It’s been a few years now, but I will never forget the day that my child, following a shower, ran into my arms with tears streaming down his face, and said, “I’m sorry, mom. I’m a boy.”
I am proud of my initial response which was to reinforce that he is loved, “no matter what”, and that I somehow thought to say, “besides, souls don’t have genders”. I am not proud of some of the things I said and did after that moment, though, as I grappled with grief and what this new information really meant. I struggled with the loss of my daughter, and anger towards my son for seemingly killing her. I had to remind myself that I did not really lose my child, that what I lost was “daughter” and what that meant to me. I had to examine why daughter was so important, and if it was something I really had lost.
During this personal journey of grief, I also was committed to understanding what my child was going through and to supporting him. Above all else, I wanted to make sure I was doing no harm to my child. Afterall, I am a counselor and I knew the incidences of suicide amongst transgender teens was much higher than those of their same age peers, and that the number one protective factor was having a supportive parent.
I did what I do when I have a problem, and/or feel powerless, and that was research. I visited every resource I could think of and read everything I could. Rather serendipitously, I befriended transgender individuals around this time as well. Life seemed to put the right people in my path, at the right time. Then, as we struggled to find a counselor willing to see my son to address his gender identity, I became aware of the overwhelming need for specially trained counselors. “See a need, fill a need”; so, I became trained.
My son is healthy, happy, and successfully transitioning. He is not a sad statistic, and I like to think that some of it is due to my support and willingness to stretch and grow as a person. I still miss using his birth name, and I still grieve the loss of “daughter” and what that meant to me, but I recognize that I have gained much more than I lost.
If you are a parent that is struggling with their child’s ge nder identity, and/or to find a counselor willing to work with them on it; if you are transgender and in need of a counselor that is specially-trained and willing to provide a letter of support for transitioning…
I am here, and I am more than happy to help!
All the best, Kara (firstname.lastname@example.org)