A mother tells her story
Editor’s Note: The following is a personal story by a mother who lost family and friends to make sure her female to male transgender son could live life to the fullest. The mother and son remain anonymous to protect their identity.
The Calgary Journal has allowed the author to use pseudonyms to protect her son because of concerns he may be harmed should his identity as a transgender person be made public.
Should I have known? Many have asked me if I noticed anything different; saw any signs to indicate transgender when he was growing up.
What was there to see? He liked animals, sports, baking and watching cartoons. He didn’t enjoy wearing dresses or skirts yet loved colourful clothing. He didn’t play with dolls but loved stuffed animals, he had a lot of them. He enjoyed getting dirty and climbing trees. I called him a tomboy yet he also loved to write stories and poems and draw pictures.
He was a child who defended friends against bullies, an honourable trait. He wanted short hair, I thought it was because it was a hassle to comb and wash. To me he was a typical child.
—Sex: The biological physical body, it reproductive organs, it’s secondary sex characteristics. Male and female as it is defined by doctors at birth.
—Gender: The social construct that masculinity and femininity are attributable to male and female physical bodies.
—Gender identity: A persons intrinsic sense of self and the way they view themselves to be, regardless of their physical body’s primary or secondary sex characteristics.
—Transsexual Woman: This is a person whose designated sex at birth was “male”, but has come to realize that she is a woman.
—Transsexual Man: Likewise, a transsexual man is a person whose designated sex at birth
was “female” and has realized he is actually a man.
—MTF/FTM: Male-to-Female or Female-to Male.
— SOURCE: www.transgenderniagara.com
When he was 11 he wanted to join Boy Scouts, I asked him why not Girl Guides. The answer was he didn’t want to learn how to sew; cubs did cooler things. That made sense to me. When the teen years came around he never used a lot of make-up, just simple eyeliner and spent time straightening his long black hair. He had a lovely figure yet never showed himself off in low-cut tops or short skirts. From a mother’s perspective, it was a good thing.
Around the time of high school, I ask him what his thoughts were regarding his future, work, marriage and children. He never had an answer, I was confused. He started to become quiet, sullen, moody and dark. I asked what was wrong. “Nothing” was always what he said. I started to feel scared for him, yet didn’t know how to help, I didn’t know the problem.
One day I saw cuts on his arms. I questioned him; he pushed me away and got angry.
He began coming home drunk and high often or just didn’t come home. I cried a lot and prayed even more. I was losing him and feared the worst. I could not imagine my life without my child and feared I may have to.
After a very long search for help I found what we needed and I began to get my son back. At this time he came out to me that he was a lesbian. For me it was not important who he wanted to be with or who he wanted to love as long as he was happy. I was very proud of him for having the courage to trust I would still love and accept him for being honest with me.
That is extremely hard for some to do and I know many kids that have chosen to commit suicide or lose themselves in drugs and alcohol rather then tell their truth to the ones they love for fear of not being accepted. I saw him become happy again. He dated some girls and although he seemed content I saw caution and uncertainty in his body language, the unspoken stuff parents can see in their kids.
” Then on a sunny summer day four years ago he sat me down and said, “there is something I need to tell you”. My brain went into overdrive and he must have seen the look on my face because the next thing he said was, “I’m just going to say it, I’m transgender.”
I would ask if things were OK, if he was happy, “Everything is good, Mom,” he’d say. I took every opportunity to tell him how much I loved him and to let him know how proud I was of him yet, I could still feel things were off.
Then on a sunny summer day four years ago he sat me down and said, “There is something I need to tell you.” My brain went into overdrive and he must have seen the look on my face because the next thing he said was, “I’m just going to say it, I’m transgender.”
My response was, “What does that mean?” He explained how he looked like a girl but was really a boy inside. He told me about a meeting he had gone to, a transgender support group, and for the first time in his entire 21 years he fit in, completely fit in and felt safe to breathe.
