The Hard Choice: The Voice of the Parent of a Trans Teen
Being a parent is the craziest, hardest, funniest, scariest, job in the entire world. It is one of the most exciting yet daunting challenges to face adults in a world as we know it today.
For those who are brave enough to make a conscious choice to bring another human being into this world, parenthood is rewarding, for certain, yet not for the faint of heart. We agonize over the perfect name, the nursery décor, selecting god parents, whether to bottle or breast feed, what kind of child care, education, raw or organic, and on and on.
Having been a parent for more than 20 years, I am still amazed and inspired by my children and the ever-changing task before me – raising them to be happy, healthy, productive adults.
LOVE. When you sign on to be a parent you are agreeing to LOVE your child even when…
…they are late every morning and the bus doesn’t wait and you consistently are driving them to school in your robe and fuzzy slippers.
…they talk back to you.
…they leave wet towels on the carpet after every shower.
…they use up the family’s shared data plan two weeks into the plan month.
…they say day when you say night.
…they listen to “scream-o” music at bedtime and you wonder how anyone can sleep listening to that noise.
…they say blue is their favorite hair color right after you agreed to let him dye it orange.
…they tell you they “hate” you because you are the worst mother on earth.
…they are born with a birth defect.
…they are diagnosed with a learning disability.
…their impulsivity wreaks havoc on the family dynamics just when you are sitting down to dinner.
…they admit that their new love interest is “pansexual” and you have never heard that term before.
…they have the courage to come out to you as transgender.
SOUND OF TIRES SCREECHING TO A HALT.
Being a parent means loving your child unconditionally regardless of who they are. As human beings, we can no more choose to have mental illness, be a diabetic or identify as gay, lesbian or trans than we can choose what eye color we are born with.
Being transgender is no easy ride. Believe me, no one would choose this. You hate the way your body looks. Your brain’s view of who you are doesn’t match up with your visible, external parts. It is really, really difficult to come to terms with this and to accept the mix-up.
Trans individuals need to know that they are accepted and loved and supported; don’t you need that, too?
As a parent, I cannot imagine turning my back on my child because the hard-wiring in their brain is different. My child did not choose to be transgender. I CHOSE to be a parent.
When I look at my son I see the most courageous, authentic individual I have ever known. He is a gift that is teaching me more about being a parent and being human than anyone possibly could.
Further Reading by Roz Keith on this subject: No Choice, Pro Choice, as well as other posts on her blog Call Him Hunter, “A blog for anyone who embraces diversity.”
Author Bio: Roz Keith
I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, advocate. Up until recently, I thought I was the mom to two daughters. Turns out I was wrong. I have a daughter and a son. My son is in the throes of transitioning to male. We are navigating the journey together and doing our best to spread awareness and ultimately acceptance regarding what it means to be transgender.
My son tells people that I “am obsessed” with all things trans. That’s not exactly true — in fact, not even remotely true. The fact is, however, that I am interested in educating myself and have jumped in feet first so that I can help my son be the best, authentic version of himself.
I love social media. I blog. I run a business. I struggle to stay fit. I like good food. I love my family. I am OBSESSED with my dog. I care about others. I would do anything for my children. I believe in community.
Judd SillsDecember 16, 2014 at 12:46 PM
What a wonderful article. Great reading for all parents of LGBTQI children. I certainly wish I was born 60 years later to have a chance at a parent with your insights into unconditional love and acceptance. Thanks so much!
EmmaDecember 16, 2014 at 1:42 PM
Your willingness to accept your child for their transgender nature is truly wonderful and deserves all the attention and admiration possible. You cannot possibly fathom how much your support probably means to your son, even if he doesn’t really say that or can’t really express it. I recently came out to my mother and it was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done. I was sick to my stomach with dread for days leading up to it and dealing with the consequences of that decision since has been very difficult. My mother is a kind and loving person, and she loves me very much, but my decision to embark on the journey of transition has pushed that love nearly to the breaking point, so I can only imagine the strength it took for you to not only accept your son, but to also support him.
If I were you, I would try to impress upon your son the great things he can do for his fellow transgender people by becoming an advocate and ally for the transgender population as he grows into an adult. I hope that he also is never ashamed of his transgender nature or his past as a biological female, because what we are is nothing to be ashamed of. He is blessed with a unique gift to experience the world from a viewpoint that few people ever understand or have the opportunity to experience, and gifts are best used when they are shared.
I hope that as both of you go through this experience of transcending the traditional gender boundaries you start to see Gender for what it really is, an expression of individuality that has no limits or rules. I hope that you begin to see the binary gender system as something that’s not only completely inaccurate, but is based on the flawed premises that there are “true male” and “true female” end points and that those end points are static. There are no end points and there are no statics, not really. There can be as many genders as there are people to express them, and no two genders are exactly alike. I hope that you, as you witness your son come into his wonderful gender expression, also decide to step outside of the bounds of what “female” means in the social context. I hope that you too start to critically look at the things society expects from you because of your perceived gender and make decisions for yourself whether or not those expectations fit your desires and personality. If they don’t, then I hope you’ll cast them aside and live a life more true to who you are instead of what society expects you to be.
There is much love here for both you and your son (and your daughter too)
Roz KeithDecember 16, 2014 at 8:26 PM
thank you both so much for your thoughtful comments…we are doing our best to navigate the uncharted waters. We share our story so we can create awareness and help others.
KevinDecember 17, 2014 at 3:31 PM
This is a wonderful post written by a beautiful lady. You are a parent far too many wish that they had when they were growing up but sadly did not. Thank God for parents like you.
Mark HayonDecember 17, 2014 at 3:37 PM
As a middle school and high school teacher, I was so impressed with this article from a brave soul navigating through the challenges of parenthood. The key to your success is the unconditional love. Although I do not have children of my own, I teach blind and visually impaired children and I see many children abandoned because parents cannot deal with the complexity of raising a non-seeing child.
Last May I discovered that I was transgender and accepted the challenge of transitioning as an adult without the support of my family. I am now five months on T and if I’ve learned anything from my limited transitioning experience, it’s that unconditional love works with others even when they don’t or can’t reciprocate. I’ve learned to rely on good role models like yourself when faced with opposition or ignorance. Jesus was also an excellent example of how his love covered a multitude of the sins in others. While on the cross he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34
Roz, your message of unconditional love reminds me so much of the movie, “The Miracle Worker.” As you probably already know, the story chronicles the events that lead up to Helen Keller’s breakthrough in communication with sign language. However, to me it chronicles the sacrifices of her teacher, Anne Sullivan. by choosing to be Helen’s teacher, Anne gave up the possibility of ever having a normal life of her own. It’s wonderful to hear that parents love their children unconditionally and are brave enough to make a conscious choice to stand by them through those hard choices. Roz, you are a great parent and a blessing to others as a role model in unconditional love. Thank you so much for sharing. — Mark Hayon
DeirdreJanuary 23, 2015 at 11:46 AM
Thank goodness for parents like you. Particularly in recent light of Leelah Alcorn, and so many other transgender youths who lack this parental support system, it is wonderful and inspiring to see. Thank you for keeping your heart open. Your family’s love is tremendous.