Briefly describe how your child first came out to you and your initial reactions.
He had been upset and withdrawn for months. He wouldn’t tell me why, but set a day that he was going to tell me something. He waited until bedtime when I usually talked with him and said prayers. He said “I don’t want to be a girl.” He described how unhappy he was with his developing body. I was unprepared..I just said”I don’t know what this is, but I will go look some things up. ” I hope I told him I loved him. I did thank him for telling me. I immediately got online.
What concerns did you experience over the first weeks or months? How did you deal with them?
My initial concern was his safety. I found a therapist within days who was really good at talking with us about what being transgender was, but she somehow didn’t recognize he was depressed. I remember just asking the scheduler at the local doctors office who she would recommend..thankfully there was a wonderful pediatrician who had the wisdom to flat out ask if my child was having suicidal thoughts. The pediatrician saved my child’s life I think. She referred us to a gender clinic and a better therapist and helped us navigate so much of the first steps.
I was very very conservative Christian. I wasn’t sure what to do with my beliefs. Leah Alcorn was in the news at that time. I felt like her letter was speaking to me. I could have easily reacted the way Leahs parents did, but that letter helped me stay focused on loving and supporting my child. We did speak with our pastor. He was as supportive as he could be in that denomination, but ultimately we left the church for a few years.
Has your child come out to other family members over time?
Yes. We told his grandparents and favorite aunt over the phone. My husband’s parents were immediately supportive. My parents were not. My dad told me to just get him some make up. My mom said “No”. His aunt thought maybe it was just a phase, but was supportive. We sent a letter to the rest of the family except my mom’s side..they still have no idea.
We homeschooled with another family. The other mom was wonderful. She just hugged my child and told him thank you for trusting her.
What is the hardest thing about knowing their LGBTQ identity?
Knowing how many years he suffered not being able to say anything.
He was so sure I would reject him because of my beliefs. He was thinking that maybe his aunt and uncle in another state he had only met once would take him.
What are some challenges have you faced concerning your LGBTQ child? How did you deal with these?
Figuring out how to jump through all the hoops to get him medical support he needed. His pediatrician was his champion for every letter of support we needed. I found support groups and read and read some more so I could advocate for my child.
Practical things like finding a good binder were really difficult. I would read blogs to see what people tried. I was so thankful for a few really open, down to earth transmen who shared details like where to get a binder that was safe.
Figuring out how to keep him safe from ignorant people. We changed towns and churches. Even though he passes as male we still ended up going back to an online charter school because thoughtless comments about LGBTQ community at his brick and mortarschool made him feel unsafe.
What is the best thing about knowing your child's LGBTQ identity?
Seeing the light back in his eyes.
Knowing what you know today, would you want your child to “stay in the closet”? Why?
Never. He was so depressed and worried about how we would react if nearly killed him. He spent precious childhood years being afraid of me and that breaks my heart still.
If we had known a little earlier he may have had access to more options like puberty blockers.
What would you say to other parents learning the LGBTQ identity of their child?
Focus on your child. Love that child, the brave wonderful person in front of you. They need you and your love and support right now. Don’t worry about what other people think or how they react..It isn’t their life or their precious child. Don’t say things you can’t take back. Be gentle with yourself. It is ok to cry and rage, but do it away from your child. Trust your partner and remember you are a team.
What would you say to youth coming out to their families?
You are so brave. I hope your family will love and accept you. They may need time to understand how to help and support you, but they will ultimately realize how much you love and trust them by sharing this truth with them. Give space for them to learn and grow. If they can’t love you the way you need right now, I hope you can find support from other adults in your life.
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