When "J" was ready to come out, her parents wrote a very loving and boundary setting email to their loved ones and friends. This is not that letter; however, it is a beautiful sentiment of being a loving parent.
*Please remember that this story is being told by a real mother about her real daughter.*
The other day I read about the parents of a young transgender child who were reported to Children’s Protective Services for “forcing their son to be a girl.” This beautiful family had to endure probing questions, seek support from various people, and of course face the paralyzing fear that their daughter could be taken from them by the State. Thankfully, that did not happen and they continue to publicly educate, advocate, and support trans youth across the country. But for parents of trans kids, the fear is real. The pain is real. We know there are people out there who, at worst, carry hatred toward our families, and at best, are ignorant about trans people. But this isn’t a story only about hardship. This is a story about goodness. About truth. About growth. It’s also about the wild beauty and wonder and gift of being a “trans parent.”
I remember those first few weeks after we sent the coming out email. I oftentimes felt anxious, not knowing if we would face rejection, not knowing if harm would come our way, and not knowing who we could fully trust. But there was a relief like I can’t describe. After living in the closet for a long time, hiding the truth from others, and wrestling as a family how to move forward, we finally felt free. Free to be us. Free to be the parents we were called to be. Free to love our daughter openly as her beautiful self. And most importantly, J was free. After years of insisting she was a girl, praying to God asking for him to intervene, begging me to tell people the truth about her, and living in a state of distress, she was free to live in peace and authenticity, to declare her truth boldly, knowing her parents were standing with her, supporting and affirming every word she said and every fiber of her being. She could also wear all those sparkly dresses and bows that she had mostly donned behind closed doors. Those battles were over. Even now as I write, I feel a huge sigh of relief leaving my body, one filled with gratitude. I’m thankful those days are behind us; the days of hiding in darkness. It feels good to be living in the light.
It’s been over a year since coming out, and we are fortunate. We are blessed to be surrounded by family, friends, doctors, and school staff who love us something fierce. I have many friends that have leaned in close; the one who calls J “her hero,” a couple who pass down all their cute dresses from their older daughters, the ones who speak up for justice in faith and school communities, and those who acknowledge the light and beauty in our J on the daily. I have parents and siblings who are committed to educate themselves and stand with us, and grandmothers who use the correct pronouns. We have a doctor who is a specialist in his field, an expert on working with intersex and transgender youth. The school administration and teachers have rallied around us and have supported J with all of her needs. J has a mighty group of friends who love her and celebrate her.
Despite this deep circle of love and grace, this journey has not been without its challenges. We have experienced great loss, too. We are no longer a part of the church community we called home for the last decade. This was a place where we learned and led and loved. This was a place where we gave and received, where our children were dedicated and baptized. After disagreement, hurt, and barriers, we could no longer attend. J would be denied her needs and not seen and celebrated for being herself. J was aware of this tension and one night while tucking her into bed, she asked, “Mommy, do the people at church really believe I’m a girl?” I answered with, “I’m sure some do and some don’t.” And from the mouth of my babe came, “They aren’t hearing the truth about me from God.”
I wept. Jesus wept.
The place where my child should have been most welcome, most received, most loved, should have been the church. And to this day, we are still wandering in the desert, without a church home. My mother’s heart aches for my 4 children and the disconnect from the church. And even so, we are learning how to live in the unknown and the waiting as a family. We are choosing to trust God and His provision for us during this time. And though things are much different and we still hurt and grieve, God shows up in the most beautiful people and extraordinary ways for our family.
Parenting J has opened our minds. Before fully affirming her, we spent a long time studying scripture, reading articles from both Christian and non-Christian experts, learning from other parents who have walked this road before us, and delving into the science surrounding trans youth. We also discovered that the suicide rate is terribly high for trans youth that are not accepted and affirmed in their families. Parenting J has opened our hearts and widened our circle. God has invited us into a beautiful community of people that we would have otherwise not known, and most likely, misunderstood. Before this journey, I confess that I was guilty of ignorance surrounding LGBTQ people and their experiences. Thank you, Jesus, for opening my heart to greater love those who have been marginalized. Thank you, Jesus, for our new friendships. Parenting J has shaped me for the good. Through this, I have learned to let go of other peoples’ opinions and judgments. I have had to choose courage over and over again. I have had to enter into hard conversations, and learn how to dialogue well, with gentleness and understanding, all the while holding my own firm convictions. Parenting J has been a delight, a gift, a joy. I see the image of God within her in new, extraordinary ways, and am thankful for the way he created my child. He made her exactly as she should be, for His good purposes that are being unfolded day by day. J is a treasure. She knows she is loved- by God, by us, by friends, by family.
This trans parenting journey has been one of perseverance, growth and walking with open hands and hearts into the unknown. We gather our strength and do our best, knowing we won’t be perfect, but we will be honest and hold fast, even when the cost is high. We will walk in freedom and grace. We have peace. We have faith. We have hope. We have love. We have Jesus. The world is changing. The church is learning and growing, too. God is moving. There is no greater joy than to be a part of God’s good plans and purposes, and that means affirming, supporting, and advocating for my trans daughter.