Updated: Oct 17, 2021
Born and raised in the Latter Day Saint (Mormon) faith, and never knowing anyone from the LGBTQ community closely, I feel that we have come a LONG way on our journey…sometimes at WARP speed!
We became aware our life was not on the trajectory we had imagined during the summer of 2016. We had scheduled our only kiddo for Scout Camp, Speech Camp, Church Young Men’s High Adventure Camp and Youth (EFY) Camp, thinking that it would be a great summer! Hindsight is 20/20. Scout Camp was a bazillion degrees in the Texas sun and Speech Camp was LONG hard days of working from 6am-11pm 16 days straight. High Adventure involved a rafting trip on a river with no water, camping with no supplies, a car accident with a deer and a strict refusal to EVER DO THAT AGAIN. And EFY was equally not fun for our kid. My then 14 year old darling, assigned male at birth child, returned home to let me know that the only person they had a crush on at EFY was a boy. At that time they said they thought they were bisexual and wanted to be a drag queen when they grew up. I responded well, in the moment – unconditional love and hugs and ‘we will get through this’. BUT, on the inside I was terrified for them and spent many nights awake reading very unhelpful internet articles and pleading with the Lord for guidance. I finally realized that my choice was to love (verb) or not… which for me wasn’t really a choice. I had to love. I told my baby that I was with them 1000% and would buy their first pair of heels. However, I also cried and shared with them how afraid I was for their safety and that identifying with a minority group could make them the target of hate crimes – which scared me to death!
Just a month later, my kiddo said they had done more research and were not bisexual but pansexual. O….K…. I didn’t know what that meant. My child shared, “It just means I could be into any person regardless of their sexual or gender identity.” SWEET! That was not a biggie for me…
Meanwhile, I struggled with the shattered dreams of no Eagle Scout nor a future Daughter-in-Law, but dedicated myself to learning more about LGBTQ+ stories through blogs, books, novels and even asking my co-workers about their coming out stories. Aspirations of being a Drag Queen faded as my kiddo decided they preferred they/them pronouns. As an English teacher, the plural pronouns was SO HARD for me!!! I just kept messing them up and worried I would make my kiddo feel unsupported because I couldn’t consistently get them right.
They started struggling with self-harm and disordered eating. My now high school student got into a fairly dysfunctional relationship with a trans guy from school. Due to the boyfriend’s unsupportive parents, and feeling like I didn’t approve of him, the boyfriend fueled the discontent my kiddo felt and encouraged them to isolate from friends and family. I was devastated! I loved my kiddo no matter what. It had always been “us against the world” and now I was the bad guy more often than not.
During this time, my tears flowed frequently. I couldn’t sit through a church meeting knowing there was no place for my kiddo. I cried through so many services I just finally quit going. It seemed like I would make monumental efforts to attend, and someone would stand and share concerns that their grown children didn’t keep the Sabbath Day holy in the way they thought appropriate, or preach about God’s perfect plan for all of His children.
I have an extremely strong testimony of my Father in Heaven. I know he knows me personally and loves me without condition. I love my Savior and am trying to be like him in all things. I was always taught that you do your very best – and he will make up the rest. In my heart I know that the atonement is sufficient for all of my shortcomings and that as long as I can stand before Him in the end and say, “I did the best I could” it will be enough. As I quit attending church regularly, my “community” faded away… I think people were afraid of saying the wrong thing, so they didn’t say anything at all. This just made me look at the shallowness of my hallway relationships at church and reach out to “real friends” more.
November of 2017, my kiddo told me she was transgender and was a girl. This actually didn’t shock me at all – or even register too big. I kind of assumed it was a phase because of the boyfriend, but she had been prepping me over time so it wasn’t hard to hear. Honestly, I heard it but didn’t even register. I didn’t realize until about two years later that it had been her coming out moment! She didn’t feel the need to “keep it a secret” and said we could tell anyone we wanted – which, at the time, was no one!
The next month, we traveled to spend Christmas with family. I decided that my family members were the realest friends I had and I should “prep” them so that our now daughter could come out to them. The reaction from my in-laws was textbook awesome and they were SO compassionate and supportive. I went for a ride with two of my siblings and told them and they also were amazing. They expressed concern for my wellbeing but loved my kiddo unconditionally. They didn’t know anything about transgender people, but loved my daughter enough that it didn’t even matter.
Seems like a dream come true – but not quite. The hardest part came later that afternoon with our family gathering of about 20 (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc). One family member, who didn’t know about my kiddo yet, because time hadn’t allowed, started talking about the “weird” cashier at the local grocery store and how they were so uncomfortable because they don’t know if “it” was a He or She. The conversation went on and on in the most horribly transphobic fashion regardless of how many times I tried to subtly steer it in a more positive way. I hadn’t yet learned to breath fire and was more worried that my kiddo had left the room when the conversation started, than I was about teaching those making the terrible remarks how damaging they were. To this day, my child prefers to not be with this family member because she feels she saw their true colors before they knew she was transgender. It didn’t matter that I had tried to stand up for trans people – my daughter was crying and angry (at me, because she could) for not being a strong enough ally for the checker who was being persecuted behind their back. My fire had been lit and I vowed never to allow that in my presence from anyone.
