parent opinion

'Age 12, my daughter told me she was transgender. This is what I want other parents to know.'

My youngest child has always been a tomboy. I had so much trouble getting her in a dress over the years. I loved how she was willing to get into anything with gusto including playing AFL as good as any of the guys, riding a motorbike with confidence, or riding BMX bikes up jumps and down dips.

We used to watch the movie Charlie’s Angels and I would suggest how they all could do such amazing things in the daytime, but they still made themselves look nice when the day was done. I tried to convince her to get in that dress and look ‘feminine’. I feel a little bad about that now, in hindsight. 

There were times that I thought to myself that my daughter might be a lesbian. In the playground at school when other kids were having pretend weddings between boys and girls, my little one would be one of two girls at the pretend alter beside the playground tree. 

When the girls in the playground started to get a bit nasty to each other, my little one couldn’t really handle it and went to hang out with the boys.

One night over dinner my two teenagers were having a little mock fight with each other for attention. The younger one was making fun of the older one’s choice of fashion or some such thing and said to him ‘You’re so gay!’ and the usual childish response was ‘No, you’re gay!’, as if it were an insult to each other (like kids often do).

I pulled them up and told them off, saying: “Nobody calls anyone gay like it is an insult in this house.”

It was then my youngest said: “I’m not gay actually. I know what I am, I’m non-binary transgender.”

It is embarrassing now to admit that I had no clue what that was at the time. But I remained calm and poker-faced, and asked to hear more about it. 

Since then the journey has been a little bumpy at times. I’ve had to adjust and learn some new things. I’ve often felt that I’ve done my best to get this all right with the learning of a new language filled with new pronouns. My auto-pilot thinking that I had a girl had to be rewired and it took some time to think about the ‘them/their’ person before me. 

Mamamia’s daily entertainment podcast, The Spill, discuss Charlize Theron’s interview about her transgender daughter. Post continues below.

Many of the extended family have been pretty good, but some really just can’t disconnect the body parts from the identity and refuse to call him anything other than ‘she/her’. My 80-year-old parents were some of the most understanding, yet some of the younger ones not so. It isn’t a generational matter for acceptance, but individuals. 

I had a cousin all of a sudden start being an activist on Facebook about recent changes in schools and trying to stop transgender bathroom solutions, and demanding children remain either male or female. It was hurtful, and to trans children it really makes them feel like something is wrong with them.

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I can’t say this transition has been easy at all with this kind of social rejection, and there has been substance abuse and mental health challenges to overcome. 

This life for transgender people isn’t easy. There is no peace until they find the alignment with their identity, regardless of the body they arrived in.

I imagine myself as a woman in touch with my femininity and being moved out of my body and placed in a masculine body overnight and how out-of-sorts I’d feel. It is the same thing. 

My child has recently transitioned to identify fully as a man now with testosterone hormones and top surgery (a full double mastectomy). Recently I commented that he looked like a gay man and he said to me, “Oh, Mum! That’s the best compliment anyone has ever given me!”  

Taking testosterone has its challenges too with unclear medical outcomes. He was diagnosed with cancer recently which may or may not be related, but luckily surgery should solve that since we’ve caught it early.

Testosterone has made his female organs go through an equivalent of menopause at 19 and there are some risks. Being of adult age there is nothing a parent really can do but ensure decisions are educated and to show that you are there no matter what they decide.

I’ll admit it has been scary at times. I also admit that I mourned the loss of my gorgeous daughter at one point, and had to put her away into the past. I loved her deeply and the loss was great, but not because I lost a girl but the person was so sweet, loving and innocent and those traits and values seem to slide away from me for a while.

The person who arrived during transition wasn’t so much fun and was quite troubled. Over time, the things I loved about my small child have started to appear again and we have a close relationship again. There is lots of honesty and a very adult relationship which I value greatly. 

Now, proudly queer, this son of mine has come through some very difficult times and getting life on track to become a nurse to help other transgender people during surgery transitions. A noble cause. I’m really proud of his confidence to be who he wants and needs to be against the odds. 

In hindsight, I wish that I wasn’t so binary and insistent on trying to get him in those dresses or for trying to indoctrinate him into feminine behaviour. If I could have been more gender-neutral and allowed this child to come out whoever they needed to be, I’d certainly do that differently all over again.

If myself, family and society had allowed more gender-neutral thinking the journey could have been a whole lot less turbulent for him and many others, I’m sure.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo from Getty. 

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