Monday, 15 June 2020

What I Wish People Knew About Raising A Trans Child



I'm a mother to three children.

All of them were assumed male at birth. One of them, it turns out, identifies as female.

Since my child first vocalised these feelings 18 months ago, we've been navigating life as parents to a trans-identifying child.

I don't claim to be an expert in the subject. Infact in all honesty I knew very little about transgender rights or issues 18 months ago, and I still have a great deal more to learn.

I also don't claim to speak on behalf of every parent out there raising a trans child. This is all about my own personal experiences and feelings, and mine alone. So please don't assume that everyone's will be the same.

I don't write an awful lot of posts on the subject here on my blog, for a whole host of reasons, but it's Pride month - and in the spirit of that, I thought it was time to talk more openly about it.

So here are some things that I wish people knew about what it's like to raise a trans child.

I wish people knew....that their judgements cut deeply

Every time I see a friend make a joke at the expense of trans people, or air their anti-trans opinions online - I feel it in the pit of my stomach.

I don't think I'll ever be explain what it's like to look at the face of your innocent, happy child - safe and content in their bubble of acceptance - knowing that one day that bubble will be burst, and that child will be exposed to unimaginable hate. To hear this hate coming from within my own circles cuts like a knife.


I wish people knew....that their silence is often even worse

As awful and gut-wrenching as that vocal transphobia is, the silence somehow stings even more.

There are SO many people among my own friends and family who have never spoken to me about Noa's social transition. Who have never mentioned it at all, never asked any questions. I notice the ones who always stay silent.

Perhaps they just don't know what to say, but when the same people remain silent when I share statuses declaring my upset at anti-trans rants in the media - never a word of comfort or support spoken - it leads me to wonder what their silence means, and whether we have their support at all.

 I've come to truly believe that the worst thing to say is nothing at all.



I wish people knew....that language policing is incredibly frustrating and unhelpful

Even when giving this post a title, I argued with myself over using the word "trans" because I KNOW that people will have something negative to say about using that word to describe a child.
I've stumbled over my language for too long, trying to appease the doubters - using descriptors like "Gender non conforming" and "Gender creative" , but I'm done with it  - my child identifies themselves as transgender. That's good enough for me.

It's just a word.  Using it doesn't do anything irreversible. It's not a bad word. So please stop questioning me on whether it's the appropriate one to use...I'll be the judge of that.


I wish people knew...how much time we spend agonising over every decision we make

A few months back, a woman who was a perfect stranger to me saw fit to send me a message on social media to let me know that she "disagreed" with my choice to talk about Noa and our experiences publicly. A woman who had absolutely zero lived experience of raising a trans child.

Annoyingly, instead of telling her to wind her neck in like I now wish I had, I explained our choices to her- explaining that we spent a year not discussing anything publicly, until we eventually decided that we felt it in the best interests of our child and other trans children to normalise this experience by not keeping it hidden. But still this self-important woman carried on, telling me she "still wasn't sure"...which leads me to the next point....


I wish people knew....that until you've lived this experience, you have no idea

You have NO IDEA of the worry, fear and heartbreak that goes hand in hand with raising a trans child. You have NO IDEA of what the right way to handle things is, or how you'll feel or respond until you're sitting in front of your child as they cry and scream that they are NOT the gender you thought they were.

I know this, because I used to judge parents like me too. Years ago, when I read about Angelina Jolie allowing her young daughter to dress and be referred to as male - I said those famous last words "I'd never let a child that young make that choice".

So convinced was I, with my zero experience, that no child that young could possibly know their own mind that well or articulate such big thoughts clearly enough.

Well...it's funny how karma comes to bite you on the arse. Because now I'm eating those words - turns out, yes young children DO know their own minds very well. And yes they absolutely can articulate it.

I want two things - for my child to feel supported, loved and free to be themselves always. And for us to advocate for her to have the same rights as any other child - and as far as we're concerned, part of that is not keeping her hidden away but letting people see that these children exist and that there is nothing strange about them.

That's our call to make...nobody elses.

I wish people knew....that your support means EVERYTHING

Because its lonely and isolating when you feel that you have to question the stance of people around you. It's frightening and overwhelming when you're facing a constant stream of abuse and criticism just for doing what you feel is right for your child.

So even though you might think it's obvious that you support us, or that it doesn't really matter if you vocalise it - I promise you, it DOES. Every vocal showing of support means the WORLD and makes it feel less lonely.