He also said that finally he believed he could have a future, he never saw that before for himself. I asked how far he planned to go with changing and he said, “All the way.” So I asked how that worked and he graphically explained it.
” Sometimes parents get their dreams mixed up with what their children dream about.”
That day I held my child tighter then I think I had ever done before. He explained how happy he was to find out there was surgery to make his outward appearance match how he felt inside. He looked elated and smiled that huge real smile that had been missing from his face for a long time.
That night I cried really hard. I cried because I was confused, then I cried because I thought I was losing my daughter. I would not be helping her pick out a wedding gown, be at the hospital when she had a baby, or see my daughter grow into a woman.
Later at a time of clarity I realized those were my dreams, she never said she wanted any of those things for herself. Sometimes parents get their dreams mixed up with what their children dream about. I did mourn the loss of my dreams for the child I met 25 years ago, and I learned that I was not losing anything of importance. The soul, spirit, and heart of this child are, and always will be the same — there is just different packaging.
From the day that he trusted me with his truth we have deepened our relationship to a level I couldn’t dream possible. He immediately started living as a boy. He started on testosterone and his body had changed shape becoming muscular, his voice lowered. He started using the men’s room and says they are gross. I started using the proper pronouns and explaining to family and friends that I have a son.
We both lost a lot of friends and even some family members and that hurts. We have also found true friendships and that is amazing. So far I have been with him through a hysterectomy and breast removal, which was difficult as some people are very ignorant and narrow-minded and have not treated us well. Sacrifices were made to pay out of pocket for top surgery in another province as he has been waitlisted in Alberta for four years.
It broke my heart every day I thought of him binding his breasts, when I swam at the public pool and knew he could not join me because he looks like a boy but had breasts, that he could not take his shirt off on a hot day like the other boys and had to lie about not being hot.
“The soul, spirit and heart of this child are, and always will be the same, there is just different packaging.”
It broke my heart when I held him as he sobbed that he doesn’t understand why God has done this to him and that he feels like a freak and monster, when he tells me he is afraid he won’t find a partner or friends that will accept or love him. All I can do is tell him that I love him so much and I believe that God has a wonderful plan for him yet to come.
I don’t live in fear every day that someone may find out he is transgender and hurt or murder him as has happened to many transgender people around the world just because they are born a certain way.
I don’t live in fear every day that he may not have friends and be alone.
I don’t live in fear that he may be denied housing or a job for being transgender.
I don’t live in fear that he will be outed going through security at an airport on his way to a vacation.
I don’t live in fear that being born transgender is a crime punishable by death in certain countries.
I don’t live in fear that the laws in Canada do not protect his rights.
I don’t live in fear he may not make it through any of the surgeries that he needs to feel whole.
I don’t live in these fears every day but I think about them often, a mother should not have to.
I know he thinks about everything I have mentioned and so much more.
He did not choose this life. Who would choose all this heartache, fear, loneliness, sadness and frustration? He is just beginning to live at a tender age of 25, who would choose all the years ahead living with those feelings? I am a very proud mother of an amazing young man who lives with integrity, honour, compassion, loyalty, strength of character, kindness and a heart filled with love that God has made transgendered.
Should I have seen something when he was younger? Perhaps I could have seen that I did not know everything and that I had a lot to learn from a child. What I did see was a miracle, a gift that was given to me to care for and love.
What I now see too often is physical, mental and sexual abuse in the trans community. I have seen too much homelessness, despair, fear and death. I have seen too many people that do not have any family support and have been told they not worth the air they breathe. I have heard too many times “I wish my parents would love and accept me.” I have heard too many times that “your son is lucky.” Is he lucky to be loved by his mother? Is he lucky to be accepted as a human being? With deep sorrow I am sad to say he is lucky and he is a minority.
For more information on the topic of transgenders and their parents, please visit www.youthlinkcalgary.com/ and www.pflagcanada.ca