and their opinions or beliefs, and put those worries before your own son or daughter who is sharing a hard truth with you, then maybe you need to take a closer look. Nature (God, to me) made us as a tapestry - each thread making up the whole beautiful design.
Some folks, however, can't get past the reality that sometimes the tapestry threads are weaved into an image they did not plan or expect.
I get it - this is not what you signed up for, but that's been true for many things that happen to all of us. The unexpected does not equal bad. In fact, you can expect a more meaningful and closer relationship with your loved one - if you support them, respect them, listen to them, and provide guidance/assistance when necessary.
What I see around me - right in front of me - are people who do not support their son or daughter who are transgender. They see fear first, I think - of what people will think, how their child can possibly have a happy life now, the fact that the path has changed drastically in their "future life plans" for their child. These are valid worries.
People can be mean - but I promise there will be more understanding and love from people than you expect. Your son or daughter will finally live as their authentic self - the person they know in their mind and heart that they are, and this reality gives them joy and confidence you never realized they were lacking! And your dreams for their future will change - but not from "good to bad," just "from today to tomorrow!" Working together, asking questions, doing research and becoming aware of what your son/daughter is facing - hormones therapy, binders, safe testosterone injections, doctor appointments, therapists (a good thing during transition - if they have some qualifications helping trans individuals), and a newfound love for your person!
These are the deep rich silk threads in that tapestry. They are woven between your heart and that of your transgender son/daughter. And with love, that beautiful tapestry is complete.
Oct 16, 2016
I think it is amazing how life turns out. I say amazing and some of you might be thinking "Uh, no. Not the word I would use." Well, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online defines amazing as "causing great surprise or wonder," and I can't think of a better way to describe the changes in my life since becoming the parent of a man who is transgender.
Take last weekend for example. I was invited to a Baltimore-area event called "Black Trans Men's Advocacy Summit." On the surface, this is not amazing. But I am not black, nor am I a man, nor am I transgender. So it amazed ME (and probably some of the other participants) that I attended this extremely wonderful event! Outside my comfort zone. In Baltimore (where I hate to drive). It was raining outside.
In my many years on planet Earth, this was not in my life plan. It was an amazing addition.
I met wonderful people. I have no idea who was transgender and who was not, and it didn't matter. Some folks identified themselves, and we all identified our preferred pronouns on our nametags. For purposes of confidentiality, you had to add a green sticker if it was "okay" for the group to use your photo on their webpage.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because it is imperitive that we not stick our necks in the sand when it comes to human beings. As parents and family members of transgender people, we can become content to just "deal within our own family" and not make a stand outside that family. Or maybe we "don't talk about it" at our book club, or at work, or at church (heaven forbid!). Here's the problem - and I understand that if you are new to having someone in your family who is LGBTQI or other, you may not be at this point yet - we must care for everyone who is treated unfairly.
There are many trans people killed every year. In fact, according to Human Rights Watch, 19 have been killed already this year (2016). Transwomen of color are especially targeted. Click here to read their names and see their pictures.
While it is certainly easier to just deal with our own personal issues, being transgender can be an uphill battle and if the people we love are going to win, we have to help.
Don't be afraid what other people will think of you if you embrace the fight. Because what you are embracing is the truth that everyone deserves to be treated equally and with respect.
Wouldn't that be amazing?