As someone with an online presence, I get more support from strangers online than I do from people I know in my day to day life - and that is not a nice experience. But thank GOD for those strangers because I can't imagine how much worse it would feel without them.

Vocal support matters. It matters a lot.

I wish people knew....how terrifying it is

To wonder what the future holds for your childs rights, to be unsure of whether they'll be able to use the bathrooms they want to, to not know when and how they'll be able to access the right support, to be unsure of how puberty will affect them.

To read the staggeringly high suicide statistics for trans youth, to read about how high the statistics are for attacks and even murders of trans women.

The fear for her future is constant, and overwhelming.


I wish people knew....that this is not about choice or persuasion

It's difficult to say this without it sounding negative, but I struggle to understand why people assume that I as a parent would ever choose for my child to be transgender.

Don't get me wrong here...I love my child and who they are...but would I choose a life for her that puts her statistically at a higher risk of suicide, murder and violence? A life that is more likely to see her face harsh judgements and ridicule  from peers? A life that will be undoubtedly harder than if she were cisgender?

No...I would not choose that. I don't believe that any sane person would, every parent would want their child to have the easiest and most pleasant life experience possible wouldn't they?

As for pursuasion - I'd love someone to try to persuade my eldest son to put on a dress and become a girl, and see how far they get! You cannot persuade a child to do anything they don't want to do - least of all change their entire gender identity!



I wish people knew....that I don't have a favourite child, but I do have one I worry about more

Someone accused me recently of favouring Noa because I share more photos of her online.  The reason for that (if it's even true!) is simply that she likes having her photo taken and her brothers don't, but the truth is...while I don't have a favourite child (my favourite is whichever one goes to sleep first on any given day!),  I DO worry more about Noa than her brothers. Of course I do.

Her brothers currently identify as white cisgender males - statistically they're likely to have a pretty easy life. Of course anything could happen, but as it stands - nothing about either of them currently makes them stand out in any way - they're not "different" from their peers, their is nothing about either of them that would make them a target.

But for Noa - there is. She is considered "different" and although I hope to be wrong, I fear that she may face difficulties in life that her brothers won't - I worry that she might struggle to fit in, to find someone to settle down with, to have a family - I hope I'm wrong of course, but the worry is there. That's just the way it is.


I wish people knew....how the simplest of things can become the most heartbreaking

For all intents and purposes, I have a lovely little girl who is full of fun and talks about all of the things most little girls talk about when imagining her future.

But for her - a lot of these things are not going to be possible. For example - she loves babies, and she talks often about wanting to have a baby in her tummy when she's grown up - she sticks her dollies inside her top like most little girls do and plays pretend. And while for most parents that's a heart warming moment - for me, it's such a sad one. Because I know that won't be in her future.


She also spends lots of her time making wedding veils out of towels and blankets, and talking about what her wedding will be like when she's grown up - and while there's a good chance that she may get her dream wedding like I hope she does, I can't help but be frightened that it might be harder for her somehow.

I wish I could just enjoy these sweet childhood moments without being consumed by worry for her future, but that's the way it feels for me.

I wish people knew....how beautiful it is too

I'm aware that this post is full of negatives and sad things about raising a trans child, but please don't think that it's all doom and gloom because I'll tell you what - there is nothing quite so amazing as a parent as knowing that your child is happy, loved and accepted for exactly who they are - and knowing that they are completely comfortable in their own skin.

Noa is headstrong, fierce and confident - she is incredibly self-assured and is a force to be reckoned with -  and hearing her declare that "she's proud of who she is" is the most incredible feeling I've had as a parent.


I wish people knew....how important it is to teach cisgender children about trans kids

It often feels like parents of cisgender children don't feel that it's their responsibility to teach their kids about the existence of trans children - maybe they think they'll never know any, or maybe they think it's something for when they're older but the truth is - teaching your children about the existence of trans kids makes it that much easier for children like mine to feel accepted by their peers.

It makes it less likely that they'll mock and judge trans people as they get older.

There are some fantastic books for children which introduce the subject of trans and non-binary kids really well, and I firmly believe that all children should read them so that we can make sure that we're raising an inclusive generation.



I wish people knew....that my child is nothing to fear

Really....She's just a child. One who deserves to be herself and enjoy her childhood exactly as she is, free from judgement and with no conditions placed on her because of her body parts.



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