Giving Birth to a Unicorn: When Your Child Comes Out as Transgender
I thought I was liberal. I thought I'd evolved from the person I was in my youth: conservative, religious, and specific to this post, a hater of gays and lesbians.
It's been a long and frequently shameful road to the person I am now (or the person I thought I was now). The person I am now truly believed that I was a good person, a someone who accepted the LGBT community wholeheartedly.
I mean, I sign petitions, I cheer when a state legalizes gay marriage, I shake my head in sadness while listening to NPR reports about hate crimes, I raise the children to abhor prejudice, to accept all. I talk to them about gay people: They're not hurting, converting or waging war on anyone; they just want to be treated with equality, to love, to live and let live, I preach. Hearts not parts, I parrot to them. When I repeat a news story about a gay teen being bullied at school, the kids are shocked that anyone in this day and age would give a damn about alternate sexuality. It truly isn't an issue for my teens. Like many of the kids their age, they view the LGBT issues as a done deal; the battle's over, why are we still talking about it? We accept them, enough lecturing, move along already. It makes me so happy. It gives me hope and I love that. I feel so helpless and angry lately with politics and religion and the are-you-kidding-me-with-this-endless-nightmare of an economy. When I think of the kids and their genuinely accepting life philosophies, it warms me to the bottom of my cynical toes, it really does.
Does this generational lovefest sound too cozy and smug? I hope not. I'm being as sincere as I've ever been in my life. I care about this issue. Letting go of my upbringing, my prejudices, has been a work in progress. I get reminded of my limitations often. I still I have wake up calls like a wet washcloth being slapped on my face, the shock of my habits and prejudices hitting me with their cold, uncomfortable weight. But I do try, and I do care. I guess I figured that was enough for a vanilla hetero. I'm on the right road, moving forward, that's the important thing, I tell myself.
Cue the screeching record sound, right about now -- because it turns out I'm much, much, MUCH more limited, more prejudiced than I ever imaged myself to be.
To wit: My firstborn, my daughter, has told me she is a gay boy trapped in a girl's body. She tells me she has felt wrong her whole life. She says she is a trans man (she's twenty).
This revelation was in a therapists office, and I feel I handled the initial news quite well. Inside Me was reeling as if someone had swung a bag of bricks at my head. Outside Me told my child I loved her, that I'd always love her, that our family didn't work without her, that none of that was going to change. We left the office together and got ice cream from the shop next door. I was keenly aware that everything I did and said was enormously important, at that moment and in years to follow. We both don't actually like ice cream, but the shop felt like a lifeline of normalcy and it felt like we both needed it, frankly.
I remember that everything felt quiet, like a bomb had gone off and damaged my hearing. The store music seemed to be coming from far away, the customers seemed weirdly two dimensional. I remember my child smiling. I remember she seemed more limber, more relaxed than she'd been in a while. She went home and texted friends in her college LGTB club, smiling as she typed. I remember that she'd told me she was in the group as "straight support." I don't remember anything more, even though that night was only a few months ago.
And then we went about the small details of our life as if nothing had happened. I still kissed her goodnight, we still watched TV in the evening, we still talked about school and movies and friends. We didn't talk about the purple elephant in the room. The more time that passed, the less I accepted it. I'd lie in bed at night and say "boy, boy, boy, son, son, son" and weep. I'd remind myself that I was evolved, that I didn't let outdated religious dogmas dictate my life and mind, and I'd weep again. This didn't feel like a LGBT problem, a social issue; this felt like my child had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The daughter I've loved forever was going to leave me forever.