How I explained to my kids that their big sister was now their big brother

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

Of all the questions that people ask me since my teenage daughter transitioned from being a girl to a boy and became my teenage son, the most common one is: how did the other kids take it?

My son is the eldest of three kids. He's 15, and he has a younger brother, aged 9, and a sister, aged 7.

He was 12 when my son first told me he didn't feel like a girl. It wasn't something I saw coming, or had always known. He had been a pretty typical little girl up until then.

His transition was a gradual one. First, he started wearing more boys' clothes, and then he got a short back and sides haircut. But at this stage he was still going by his original name and using female pronouns.

Then my son started transitioning with his friends, and he asked if he could be called his male name at school. All of this happened without him ever asking me if I would use his male name, or treat him as male.

I was happy to be led by my son, so I spoke to the school and found they were incredibly supportive and understanding. My son could be known as his male name, and have male pronouns used, but he could keep his original name in official school records. This suited me at the time, because I was still trying to figure out whether this was something that would stick, or just a phase.

But eventually, I could see my son was happier and better adjusted at school, and I realised that this was no phase. The person I had thought of as my daughter really was a boy on the inside. Even at this point, he hadn't asked anything of me, but I started to think about how I could support him at home.

I never hid what was going on from my younger children – how on earth could I, anyway? – so one day I remember driving them home from school while my eldest was at a friend's place, and I told them I was thinking about calling their sister by her male name.

I told them that I thought their sister felt more like a boy, and that she would probably appreciate it if I called her by her male name and said 'he' and 'his' instead of 'she' and 'her'.

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There was no pressure for them to do it too, I said, but just that I thought it would be nice for me to do it. I told them they could wait to see how it felt, or they could talk to me any time about how they felt about the situation or if they had any questions.

The kids thought it was all great fun and insisted they'd like to join me in the change, and so it was decided from that day that we would adopt my son's true identity at home. My son was thrilled.

There have been slip-ups and accidental use of 'she' and 'her' from time to time, because we're all human. But it's been mostly a seamless transition.

I know it's meant the world to my son. He feels accepted and acknowledged, and my younger kids never for a moment questioned why their sister wanted to be a boy. It's been the most natural progression in the world for them.

I feel lucky that my children are growing up in a world where you can be accepted for who you are – and that they have seen up-close an example of someone owning that and thriving as a result. And one day they'll understand that they contributed with their unquestioning love and support for their big brother.

For them, nothing has changed. My son has always been someone they look up to, horse around with, and nag after school to play with them. What he's called, or how he identifies is the last thing on their minds. They just think he's fun.

 It's an attitude I'd love to see reflected in the rest of the world too, and perhaps my children will lead the way.

The author has chosen to remain anonymous to protect her children's privacy.