I am the proud mother of four children. Three boys, one girl.
I love all my children equally, but after having two boys, I was thrilled to have a girl and have always loved the time we were able to spend together as mom and daughter.
But last week my daughter – who is 17 – told me and my husband that she was transgender. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I did not know what to say. How to react. I just sat there in silence while she told us that she had always felt bad about herself. That she never really felt natural or comfortable. And that after many years of doubt, she is now confident that she was born the wrong sex and the wrong body.
I do not know what to do. She’s always been a bit of a tomboy, I guess, but she’s always enjoyed doing girly things with me, like shopping, getting manicures, and splurging with the Real Housewives. I guess boys can do these things too, but I never imagined that deep down while we were spending all this time together, she secretly thought she was supposed to be a boy?
Dear Jane, my only daughter has become transgender and I don’t know how I will ever come to terms with the fact that she wants to be a boy.
I know that as a supportive parent, my first instinct should be to help and guide her through this. But honestly, I don’t know if I will ever be able to get used to the idea that my daughter wants to be my son? She started talking about hormone therapy and surgeries and name changes, and I just shut up.
It’s been a few days since she broke the news and I couldn’t help but cry. I’m so confused as to how to handle this. And I’m too ashamed to tell my friends or my family because I have no idea what they’ll think. Then I feel like a horrible mother because I don’t support her like she needs.
I don’t consider myself a closed person but I really don’t know how I can accept this and continue our relationship the same way we always have. Is that even a possibility? I feel like I’ve already lost my daughter forever.
From, Lost in Transition
Dear lost in transition,
You speak like a mother who loves her children very much and wants the best for them. I have tremendous empathy for the pain you are going through, and even the pain your child must be going through. Being a teenager can be ridiculously difficult.
Back then, we often dealt with our discomfort by expressing our inner nonconformity and feelings of not fitting in with our clothes and hairstyles. We wore mohawks, dyed our hair, stuck safety pins in our ears, and listened to “alternative” music. Today’s teenagers are even more anxious than us and their options are very different.
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The first thing I would say is to put aside your judgments and feelings, and support your child unequivocally. That doesn’t mean you have to hide how difficult it is for you; in fact, it’s better to tell him that it’s a lot for you to understand and that it may take time. I would advise talking less and listening more.
I keep thinking of a woman I know whose daughter went through the same thing. Her daughter announced she was a boy and spent the next few years living as a boy. His parents were as devastated as you are now, but learned to live with the discomfort.
And they set clear boundaries. While encouraging their child to dress as they see fit, disconnect from the internet and spend more time outdoors in nature, they also refused to pay for hormones or operations. A few years later, their daughter decided that she was not a male, but was herself, female, sometimes butch, without the need for a label.
Your child is only 17, which many scientists would say is too young to make life-changing body modifications, given what we now know about the teenage brain. The brain’s prefrontal cortex – the part that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences – doesn’t fully develop until around age 25.
Love your daughter, help her dress and live her way, and keep the lines of communication open between you. Encourage her to leave the internet and enter real life as the person of her choice.
My childhood was miserable, if I’m totally honest with you. I grew up with two parents who were incredibly cruel to me and my siblings. They never used violence as a punishment, but emotional abuse was rampant in our home. Horrible comments about my weight, manipulative tactics to pit my brother and I against each other, and threats of beatings that terrified us for our safety, even though the beatings never came.
I won’t go into detail, except to say that it took me years – and a lot of therapy – to overcome the trauma caused by their abuse.
Three years ago I became the mother of my own child, a beautiful boy, and I always swore that I would never be the kind of parent mine were. And that I would never expose my son to anyone who displayed the same kind of cruel behavior that my parents showed towards me and my brother. I am proud to say that I feel like I have succeeded.
But a few months ago my parents got back in touch – I cut them off ten years ago and hadn’t spoken to them at all until they contacted me. They insisted that they had changed, that they had given a lot of thought to how they raised me and my brother, and that they wanted to make amends for everything they had done to us. undergo.
They also said they were desperate to meet their only grandchild, my son.
My immediate reaction was “no”, and to be honest, I just ignored their first email, but since then they’ve sent a few more, all of whom were very nice to their credit, but all of whom have included requests to arrange a meeting between them and their grandson.
Honestly, I don’t know what to do. On the one hand, I feel selfish to prevent my child from having a relationship with his grandparents, but the other part of me can’t even entertain the idea of allowing my son to come face to face with face with two people with such a capacity for evil.
Dear Jane’s Sunday Service
The pain of our childhood can stay with us long into adulthood, informing so much of our lives.
The luckiest and/or most premonitory, surround themselves with a good therapist so as not to make the same mistakes again. Either way, getting to a place where we acknowledge our own parents’ pain can help us understand them.
It will never fix things, but harboring resentment only hurts us more, and forgiving means letting go.
My husband thinks we should at least meet them and listen to them, but I’m terrified that seeing them again will bring back all the horrors of my past that I’ve tried so hard to overcome.
What do you think?
From, Childhood Traumatology
Dear Childhood Trauma,
Kudos to you for finding a therapist and doing the work to make sure you were a very different type of parent. The most difficult part in dealing with this type of trauma is, I believe, the last step: learning to forgive.
I know a little about difficult childhoods and I commend you for all you have done to keep yourself and your family healthy. And, it’s important to recognize that your parents, emotionally abusive as they may have been, were probably doing the best they could with the knowledge they had. If anger was dominant in your childhood home, I’m guessing your parents themselves were raised angry and – given the time frame – didn’t have access to therapists who could have taught them how to do this. things differently.
But until you accept that and truly forgive them, you are the one who bears the pain, a pain that always hinders your own healing. The fact that you are terrified that seeing them will bring up old trauma tells me that forgiveness is where you need to focus.
And what my many years have taught me is that the worst parents can become the best grandparents. It seems like they already know what mistakes they made and are desperate to prove it to you.
There is no harm in listening to them, and even more, in presenting them to your son. Seeing them light up in adoration, as most new grandparents do, may be the most healing thing of all.