How I'm transitioning along with my transgender child

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

My son is 14-years-old, and up until recently he was my daughter. It's a strange transition to get used to – from the moment my midwife held her up and said, "It's a girl" I have thought of this child of mine as a girl.

At that point it was simply a matter of having a vagina, and no further thought was put into it.

But now I'm reminding myself to say "he" when I have always said "she" and to say "son" when I used to say "daughter".

I have always considered myself a pretty open-minded sort of person, and I raised my daughter without the generic "girly" pink dresses, frills and bows. I gave her as many trucks as dolls to play with, and yet somehow, she came around to loving princesses, fairies and Dora the Explorer anyway.

My daughter grew into a girl's girl, with long blonde ringlets, a large collection of stuffed toys and a wardrobe positively heaving with pink and purple frocks.

Then when she was about 12, things started to change. Along with a hefty serving of anxiety and depression serious enough to see her hospitalised for a time, this daughter of mine told me at first that she thought she was gender non-binary (being neither male nor female), and then a few months later told me she thought she was a boy.

At first, I resisted her decision – not because I didn't want my daughter to be transgender, but because I didn't believe she actually was. This child who has always embraced the feminine throughout her life so far was suddenly proclaiming to be a boy and I found it confusing and difficult to grasp. I thought perhaps it was a symptom of the rejection of herself she was going through with her depression.

But we are lucky enough to have a gender clinic in our city, so I took my daughter along to speak to their counsellors and find support. My child wasn't the only one who received support though, and the counsellors there helped me to understand my role as this child's parent, helping her through this tough time.

I was still baffled by my child's non-traditional history when it came to transitioning though. All of the support materials for parents contained case studies with parents saying things like "we always knew our child was different", or "our daughter has told us she's a boy since the age of three".

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That wasn't my child - she didn't fit into the traditional transgender mould. I think that point of difference meant it took me longer to understand that this was real.

But it has become real. My son now wears boys' clothes most of the time, straps his breasts down using a binder (a garment designed to flatten your chest), and goes by a boys' name at school. It's what we call "social transitioning" – so living as a boy without any of the permanent physical changes such as hormone treatments and surgery.

That's something he can decide on himself when he's older.

I always thought that, however my children identified, I'd be ready to embrace them with nothing but warmth and positivity. I never expected to be confused and to have doubts. But I still do.

What I've realised though, with the help of counsellors at the gender clinic, is that I can have doubts and still be supportive and love my child. It doesn't cost me anything to change the gender pronouns I'm using with my son, and to show him that I love him no matter what. In a world that has a long way to go in accepting transgender people, I need to be that soft place to fall at the end of the day.

My son may change his mind some day, and revert back to being a girl. But he may not, and that's okay too. Either way, he is still the clever, compassionate, quirky and creative kid he's always been. My job is not to judge or doubt, it's just to love him – and that's always been the easiest thing in the world.