In most situations, there is an A, B, C list of instructions on how to do what. In being a parent and discovering your child is transgender, I like to think there are several phases. We all have heard about SARA – Shock, Anger, Rejection, and Acceptance at an unwanted event or death. I prefer to think of discovering our child is transgender in the five A’s – Awareness, Announcement, Acceptance, Attitude, Aftermath.
The awareness is when we begin to suspect that our child is different. Maybe we don’t know what to think at first – maybe they are gay, or lesbian, or a cross-dresser, or whatever. The awareness is also the phase when the child themselves know that where people are pigeonholing them is not who they are, regardless of what is between his or her legs. A boy says he is a girl. A girl says she is a boy. Parents need to look for early signs that their child may be transgender and be gentle with them, ask age appropriate questions, and finally allow the child to announce his or her gender.
The announcement is next: A boy might suddenly say, “Mom, I’m a girl,” or vice versa. There is always shock. Being transgender is something that happens to other people’s children, not ours. It is simply human nature. When we take our baby home from the birthing place, we expect the gender will remain the declared gender at birth. Today, more and more we know that is not necessarily so, but still…
Acceptance of having a transgender child will come at the pace appropriate for both the child (or adult) and the parent. For many, especially fathers I have found, this can take a very long time. Learning new pronouns, seeing your very masculine son show up for dinner in a mini skirt and high heels, or your very feminine daughter show up in a tie and suit with a short haircut takes massive adjustment. And, it takes a strong attitude adjustment on the part of everyone. The parents, of course, but also the transgender child who must learn that acceptance by not only family, but friends and even strangers is not automatic and can take years.
A positive attitude is key. Everyone involved will have to develop an attitude of deep patience and forbearance. An attitude of listening, learning, and loving. Unfortunately, there are many parents, families, and friends with a negative attitude who turn their backs on their transgender child. Hopefully, with much love, understanding, and education all of these children will be held closely and with respect within the family and our society.
Finally, there is the aftermath of being transgender and living with a transgender person. You’ve always called “her” “him.” Your son has a very masculine body and now has boobs and wears skirts and makeup. Your son’s voice is a girl’s high pitched voice. Names are changed. Many differences. But, the most disturbing aftermath is the discrimination, the bullying, and the violence they suffer. One person told my daughter she should die. Transgender folks are murdered at an alarming rate. Suicide is high among them. They are picked on, profiled, and persecuted. It must stop.
My book, Always Kristen, chronicles my journey through the five A’s and beyond and is available at Amazon.com in paperback and on Kindle.