Last May, I had a conversation with my 30 year old child (via text) that I never expected. It happened on May 9th, 2018, at 4:37pm. My academically gifted, funny, musically talented, people-pleasing, socially adept offspring told me she was transgender. As in, she had a female brain in a physically male body that didn’t match. And she didn’t want to live that way anymore; she wanted to transition to her true self.
I wish I could say that I fully embraced her plan during that initial revelation, but that’s not really the truth. I felt sick to my stomach. Panic-stricken. Scared. Overwhelmed. I didn’t think it was possible to take a breath. Yet I knew…almost instinctively…that my response could alter our relationship forever. So I took a deep breath (yes, it WAS possible, after all). And I texted back three statements in rapid succession:
Thank you for confiding in me. I love you unconditionally. I’ll always support you in your decisions.
Even through text, her relief was palpable. She quickly texted back:
I’m sure you have questions. I tried to think of the ones you would have. I made a list. I wrote responses, and I’ll send them to you. After you read them, you can ask me whatever you want.
That day was the beginning of Steph’s transition to becoming my daughter to the outside world. But that was the beginning of my own transition, as well. I asked myself endless questions. As a single parent of an only child, we had a very close relationship. I thought I knew my kid better than anyone else in the entire world. Why didn’t I see any signs? My kid had had numerous romantic partners throughout the years, and none caused me any sense of concern. My kid was athletic, played school sports, and got along well with teammates. Why did I not see this coming? I spent weeks analyzing life lived up until that moment. I was looking for answers. I NEEDED answers and reasons as to why we were in a scary place that I didn’t understand. I desperately needed things to make sense, and they didn’t. I felt lost. I felt alone. I was afraid to share the news with anyone. I was afraid of judgment, and rejection. How could I expect anyone else to understand when even I didn’t?
I found a therapist. My transition continued. The therapist helped to steady me. She assisted me through the grief of “losing” my son, while also helping me anticipate joy in the “birth” of my daughter. She mentioned support groups, and I found some local ones (PFLAG and Trans Spectrum of Arizona). I pushed past my fear, and walked into meetings, on my own, not knowing what to expect. What I found were people of all ages who were coming to group meetings to find understanding and acceptance. I listened to their stories and asked questions. I gave many of them hugs, which reduced some to tears as they explained to me that their own parents were not accepting. I also found other parents at those meetings. Some were trying to come to terms with this new knowledge about their children, while others were there to provide support and guidance to us as we learned how to become allies and glean from their experiences.
My workplace hosted a meeting put on by a newly-formed social group made up of employees who either identified as LGBTQ, or were allies of those who did. The previous year, when the group was announced, I remember thinking that work wasn’t the place for such a group. Now, my transitional mindset changed that opinion, and I jumped at the chance to attend. I listened, spellbound, as Wendy Williams Montgomery and her entire family talked about their reactions to her eldest child coming out as gay, and how their world changed and their hearts opened to more love than they ever imagined as they accepted him for who he really was. I cried as they talked about the high suicide rates for our LGBTQ children, and knew I would enroll in the suicide prevention training they were discussing.
Afterwards, Wendy spoke to me privately about an online support group (Mama Dragons on Facebook) where I could connect with other moms in a supportive environment. When I was admitted into the group, my transition accelerated. For hours, days, weeks, and months, I devoured the information I found in every post. I learned the language that helped me talk to my daughter with respect and love. I learned I was NOT alone. And most importantly, I learned that the LGBTQ community is absolutely overflowing with unconditional love.
Looking at things now (a little more than a year into this journey), I find myself in a very different place than I was on May 9th of last year. Steph and I have grown even closer as we progress through our transitions. We’ve bonded over new experiences – shopping and pedicures, hormone therapy and fertility preservation doctors. She’s taught me so much about honesty and being true to one’s self. She is one of the bravest, strongest women I know, and I have connected with so many others as a result of this transition as well! The connections, the support, the love, and the hugs prove over and over to my heart that love is love. We are ALL in transition. Every. Single. Day. As we each embrace and celebrate our journey, we encourage others in the world to do the same. I never imagined that I would be such a proud supporter of the LGBTQ community. And now, I simply can’t imagine the emptiness of my life if I was anything else.