I have never struggled with writing a post like I have with this one.
I have never questioned myself so much, gone back and forth on committing words to print so many times, or asked for the input of so many people before doing so. And I ate my weight in chocolate as I considered all the pros and cons - legit.
Ultimately, there were far more pros.
Deep breath. Here we go.
When you lead a semi-public life as a personal essay blogger, your world becomes a bit of an open book -- uh, blog. You guys know a lot about my family and me. I've been inviting you into our mayhem for the last several years and have shared some pretty personal stuff.
One of the very basic things you know is that I am a mom to three amazing boys. I've worn that hat proudly for years. It's part of my identity. It's part of what makes me me. It's the badge I earned thanks to all the gouged baseboards and dirty shoes and apprehensive pets. It's the war wound I pull out at parties ("I have three boys" "OMG! Three boys?! How on earth do you manage?") to show everyone that yes, you can survive being grossly outnumbered in a testosterone-rich environment.
I am queen of the land of penis. Here me roar.
... Or whimper in the bathtub when everyone finally goes to sleep. One of those.
But not very long ago, everything changed. Our middle son, my Gutsy, told us in words far too advanced for an eleven-year-old, that he is a girl trapped inside a boy's body. That he wants, more than anything, to be female. And that is why he's been so depressed and anxious. That is why cognitive therapy didn't make a dent. It's why he couldn't find a way out of the darkness. It is very likely why we had to turn to medication, because until he could identify and accept the source of his pain, there was no way to make it stop.
My child is transgendered. She has a boy's body and a girl's brain.
And just like that, I no longer have three sons. I have two sons and a daughter.
She identifies entirely as female, and is now taking steps to live as one so that she finally feels at peace in her own skin. There are many steps to take over many years. We will be supporting her 100% through all of this, with the help of some great professionals, supportive friends and family, and a caring school environment. All pieces are in place to make this as easy as possible - even though we all know it will be anything but easy.
Let me answer some of the most common questions we've received. Please feel free to ask me more. I'm happy to answer those too.
Is this a phase? It's possible, yes. But at this age and with this level of insistence, probably not. There is a very good chance this will be a permanent thing. She waited a long while to tell us so she could be sure it wasn't a transient feeling. She is a very bright, highly introspective child, and I have to believe her when she tells me she has to do something she knows is going to be very challenging. Nobody would choose to do this unless they had to. Not even me, and I'm worn down to insanity from years of parenthood.
Were we shocked? Absolutely. We knew very little about transgender. I've been reading, researching, making appointments with specialists, talking to the school and even signed us up for a parents' support group. I've also cried, wondered when I would wake up from this surreal dream, and questioned about 8,000 times if we are doing the right things.
Why am I telling you, blogosphere? There are good reasons not to, aren't there? My child's privacy and safety at the top of that list.
First of all, you should know that she feels entirely ready to shine. She has already "come out" to the people that matter most to her, including a bunch of her classmates and friends, who have been nothing but supportive. She was scared to tell anyone, but knew she had to if she wanted to live an authentic life. She does not want this to be a secret, and it upsets her to think we might consider it one.
Secondly, unless you are a friend or family member, you do not know Gutsy's real name or what school she goes to. I can assure you my child's name is not "Gutsy." I mean seriously. I am not an asshole who hates children and calls them things like "Gutsy." There are no recent pictures of her on this blog, and she will look quite different soon enough anyway on account of her getting down with the feminine. She has also chosen a female name for herself, which she will be going by from now on. I am not concerned for her safety when it comes to this blog; I am concerned when it comes to peers and community, but that's a reality whether I write a blog post or not.
So why am I writing this post?
I am writing this post so that I can speak freely about the fact that I now have two boys and a girl. Now you won't be confused when I say "my daughter." You're welcome.
I am writing this post so that, when you see us on the street, you will not be surprised that we have a tween girl with us. Gutsy felt this was the best way to "tell the truth," and after a lot of contemplation, I agreed. She wants to avoid the initial awkwardness as much as possible. This post gives everyone time to process and prepare, as a lot of people we know read my blog. (The others are missing out and quite possibly lack taste.)
I am writing this post because our motto throughout all this process is NO SHAME. There is nothing to be ashamed about here. Transgender is not a lifestyle choice. It is a medically necessary transition to a happy life. And believe me, Gutsy's happiness is all we are concerned about. With the attempted suicide rate higher for transgender youth than any other minority group, we will do everything in our power to ensure that happiness.
I am writing this post because it gives you time to decide if you can accept my child on her terms; if you can see her for more than her gender; if you can understand how important this is to her. If you can't do this, please exit our lives, stage left. I won't be mad, just relieved that we didn't have to have a big ugly confrontation about it. See, we can only have people in our lives that support her. I'm not trying to be a jerk, just a mom. Kid trumps unsupportive friend or family member. I hope you understand.
Mostly, I'm writing this to show my daughter how much I love her. I want to show the world that the bravest person I know lives in the same house as me.