Hello world, meet Luca. He’s our seven-year-old son. He loves ice cream and pickles. He loves swimming and soccer. He has short, light-brown hair and blue eyes. He is afraid of the dark and he hates being alone. He excels in school and makes friends easily. He has autism. Oh, he also happens to be transgender.
For over two years, we described him as having gender dysphoria, a trait in which one feels their anatomy does not reflect their true gender. Gender dysphoria often times is so intense that it interferes with daily life. Gender Dysphoria is not a mental illness. The intensity that he experienced heightened during his first grade year and it became progressively harder to deny that he was, in fact, a boy.
It started at two. He was a late to speak, presumably due to his autism. He never referred to himself as a girl. We said, “It’s just a phase. She’s just being silly,” often through gritted smiles and confusion. Multiple times a year, I had age-appropriate anatomy conversations with him. It didn’t matter. It was never a question. It was never, “Can I be a boy?” It was always a statement, always a declaration of what he is. Always.
This journey has not been easy. His transition is not his alone, it’s a transition that involves his family, friends, and community. Even though we support Luca a thousand percent, it doesn’t eliminate the pain. At least for now, the grief remains. Because for 7-and-a-half years, we had Lucy. We dreamed of the things Lucy would do and who Lucy would be.
But the truth is he has his whole life to be Luca. We have a healthy child, and now he’s confident and happy. Isn’t that all you can wish for your child? We know our pain will subside and the transition will become easier, but it’s still difficult. This is, by far, the hardest thing we’ve ever dealt with.
But as his mother, this is what I know:
– He is a human. A human that should never have to fear his safety, his acceptance, or his rights.
– The decision to socially transition to male was not dirty, inappropriate, or sexual — in any way.
– I never want him to believe that he doesn’t belong here. I never want him to underestimate his ability to be whatever he wants to be. I want him to be validated. I want him to be celebrated for who he is and who he will be.
– Abuse, persuasion, vaccines, his mental health, or the devil himself did not make him transgender. He was absolutely, unequivocally designed just like you and I.
Unless you’ve sat with your weeping child at the entrance of a public restroom for over 30 minutes, you don’t know. Unless you’ve watched your child become defeated at Disney World after someone called him “Princess,” you don’t know. Unless you’ve seen your child become angry day in and day out when you subsequently used the wrong pronouns, or said “girls” or “sisters,” you don’t know. You will never understand how desperate you could feel, desperate for your child to love himself, desperate to understand, desperate to accept.
But I trust you understand love and unconditional love. I trust you understand how you can deeply love your child through things that are confusing, hurtful, and challenging. That’s all we are doing. We are loving him. And by loving him, we are supporting, celebrating and affirming who he is.
Let me go on record to say that we don’t have to tell you any of this. We choose to be heard. We boldly tell our story — the insignificant, the marvelous, and the dreadful. We share our story for those who can’t. We share our story so trans people are visible. To show you that they have a face, they have a voice. Trans people are all of us — humans who deserve a place in this world.
He’s just a boy. He’s not the scary beast you shield your children from in restrooms. He’s our son. And we are proud of him.