I'll keep writing about my transgender son until I stop receiving hate mail

Carolyn with her son.
Carolyn with her son. Photo: Supplied

Life can be tough sometimes. Harder still when you're a teenager finding your way from childhood into adulthood. 

Add being transgender to that list and the world can be a downright hostile.

My 16-year old trans son says he is attacked in some way every single day. Whether that's a comment at school or a slur hurled online. Can you imagine that? 

Every single day.

And then try to remember what it was like when you were a teenager, and you were self-conscious about every little thing. 

That's the world my son inhabits, yet in the face of that, he's still a fun, smart, kind person, who generally sees the best in others and does well at school. I'm incredibly proud of the young man he's become.

I've been writing about parenting for about 10 years now, and when my son first began transitioning, it seemed like a natural progression to write about that as well (with his permission, of course). 

At first, I wrote articles about his transition because I wanted to share our journey – the challenges and the highlights – and connect with other parents of trans kids, to show them they weren't alone.

And to feel less alone, myself.

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I knew there would be blowback, of course. I've inhabited the online world for long enough to experience my share of trolls. And all journalists know you never read the social media comments.

But what surprised me was the lengths some people were prepared to go to, to track me down, to find out how to get in touch with me to pass on their death threats, rape threats, threats of general violence, and to call both me and my son all manner of names that I won't offer the thrill of repeating here.

Plus, I also got the "concern" messages, offering a slug of judgement wrapped delicately in a message of apparent worry about my son's physical health, or his lack of opportunity to grow up with a better parent.

I'm a little unclear as to the motivation of these messages. I assume the authors don't think they're going to change anything about the way I'm supporting my son and his transition (which is going really well, by the way). Perhaps they want me to feel some sense of shame, which I don't, and never will. 

But what these messages do achieve is to remind me of the hostile world my son continues to inhabit every day. They remind me that although we are surrounded in our day-to-day lives by wonderful people who love and enjoy my son for the great individual he is, there are also people out there who can be disgusting, offensive – and potentially dangerous.

And that's why you're reading this article today. And why I will continue to write articles like this. 

I have the benefit of having a voice and a platform, and I will continue to use that to inform, educate and normalise the outrageous idea that trans people are people too.

Think about how much you love your child, and then think about what you would do to protect them. That's me, every time I write one of these articles. 

And every time someone takes the time to find me and send me vile or "concerned" messages, it reinforces that my work is still not done. 

So, thank you to all the people who have been in touch – for your bizarre anger, for your faux health concerns, and for your judgements. You keep me alert and informed about the challenges my son is facing. 

And you inspire me to keep writing, and providing myself as cannon fodder, for as long as it takes. Because every time you see an article talking about trans issues, the issue is a little bit more normalised, and trans people become a bit less shocking. 

Wouldn't you do the same for your kids?