This Is What I Didn't Expect When Raising My Transgender Child
It’s an odd feeling to miss someone who is staring you right in the face.
When my 5-year-old first started presenting as male, I read and read and read some more about anything and everything I could get my hands on as it related to transgender youth. I studied and learned and researched and took notes and sent links to my fiance and family and to myself (to refer back to later). I joined groups and asked questions and met with other families of children who had come out as trans. I wanted to know IT ALL.
But one thing I hadn’t prepared myself for was the grief and that accompanies the “loss” of your child. Your child as you know it is gone. And with that comes an intense amount of sorrow.
I didn’t get to mourn the loss of my child like someone might mourn a death. There wasn’t a service, no meal train was set up in our name, I didn’t get calls or texts or cards in the mail to express sympathy or condolences. There was no outpouring of support from family or the community. In many cases, it was the opposite. Months, days, and hours defending my child and giving explanations and resources to family and friends.
You are so busy focusing on your child and the changes you are determined to support him through that your own thoughts and feelings get overlooked. The huge changes that come along with social transition shadow your inner emotions until it comes crashing down one day and you start to realize… you are sad. You are mourning. And when you take the time to sit down and think about how you’re feeling and why, you notice that you feel as if someone died. And, in a way, someone did.
My child, as I knew him, was no longer the same person. And in his place there was a new, different child that I was still learning about. I was changing words, changing the way I referred to and reacted to my child. Everything changed.
When I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I had eight months to read and prepare for parenthood. And even though nothing can prepare you for the true day to day of being a mom, at least you have time. With this, I wasn’t given much time at all. As soon as he expressed himself to me that he wasn’t living his true self, he was off and running. I was just trying to keep up.
My son asked me recently if I still think he’s the same kid “now that I’m a boy.” And it made me wonder if I treat him differently now. Is he also mourning the mom he used to have? Has his mom morphed into someone new that he is also trying to navigate a relationship with? I sure see him (physically) differently now.
Everything he does makes this all so obvious. But I think some of that is me just trying to find and make sense of it all as a parent. How could I have not seen this sooner? How did he know, and I didn’t? So alongside the grief there is guilt. Guilt that I wasn’t doing my job as a parent to the fullest. I didn’t know him better than he knew himself. Which comes full circle back to grief and loss.
If someone ever told me there would come a day when I would miss the very child laying on my chest watching a movie with me, I would have thought they were bat shit bonkers. But now, I realize how possible that is. I know with time the things I miss will get less and less as I continue to watch the development of my child in his element and becoming more and more of his true self. But for now…. it’s just a little sad.
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