His name is August.
It’s strange to read it, I know. It’s strange to write it, and I’ve had months to get used to the idea.
A lump rises in my throat as I write it. I’ve asked myself many times why I struggle to look forward to being around the (freer and happier) son who’s been there all along instead of grieving the daughter, Eleanor, I thought I had. But it remains a struggle. It’s going to be a while, I think, before the strangeness melts away.
It’s hard to know how to approach my community with this. I’ve been working on this post for days. August’s coming out isn’t as simple as just telling people I have a transgender son on a need-to-know basis because we’re all going to have to adjust to using a new name and new pronouns. It’s going to feel strange for all of us. We’ll probably all have more questions than we’re comfortable asking or maybe we won’t know what to say to each other or to August at all.
Personally, I envisioned myself the parent that says the hardy, courageous, and inspiring thing to her suddenly-more-vulnerable kid who’s on a path the world hasn’t embraced, a path many won’t acknowledge is even there. I want to say to August, “BE YOU no matter what because you’ll give the world your best talents and your best love when you’re honest about who you are.” But this time it’s just harder to say it. Not that he even needs me to say this. He’s confident enough without my cheerleading. But wouldn’t life be so much easier for August if he didn’t have to get people on board who knew him as a girl? If he didn’t have to worry about legalities and additional oppression? If he didn’t have to worry about medical decisions and insurance? If so many things…?
As if hiding who he is and pretending he’s a girl for the rest of his life would be easier.
Is that what I want for my kids: an easy life? An easi-er life? An easy-ish life? Well, that’s naive of me.
So I’m putting that aside to face August’s transition, which is really more of a transition for us. What we will now see on the outside is what has always been locked in August’s heart and mind. It’s a complicated, emotional human experience. So is coping with cancer or getting pregnant at the exact wrong time or losing a pregnancy or going through a divorce or shedding a religious belief or any number of things that involves losing love and finding love–sometimes at the same time.
It’s what we humans do.
Any of these complicated, emotional human experiences can be wholly awkward to deal with.
So, if you feel strange or don’t know how to feel about August transitioning, we get it. We’re a mix of “Yay!” and “Huh.” and “Eek.” And “Are you sure?”
Yes. He’s sure. It’s us who aren’t.
So we’ll say awkward things to each other and to August (that are born of respect and kindness but may get lost along the way), but the important thing is that we say them to each other–that we’re all vulnerable enough with each other that we allow each other to roll around in the awkward of love, loss, and change and come through to acceptance together.
That being said, I’ve turned off the comments on this post to keep the trolls away. Friends and family members, please feel free to interact with this post on Facebook, by email, or in person if you’d like to.
We understand that a lot of people don’t really get what it means to be transgender. We’re still learning about it, too. What follows are some good transgender resources (articles, comics, videos, etc.), which August and I found together. They range in depth, scope, and perspective.
One last thing. Our family is so incredibly appreciative that there are resources available right at our fingertips: to learn about transgenderism, to find support groups, and to interact with people who have similar stories. The Internet isn’t always a place for shaming or bullying others. Thanks to all those people who wrote the articles, provided support, and shared their stories so that we could find them.
Here’s a basic FAQ of Trans Questions and answers from PFLAG (New York chapter). What is PFLAG? Learn about it here. Our family is a member of this tremendous organization (Indianapolis chapter). If you’re interested in coming to a meeting with us, let us know.
To understand more about the gender spectrum and gender identity, explore this site: https://www.genderspectrum.org/ but these pages are especially good: https://www.genderspectrum.org/resources/parenting-and-family-2/ and https://www.genderspectrum.org/explore-topics/parenting-and-family/
Some more trans basics in video format (annoyingly blurry, but good info) explained by transgender male, Tony: Trans 101
A quick word from transgender teenager, Alex, about gender identity
Hear transgender teenager, Benton, answer the question “When did you know you were trans?”: HOW DID I KNOW I WAS TRANS?
Benton Coming Out (live): A really cool video where he comes out to his class and explains the difference coming out made to his quality of life
Listen to transgender male, Chase, explain gender dysphoria
Understanding the difference between your child’s sex and his or her gender identity with parent, Jodie Patterson: Mom, I’m not a Girl I love this mom! She’s my new hero.
More from Jodie Patterson on accepting our kids for what is in their heads and hearts, not for what their bodies look like: Raising Penelope
Read about some transgender misconceptions
Here are some tips on How to Respect a Transgender Person
Words from some other parents of trans kids: 8 Things Parents Want You to Know