Two months later, I learned my daughter’s chosen name, but not because she told me. A friend told me they read it on Instagram. I denied it. I sobbed. It was the worst feeling because I realized I wasn’t part of the circle of people even trusted to know my daughter’s name because I was a weak ally and she was pulling away from me. Rather than confront it head-on I decided to be patient until after my best friend had visited and counseled me. Over the weekend, we went to the circus with my daughter and her boyfriend. After stopping at Starbucks, I could not avoid the conversation about the new name any longer… it was written on her cup in plain sight! I was gutted. I wasn’t in the know about my own daughter who I loved SO MUCH. We had a good conversation AFTER the initial disappointment and tears.
She had been wearing make-up and growing her hair out, but wanted pierced ears. It took us a while because that was “permanent” and we had agreed not to make any permanent changes until she was 18. That seemed like such a big deal then….and is actually so little. We began purchasing new clothes but I wasn’t allowed to be part of that, either. I still felt like public enemy #1 in her eyes, so her Dad took her shopping. When I was allowed to go, I could be the runner to and from the dressing room, but not weigh in on the clothes or see her try them on…that was all Dad.
Saturday morning, April 2018, my daughter came into my bedroom sobbing. She crawled in bed with me and confessed what no mother ever wants to hear. She tried to kill herself – but couldn’t complete. Thank GOD! She realized that her dog wouldn’t understand why she wasn’t around anymore and so her compassionate animal-loving heart wouldn’t allow herself to take her own life. I now loved that dog. I was helpless.
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to react. I was thrilled she was unsuccessful! I was terrified of what almost happened! I felt powerless to console her! I had no idea what my next step should be! I was touched that even though I was the “enemy”, she trusted me with this personal pain. I wanted to take away all of her anguish. I did not know how. I was intimidated by what I didn’t know and panicked I would lose her. She slept in my bed with me for the next two weeks because I was afraid. I spoke to each of her teachers to make sure she never left the classroom or was alone. I found her a counselor. I found her a psychiatrist. Things improved…VERY SLOWLY.
Despite our purchase of new clothing – we had failed to buy new underwear. She needed panties – not boxer briefs. We got them. I remember the first time I did her laundry and folded panties. I had to fake a headache and lock myself in my room and cry. They were just panties. I was just folding laundry. Somehow they made everything so real… so feminine… so much a different child…but the same. People talk about grieving the loss of their dreams for their child. I had already done that, so what was this? I think it was a combination of my grieving the little boy I gave birth to and the realization that I had so much fear for her – of hate crimes and violence. I had a very long cry… I was emotionally raw for a few days… and then I was done. I loved my daughter. I found ways to reconnect. I did her nails, and her hair. I was 1000% on board.
That fall, she was using the new name with everyone and asked all of her teachers to call her Quinn. She presented exclusively female. She broke up with the toxic boyfriend. One day, I was approached by the yearbook teacher and asked how they should list her in the yearbook. I said I thought she would prefer to be called Quinn – but I would confirm. I casually mentioned it to Quinn and asked what she wanted. She sat up from lounging gloomily on the couch and with a look of awe and wonderment asked if I really would allow her to be listed as Quinn.
You know those moments where it feels like the clouds clear, the heavens shine down radiant heavenly beams, and the angels are singing because there is PURE JOY on your child’s face? This was that moment for us! After all of the pain and turmoil and hurt, this was our moment. It was the look on your child’s face the first time they see fireworks explode in the night sky, or on Christmas morning when piles of presents have appeared, or the magical look of true love. I would never be Public Enemy #1 again, and she would be Quinn forever.
Yes, she could be listed as Quinn and once again – it was us against the world.
We fought the fight against dysphoria together. I cried with her when she didn’t recognize her own reflection as herself. I never complained when she would shower in the dark or run the steamy shower for way too long so she couldn’t see her reflection in the mirror. I waxed her eyebrows, upper lip, and armpits. I helped her get eyelash extensions and learn to straighten her hair. I still try hard to understand why sleeping in jeans is emotionally the safest, even though I don’t “get it”. After many ups and downs, in April of 2019, after she decided to graduate a year early, we decided to look into hormone options. We found a terrific doctor who really worked to educate us and help us make the best decisions. The day she got her first prescription for testosterone blockers and estrogen shots – we celebrated! It was the best day of her life up to that point!!!
Despite numerous better options financially, she chose to attend college in Oregon as she felt safest in that liberal environment. She fits in so well. There are other trans kids like her there to support her, including her RA. She is accepted without condition and really allowed to be herself. It was a HARD first semester learning to adult and overcoming homesickness. I had to make one emergency trip out there to get her hugs, a happy lamp and into a therapist’s office.
This semester is SO MUCH BETTER. She legally changed her name and gender marker the day after her 18th birthday. She is looking into bottom surgery either this summer or next. While she still stresses about homework and finances as everyone does, she has a life plan and is following it, and has grown from every hard experience from the past. She still deals with mental illness and dysphoria, but is thriving in spite of that.
I could have NEVER imagined 5 years ago where we would be today. The divine tutoring the Lord provided will always be a tender mercy, although we have left ‘the church’. Our WARP speed journey has taken us to a place of greater love and understanding. I still fear for how the ignorant may treat my daughter, but I am happy. Her Dad is happy. We love our kiddo 1,000,000,000% and can’t wait to see where the future takes her!