What do I want you to know deep in your core? I want you to know that I love and support you completely, no matter what. You are my child and an important part of our family, now and always. That will not change regardless of name, clothing, pronouns, or gender. I believe I demonstrate that to you daily and hope you can see it. I have loved you from the minute I held you in my arms and nothing will ever change that. You are as beautiful to me now as you were in those first moments we met. Your beauty is deep in your soul because you are such a loving, strong, and amazing person.
As your parent, it is my responsibility to create an environment that is loving, but also that includes boundaries. The boundaries I create are in place because I care very deeply about your wellbeing, not because I don’t accept you. Amongst other boundaries, my willingness, or lack of willingness, to use new pronouns should not be the only thing that you judge me on—I have supported you in so many other ways.
I have done a great deal of soul searching along our journey over the last few years and that has been challenging. I am not sure you know some of the challenges I have been up against. I have been swimming upstream in whitewater rapids. I realize that I am not presenting the mainstream thoughts about gender. I have a curious mind and refuse to just go along with popular thinking. I am looking at you as an individual with your own set of life circumstances and challenges. I also know that there has been a statistically impractical rise in female to male transitions over the last several years. That means that there has not been enough time to research why this is happening.
Right now, there is no proof one way or the other about a “male” brain vs “female” brain—research needs to continue. It also means the medical professionals do not know the long term effects of social or medical transition. There are many people for whom gender dysphoria is not diminished or alleviated by social and/or medical transition. That is why it is so important for us to continue searching for ways to make you more comfortable with the body that you have. The outcome I fear most is for you to take hormones, have multiple surgeries and become a lifelong medical patient—only to find that you are still uncomfortable with who you are.
When I am at the end of my abilities to cope, I think of my dad’s mantra "March or die." There were times I didn't want to hear the phrase but he didn't mean it harshly. It was a call to stand up for myself and my family. I am not sure that I realized it until after he died but it was his way of telling me to follow my intuition and do the right thing no matter how hard it made the journey. Giving up isn’t an option.
I will never give up on you. That includes searching for answers with you about your identity. You are sixteen now and that means that my role in your life is changing, as it does for all parents during the teen years. But remember, your emotional challenges began when you were 12 years old. You began searching then for a way to feel better, feel complete, feel at ease with who you are. You have always had questions about being adopted and your birth family. And you have the dreaded position of being the “middle” child which leads to frustration when you don’t fit in with the older kids but don’t want to hang out with the younger crowd. Adding to the mix you went through puberty early and had large breasts. On top of it all, your sisters suffered from severe anxiety when grandpa was terminally ill. It was a tough time to say the least. I don’t blame you for searching for answers.
You searched online for friends and for an answer for your discomfort. You experimented with some of the identities you found there; including being bisexual, pansexual, gender fluid, etc. Then you began self harming—cutting, binge eating or not eating—and none of it reduced your pain. The more you talked to people on the internet the more affirmation and confirmation you got that, yes, this must be why I am uncomfortable, I am transgender.
You asked to see professionals with a specialty in gender. I obliged once and found that therapists, social workers and physicians are bound by the affirmative approach. If you say you are trans, then you are. I don’t think that’s what you wanted, you wanted someone to help you explore your feelings and help figure it out. As a 12, 13 or 14 year old, it is nearly impossible not to believe a group of people who are unequivocally supporting your new identity. There is nothing better than having people tell you you're right. Then your doubts started fading and you became focused on transition. If I just get a haircut, if I just get new clothes, if I just get a new name, if I just bind my breasts, if I just use different pronouns… if I do all of these things, then, THEN, I will feel better. But we never should have lost focus on helping you to accept yourself. As you must know deep down, chasing a perceived feeling is impossible. There will always be a higher bar to reach, a greener pasture on the other side.
While I was there giving you an alternative viewpoint, you heard many other people telling you that your parents just didn’t understand, they will never understand and they are transphobic. I was told I was doing irreparable damage by not instantly changing your name and pronouns. I am not transphobic, whatever that means. I am against children, teens and young adults transitioning. I feel deep respect and love for people with gender dysphoria, it is hell. I know because it’s happened to you, my daughter. But to help, to be part of your solution, I won’t wade into the unstudied morass of medical transition, not without understanding exactly what the outcomes are. I love you too much to do that to you.
I love you with all of my heart and soul. You are a part of me. I am here with you now and forever.
Love your mama xoxo
I never gave my daughter this letter but we did talk about the main concepts over the years and she seemed open to listening. I did ask her not to start hormones during her freshman year of college, because adjusting to college is hard enough on a good day.
She is no longer in college but to my immense relief, my instincts in advising caution and setting boundaries were right. She has desisted and is identifying as female— after 6 very long years my prayers have been answered.
My daughter has THANKED me for not allowing her to medically transition, more than once. She acknowledged that what I went through was awful too. This journey is not over, it has just begun hopefully down the path of physical and mental wellness.