As a facilitator for Trans Youth Education and Support (TYES), an affiliate of PFLAG, I hear and observe incredible transition stories every day: the young child who hated having his picture taken before he transitioned, who immediately afterward was able to look directly into the camera; the six year old who hid in the back of the classroom, head down, failing her academics who soon became a social butterfly and a better student. Nearly every one of the families I have met on this journey—and there have been hundreds—share stories of how much better their child's life has become. So when I picked up the phone to speak with a new mother yesterday, I didn't think I could still be surprised.
As she shared her experiences with me, I sat there stunned, and a chill ran up my spine. I couldn't sleep thinking about her powerful story.
On November 19th, my child threatened suicide. I will remember this day for as long as I live for two reasons: first, it was her birthday and second, it was the day our lives changed for the better.
I was heartbroken as I sat there listening to my child say, “If you knew what I knew, you would hate me and know why I have to die. I am a freak,” while we sat in the crisis center of the inpatient mental facility and waited for a room.
There had been suspicion in my mind for a while so I finally asked, “Is it that you identify as a girl?”
She replied, “Yes” in between tears to which I replied, “Well, ok, that is not a big deal and we love you no matter what.”
Her father, who had grown up in a fundamental religious environment, even hugged her and told her that he would love her no matter what. He later told me that he felt a sudden peace come over him and knew it was all going to be ok.
My daughter stayed in the hospital for a week, but we saw the immediate changes.
It has been over a month since that day but our child has gone from angry, self-medicating, self-harming, and out of control to a joy to be around. We now see her smiles that were gone for so many years and for that I will always be grateful.
|Illustration by John Krause|
I'm grateful for the courage this mother possessed when she said "yes" to my request to share wide her experiences with her transgender daughter. It takes a lot of courage to do that when your family is in the midst of the turmoil that comes with a sudden transition.
Jazz and her family gave me the insight and compassion I needed to truly see and accept my child for the first time. Knowing we are not alone gives us the courage to do what we know is right for our child, even in the face of certain opposition. Those who oppose us don't know our children and can't possibly understand how deep most of us must reach within ourselves to stand for our children and set them free.
Together our stories are making the world safer for all our children.