How PFLAG Hartford Has Helped People
“I can DO THIS and it’s going to be OK!”
“Transgender was nowhere in my vocabulary"
There were signs: The 2-year-old calling herself a “big boy,” always wanting to be Dad when playing “house,” and having a visceral reaction when asked to wear a dress. And yet, despite the dawning realization that my daughter was not happy with her femininity, transgender was simply not on my radar.
So I shrugged it off when she cut off her long hair, and considered it no big deal when she bought her clothes from the boy’s department. I guess I knew deep down that she wasn’t happy as a girl, but “I’m changing my gender to male” still came out of left field.
I had no idea what this meant. My first reaction, which now makes me cringe, was to ask “Are you gay?” (I had no idea that gender and sexuality are distinctly different things.) It was explained that, first and foremost, this meant male pronouns and male haircut and clothes. And my world exploded. HOW does one change their gender, and how were we going to get through this embarrassment?
Very fortunately, a friend at work put me in touch with her pediatric endocrinologist friend, who was able to get me going on my “path to survival.” This doctor let me know that by the time they are 15 years old, kids usually have a strong sense of their gender. She also helped us find a gender therapist – absolutely a key team member. And she put me in touch with another pediatric endocrinologist who sees transgender patients.
Pronouns. Worried as I was about it, dealing with my son’s school was surprisingly easy in a progressive town in a blue state. What was very hard was using the correct pronouns!
Having known my child as “she” for 15 years, this was a considerable challenge. For me, calling my son “he” was making the whole transition real, proof that we were coming to accept it. But I knew that by using his preferred pronouns I was signaling that I accepted him as who he is, and this meant the world to him! My husband and I informed our son that we would make mistakes and asked that he be patient as we made the switch; fortunately, he was forgiving as long as we were trying. This got much easier with time and practice.
Friends and Family. Most of our family and friends are liberal, so we weren’t terribly worried about being disowned, but we were still nervous about how the news would be taken. While I called a few people on the phone, we decided to inform most everyone via e-mail. A few of my phone calls were met with dead silence on the other end… and a letter gives people a chance to read at their leisure and, importantly, to digest a little bit before responding.
While we were hoping for, and expecting, support, we were prepared to boot unsupportive people out of our lives. Fortunately, the responses we received were all very positive and supportive.
PFLAG Hartford! Our son’s gender therapist insisted that we attend a PFLAG Hartford meeting. There, we met other transgender folks, as well as families going through the same thing. It helped us cope with the painful sense of grief that came with “losing” a daughter, of giving up the hopes and dreams one has for a girl child – but at least the past kicking and screaming had already prepared us for no prom dresses or frilly weddings.
The people at PFLAG were very welcoming, compassionate, and understanding, and through the years have helped us navigate hormones, top surgery – all of it! The support we received was invaluable, and knowing others in the same situation and seeing how they managed murky and sometimes uncharted waters was huge.
Light at the End of the Tunnel. Seven years later, there are still occasional pangs of loss. My son’s hysterectomy brought back some of the feelings experienced so deeply earlier in the transition process, but the sadness didn’t last long. I still wish things could be different for our son, that he didn’t have to live with this on a daily basis. But, in his words, he’s “a thousand times happier” living as his genuine self – and that’s really all any parent can hope for!