Beauty is presented to us in the strangest of ways. When my child was placed into my arms I was covered in every bodily fluid possible, torn up and hemorrhaging. Yet it was still the most beautiful moment of my life.
The very first words I heard during that amazing and life-changing time was, "It's a boy." It had been nine months of guessing genders and also the first thing everyone wanted to know. Even birth texts mimic this sentiment: "Our baby boy came into the world at 6:20pm …" But nothing in this life is fixed. Five years later, my transgender daughter officially "came out" to the world in the most special and beautiful way.
Here's what I've learnt on this journey.
It's a hard path, but the right one
"Mum, I want you to call me Georgia. I'm a girl and Owen's sister," my child said to me casually on a Saturday morning over breakfast with my other son. I tried to reply, but the words didn't come out. Why was I shocked? This child had been telling me she is a girl since she could talk. That meant I had years of preparation for this moment.
It was easier for everyone when she was in the safety of daycare with its gender-neutral toilets. She could also wear what she wanted. But since starting school, her happy-go-lucky disposition turned dark. Her distress at being forced into a male identity had become so bad she would cower in the corner, crying before school while I frantically searched for where she had hidden the boys' uniform.
Before meeting with the school I attended a support group for parents of transgender and gender diverse children at the Gender Centre funded by NSW Health. Fourteen of us swapped stories. I cried when I told mine – not out of shame or guilt but from fear and worry for my child's wellbeing. There were mothers literally clutching their pearls, sitting next to parents with purple hair or wearing tracksuit pants.
With parents from literally every corner of Sydney coming together there was a shared common thread — accepting their child is transgender was painful but once they did the substance abuse, bouts of depression and self-harm stopped. Comments such as: "She's smiling again", "He actually invites friends over" and "She asked me to join her in her extra-curricular activities" were a poignant and heart-wrenching insight into my own child's future.
After that, we started meeting with the school and Gender Centre counsellor to plan my child's transition
Parents have no control over their child's gender identification
At two-years-old, my daughter wanted to play with my jewellery and was reaching for anything pink. She was drawn to dolls and characters like Jessie from Toy Story and Merida from Brave. A year later, when she first asked me to call her a girl, I said I would.
It wasn't easy for a variety of reasons. Friends and family said I was encouraging her and had to be stricter. I was told to stop the ballet lessons and the tutus, but I couldn't bring myself to take away these innocuous garments and activities that brought her so much joy.
One person even said, "Well, you're very girly yourself, Emma" – making me question the consequences of my own femininity. Was I to blame? Was my hair too long? Did I wear too much make-up and too many dresses? The Gender Centre made me understand that no one can force a child to want to be a particular gender. It didn't matter how girly I was. It turns out science could back this up too.
As it turns out the brain structure of males and females do vary. According to a Harvard University article Between the (Gender) Lines: the Science of Transgender Identity two separate studies found that transgender brains were more similar to their identifying gender than their assigned gender. Also, the majority of scientists agree that our gender identity is formed before we are even born.
I wish I could be that parent in the park mindlessly scrolling on Facebook but instead I'm on constant vigilance, ready to intercept every push, every slur and every rejection. It's exhausting watching my child be subjected to intolerance and rude comments. No one would choose this life for themselves or their child.
Focus on the allies because love is everywhere
When someone calls my daughter by her "girl" name or uses a girl pronoun her eyes sparkle like they used to when she was a toddler twirling around in a hand-me-down tutu. It's painful when people purposely won't do this. All you can do is set boundaries and remind them. All sorts of people in my life who I assumed wouldn't be on board with this have come around after I have set boundaries.
When all this first happened at school all I wanted to do was hide my daughter and myself away from everyone. However, I forced myself to reach out to parents and teachers and have found incredible overwhelming support.
If our society can just open our minds and hearts to transgender people we are going to see so much more beauty in this world. It's up to all of us to change the narrative for the transgender community.
While this might sound like a coming out story, it's actually a love story about the immense pride I have for my daughter and who she is.
Of course, all love stories have their challenges but with my allies and all the supportive people who surround us, together we can overcome these challenges and create a loving and beautiful space for my child to blossom into the incredible person I know she will become.
For more information on gender and help if you need it please visit https://gendercentre.org.au/