Updated: Aug 17, 2021
By Jill Reeder
It all started when our youngest child was in sixth grade. We received a phone call from the school wanting to discuss a “concern”. Apparently our child was holding hands with her best friend and hugging her at school. I kept waiting to hear what the issue was. Holding hands and hugging your best friend seems like pretty standard pre-teen stuff to me. Rumors were circulating that our daughter had a crush on a girl. I still kept wondering what the trouble was because I’ve always been pretty open-minded. It seemed another concerned parent had alerted the school about their concerns regarding our child.
My husband and I spoke with our child later that evening and asked if it was true that she liked girls. She said “yes” and that she did have a crush on her best friend. I was a little shocked, because I’d had no idea and didn’t see that coming – but still, it wasn’t a big deal. My husband and I hugged our child and told her that we loved her and that there wasn’t a problem in holding hands and hugging your best friend whether you had a crush on them or not. We also discovered that the other child’s parents weren’t concerned, either.
We told our child that we loved her no matter what and accepted her for who she was. She seemed so relieved and happy. She then told us she was pansexual. I had to look that up because I had never heard that word before.
Over the next few months, I started noticing that something else seemed to be going on – something was bothering our child. I then began noticing little hints on Instagram suggesting that our daughter actually felt like a boy. Eventually, it came out that our child was not a lesbian/pansexual, but was transmasculine. Our child was transgender and identified as male. For some reason, this was much harder for us to accept and to grasp. To be honest, we truly struggled with it. There were so many tears and much conflict in my heart. I just didn’t know what to do with this news. We felt like we were “losing our daughter” – our baby girl. I had SO many questions: Had “she” been sexually abused? Was this just peer pressure? Was this just an influence from media, music, TV? All of this confusion sadly created a lot of conflict in our relationship with our child.
One day I came across something a friend shared on Facebook about “Mama Dragons”. It was a video and it was amazing and beautiful and JUST what I needed to find at that point in time. Not only was the video itself especially helpful, but I discovered there was a whole community of moms like me with a similar background who were supporting their LGBTQ kids! I ended up experiencing a shift in perspective that brought peace and happiness back into my heart and made a HUGE difference in my relationship with our child. I was so excited to join Mama Dragons and was welcomed by the other Mamas with wide open arms – or, I should say “wings.”
My husband and I met so many amazing parents and youth in the community and it was an awesome and uplifting experience. We were not alone! I learned so much from others’ experiences and insights as I attended breakfasts, lunches and other gatherings with people going through similar things. We showed up at Pride where I got to give hugs at the Mama Dragons and Mormons Building Bridges booths. That was such a powerfully positive experience with lots of happy tears! We also attended Affirmation and started hanging out at the Encircle House where our child found friends and began to change for the positive and just…glow. I learned not only from the other parents, but from LGBTQIA people, as well. I watched podcasts featuring four incredible LDS transgender individuals who I absolutely fell in love with! It was terrific meeting them in person and embracing them and I am thrilled to now call them my friends.
I even started a blog to document our family’s journey. It documents our struggles and our progress from the beginning. We were still fairly new to everything and learning as we went. I had joined supportive groups and was learning and growing; however, I was worried I might outgrow my husband and be further in progress than him and that it would strain our relationship. This can be a worry for many.
One day, after returning from a work related business trip, my husband seemed like a changed man. I don’t know what exactly happened or changed for him, but he said, “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it 100%!” And right then and there he started using male pronouns, regarding our child. I about fell over! Once he started using male pronouns, it was that much easier for the rest of us to follow suit. We could see how happy this made our child, who we now called our son.
At first our son shortened his birth name to be less feminine. Then one day he requested that we call him a more masculine name. He wanted to go by Bradley, which happens to be what we would have named him if we had known he was male at birth. What a profound and proud Mama moment. Such a sweet and thoughtful gesture (lucky kid already had a male middle name).
School (7th grade) became a bit of a struggle, socially and academically; it was difficult for him to be at school with staff and students who had formally known him as female. The following school year we made the decision to do online school. It seemed helpful during his transition to have that time away. In 9th grade he went back to public school, presenting as male with his new preferred name and pronouns. I had made sure to talk with the school beforehand so they were on board and could help it be a smooth transition for Bradley. I was so relieved with how well the school handled everything.
In May of 2019, Bradley started testosterone, which made him so happy. There’s definitely a noticeable change, both physically and emotionally. Not only had Bradley wanted to start receiving testosterone, but his therapist had highly recommended it. Through all of this, family and friends have been pretty great at accepting Brad for who he is and at remembering to use the correct name and pronouns with him. This makes a BIG difference. Occasionally, there are slip-ups here and there, but as his family we just try and gently correct them.
Recently, we had family photos taken, after not having done so for 16 years. In the last ones taken, Brad was only three months old. For a theme this time around, my husband suggested we all wear a color of the rainbow – Pride colors, because this journey has brought our family closer together. What a beautiful statement! I’m so pleased and proud at how far we’ve all come, especially my husband.
Looking back, we never truly lost anything in regards to our child’s identity. We didn’t lose our daughter – we found our son. He is the same person he always was, only better now that he is accepted and loved as his true identity. Unconditional love is a powerful thing. Letting go of expectations brought us peace. I’m so thankful for finding Mama Dragons.