Briefly describe how your child first came out to you
In August of 2016, one week before the start of 8th grade, and one week after his first real sleepover camp, on a Wednesday about 2PM, my wife handed me a note from our son. This was odd behavior, at best. Our son was never very emotional, nor, we thought, secretive. The time sticks in my head because as I a read the note and the realization of what I had in my hand started I had to end the conference call I was on as I was working from home as I normally do.
The sign off on the two page letter was the strongest hit. “Unfortunately your son.” He wasn’t sad to be in the family, he was sad about who he was. He wanted, as the letter said in length, to be our daughter.
My wife and I were shocked. Unlike many coming out stories you hear we were blindsided. Totally and completely caught unaware. We followed the letter stumbling through trying to support, understand, debate, clarify, and cry all at the same time.
We immediately sought input from our primary care physician and a therapist with experience in this area.
I knew it was legitimate, real, and not changing when our emotionless, Vulcan like son cried in my lap. He never cried.
What concerns did you experience over the first weeks or months? How did you deal with them?
I was personally devastated and afraid. Horror stories filled my head, as well as imagining all the ways her life was going to be immensely more difficult. I was beating myself up personally. After all, he was like my best friend! We played board games, video games, and RPGs together. We walked, talked, and sounded alike. So, how was I so blind to seeing this? How could I have not known? Even a hint!?
I’ve come to learn and accept it was because she didn’t fully know or understand it, let alone have the language to speak it out loud.
We were trying to keep it under wraps, at her request, but I broke down and told a few family members. It is hard not to do so when you become a blubbering fool over the phone. The therapist was great and confirmed, after a few session, that this was the real deal. Mom and dad, buckle up and enjoy the ride! It was real for her for at least 5 years.
I was really stressed going into late October due to increased stress at work and dealing with this at home. So, when I found out in late October that she had been using a different female name the entire school year on her work. It was a new wave of grief, fear, anxiety. I remember coming to my wife crying because our hand had been forced and we would have to tell the school.
At the point I had read all about Jazz Jennings, and Becoming Nicole and I did not relish a public debate with the school, nor did I want to invoke the national debates being fanned from the bathroom bills. It is amazing how fast your views shift and change when you are forced to look at it from another unexpected angle.
Has your child come out to other family members over time? If yes, who, when, and what was their reaction?
Our daughter knows that some family knows. Some of her friends from school know, but not her closest male friend. We are wanting that so much because we know he would be accepting, but she doesn’t believe that. Some family friends know as well. The outpouring of support is great. There are a few conservative sticklers in the bunch, but not to the point of making a stink about it, not yet at least.
8th grade, high school, has been great with an accepting school and staff. We’ve had to move to a new therapist who now believes that this goes much further back as early as age 5! The therapist has been great and is making sure that parts of him and her come along for the ride. We’re doing better all the time with names and pronouns at home. Official name change is in the works… I need to write a whole blog series on that travesty of public administration! We are also pursuing HRT.
We want her to be more and more comfortable being her “authentic self” as they say. She is coming out of her shell slowly but surely.
And so are we.
What is the hardest thing about knowing their LGBTQ identity?
Getting her to know herself, her real self, and be able to be that person has been tough. Waking up to a blank character sheet after 13 years of playing the same character is a daunting task to be sure.
What are some challenges have you faced concerning your LGBTQ child? How did you deal with these?
Legal name change. Good grief the nightmare of red tape and bureaucratic chaos that it entails. Next will be birth certificate, but hopefully, we’ll have learned some lessons by then.
What is the best thing about knowing your child's LGBTQ identity?
Coming out has clued us into some of the peculiar behaviors or thought processes we didn’t quite see before. We’ve grown closer as a family, but also struggled with each other trying to find new boundries and taboo topics. How much is too much to ask?
But the best part, it that she is still our child! We still play board games and role playing games together. We still watch the same shows, and movies. We still laugh at the same jokes. She was with us all along but none of us knew it. Now we just go through every day with our eyes open just a little wider.
Knowing what you know today, would you want your child to “stay in the closet”? Why?
No! When I look back at the seemingly harmless jabbing about the mustache or hairy Italian legs due to the onset of puberty, and then I layer on the stress of gender dysphoria, I cannot imagine living with that torture every day. Screaming in the silence of your own head about things you know are not right but you cannot possibly discuss out loud as to be maddening.
What would you say to other parents learning the LGBTQ identity of their child?
You are not alone. Your child is so much stronger than you are or believe them to be. The world is not, usually, going to knock on your door with pitchforks because your child has revealed themselves to be their true selves.
What would you say to youth coming out to their families?
There are many who will support you. Not everyone is accepting. You are extremely courageous and brave to break open that door, step out into the world and declare, “This is who I am. Deal with it!”
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