|Proud owner of a Learner's Permit.|
My son just had his 16th birthday and time seems to be flying by.
Life has been steadily moving along for our family. We have been attempting this high school thing; I complain about his grades, he complains that I complain about his grades. He is getting his permit to drive yet I still have to remind him to take the garbage out (he tells me he doesn’t want to but still does it). It all boils down to the regular life of a parent and teenager, nothing out of the ordinary.
It's so ordinary, I sometimes don’t even think about the fact that he's transgender.
To me he looks and acts and even smells like a teenage boy. In my mind, there is no "transgender" in front of "teenage boy". But then something will happen - it can be such a small thing - and I remember that he is transgender.
The other day my husband and I were cleaning out the garage. My husband had tons of boxes that he had not gone through when he changed jobs years ago. I was pulling out some papers and a picture of our son tumbled out from between the piles. He was about two years old. Right before toddlers start to speak clearly and tell us who they really are. He was dressed in feminine clothes and had long curly hair. It stopped me in my tracks.
A smiling little girl looked up at me triggering feelings I hadn't had in some time. It took me a minute to remember and then I did: this is my son. It is so hard to explain how I was feeling at that moment. I stood there in the damn garage like I was frozen in time. My son transitioned over five years ago. I am on-board with his decision and never once wavered since he started. But in that moment, I felt a tremendous sense of loss. It didn't last long because I quickly got angry at myself for feeling loss. I mean I haven’t lost my child (and bless those parents who have, they are so courageous). Nope, mine was right there, helping his dad move stuff into the trash pile. And yet I still had this deep sense of loss. I very quickly pushed all my feelings away because I didn’t really didn’t know how to deal with them.
Let's be honest, I didn't even know what all my feelings were at that moment.
A few days later at our support group, we were talking about how to deal with all the old Christmas decorations with photos of our kids before they transitioned. Do you put them out? Is your child bothered by them? Do parents get a say? This discussion made me think about that moment in the garage and I realized that there are not even words to describe how I was feeling. And I also realized I wasn't alone - the people in this room were struggling with the same mix of feelings all while they were desperately working to honor the people their children has become.
What the parents go through when a child is transgender is not often discussed.
We don't have the language for the feelings that surround what happens to us when our child's gender doesn't match their bodies. It doesn't feel right to feel like we have lost a child, but we have had to lose those expectations of our child’s life. It suddenly crumbles before our eyes. It’s a strange place to be. Talking with the other parents, we still could not come up with the words to describe my emotions. Our group is wonderful, friendly and even without resolution, it was good to come together to support one another.
And then he forgets to take out the garbage.
I remember that he is my teenage son. He has always been my son - since the minute he was born - we just didn’t know it yet. After group, we came home to find our son and his friends playing video games and eating junk food. Yelling and laughing at each other over some World of Warcraft victory. Our home was completely trashed with food and garbage everywhere.
I realized at that moment while I might not ever be able to find the right words for what I feel, it’s okay to feel it. It doesn't matter if its sadness or happiness, or something completely different, it’s enough to just know that they are there. The feelings are mine and part of the journey. Yes, my son is transgender. But for me, he's just a teen. I am so grateful that he is happy and healthy that I can accept my feelings because it's all part of the package. It's how we love our kids.