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Breaking the Legacy Of Silence # 33 For Parents, Family, and Friends of LGBTQ, Non-Binary/Gender Fluid Individuals, Part 1: When Your Child Comes Out to You as Transgender

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Since I published my first column here for the fabulous Five 2 One Magazine on June 11, 2016, a piece where I extolled my pride in being a mother to two transgender kids, I’ve had a lot of feedback from my friends, family, and strangers about how much this topic has helped others to become more knowledgeable about their friends and family, and especially their children.

There is a lot of noise out there (some good, some of it ridiculous) about the LGBTQ community.

Despite the negativity from some factions, I find this to be a vital process in becoming unified as a species. The first step in understanding something or someone we know nothing about is open and honest dialogue.

Much of what has been discussed and addressed is from people who identify in any way as LGBTQ/Non-Binary-Gender Fluid/Pansexual. Our discussions have been from the point-of-view of the individual who is coming out, working to become accepted and treated equally in the community, and loving themselves in sometimes hostile environments where family, friends, and communities often shun or discriminate against them.

Here, my series will focus in parts 1 and 2 from the point-of-view of the parents of LGBTQ children.

This is part 1 in a 5 part series about this topic, where I will first share from my experience as a mother of two transgender kids. I will share how I was able to cope and accept the inexorable challenges that I, as a parent, have faced to support my children.

It is imperative to keep in mind that each situation is different. This is inevitable, because each individual is also different. Therefore, what works for one of us may not jive with another. We have to try things on and see if they fit. Eventually, we find our groove.

My focus today is on the basics. No one can move forward and effectively deal with complicated dynamics involving human emotion and dignity without a few ground rules. These ground rules should be the foundation upon which all of our human exchanges take place.

  1. When your child comes to you as LGBTQ/GF, or you notice when they are very young and unable to cognitively express their feelings about who they are and how they feel—that they do not fit the mold of societal expectations—your first reaction must be LOVE.

Nothing in our lives can be understood without unconditionally loving others. We must often put aside our own fears, pride, expectations, pain, and anger to love the other person.

When my kids transitioned, you can bet it was not an easy process. I had to stop the noise in my head and heart, and from others, and listen with love. I had to allow myself to grieve the loss of my “daughters,” while I celebrated the gift of two more “sons.”

I won’t lie. It wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen overnight or without missteps along the way. There was no roadmap, no instruction manual, for how to deal with my children changing gender. When I approached it all with love and a willingness to learn, it became easier.

The ultimate lesson all is us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes ourselves as well as others.” –Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

  1. The execution of love requires knowledge of those we care about and knowledge of ourselves. We must be willing to continually learn and adapt to the people in our lives, especially our children and significant others.

When my oldest child came to me as a teenager to say she was gay, I had some understanding about it because I had friends who were gay, and I myself—though repressed—had pan/bisexual/gender fluid leanings.

However, when he came to me as transgender, I had to learn what that meant. Zachary was willing to teach me, and because he was in his early 20’s and able to articulate himself, I remained teachable.

For some parents, knowledge may have to come from other sources, such as a therapist, doctor, book, or a columnist (yours truly) who has an idea about the subject.

Remember, “Knowledge is power.” –Sir Francis Bacon, 1597

 

3.Finally, when we face such inflammatory situations where our world is at odds—and anything involving the LGBTQ community sparks heated emotion and, in some cases, unfortunate hate—we must let go of fear, which is the root of pride and anger.

Fear keeps us locked in a malignant spiral. We allow it to control us, justifying our anger, pain, and reactions.

When my kids transitioned, I was scared out of my mind.

What would they face in this sometimes brutal world? How do I explain this to others? Will they be accepted and have the same opportunities in school and work? Will they find love? Will they be able to marry? What about their ability to have children? What about health insurance?

The endless questions can send one into a mind-racing game and lead to irrational reactions to our children’s changes. The last thing our kids need is for us to make this harder for them. Society is cruel enough. They need a safe zone. We must be that for them.

As Irving Yalom wrote in his book, Love’s Executioner, “It’s the relationship that heals.”(1989)

Our relationship with ourselves, and therefore with our children, can be a balm. Allow yourself the flexibility to love, learn, and let go of fear so you can be a healing and comforting part of your child’s life.

Next week, stay tuned as I discuss how we address this issue with family and friends in Part 2.