My 15-year-old son started feeling nauseous and "a bit off" a couple of weeks ago. He skipped dinner and headed to bed early, but the next morning he still wasn't himself. The nausea had lifted but it was replaced with sweats and hot flashes.
It couldn't have been something he ate because we'd all been eating the same food, and it would be bizarre if he'd caught anything because my house has been on a pretty strict lockdown for weeks, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was when we started googling the symptoms that the penny dropped: my son was going through menopause.
A week or so earlier, we'd attended our local gender clinic, where my son has been a patient for the past couple of years. Born a girl but knowing from a young age that inside he definitely wasn't a girl, he's been gradually transitioning to the gender he's clearly identified with since he was 12-years-old.
Children younger than 16 aren't legally able to start medically transitioning, but they can take puberty blockers – drugs that temporarily stop puberty in its tracks. After years of living as a boy, my son was ready to take this step, until he can start taking testosterone when he turns 16.
The drug is administered via a needle that looks big enough to sedate a horse, and it was watching my usually needle-phobic son calmly accepting his first injection a few weeks ago with barely a wince that gave me a new appreciation for how deeply he is ready for his transition to progress. 8
For the first week, he didn't feel any different. Once we remembered to go back and read the literature, we realised that was the time his body was adjusting to the drug Lucrin, which inhibits the body's ability to make oestrogen.
Once that oestrogen tide goes out, that's when a short and sharp menopause can hit. Apart from that, the only side effect is potential bone brittleness from a loss of calcium, so we're being vigilant about ensuring he's keeping up his vitamins.
For my son, those menopausal symptoms lasted only about a week. He continued to feel physically a bit off, but emotionally he was elated because he knew that the change he's been waiting for was finally occurring.
I see a lot of debate in the public domain about whether kids should have all of these choices about their gender, and what it's doing to them, but I can only comment on my own child and his experience. Where he was once depressed, disengaged and – as doctors put it – it "ambivalent about living", he is now happy, comfortable in his own skin, and optimistic about his future.
Why would anyone want to deny him that?
As a parent, it's been a massive adjustment from having a pony-loving, curly-haired daughter to the masculine young man lives in my house and towers over me. But what I know about parenting is that I'm just the custodian to these children living in my home. I'm here to love them and do what I can to help them to grow into whoever they know themselves to be.
Because what the world needs is more people who are truly comfortable being themselves – and who accept and celebrate others for doing the same.
Now that he's been through those symptoms once, my son won't have to endure them again. He'll have quarterly injections that will top up the puberty blockers until he's old enough to start on testosterone – then that's when the real changes will start to take place.
We can't wait.