It Only Takes One Moment to Change a Life

Yes, we're basically twins. Except she's 26 years younger, And has shinier hair. And no wrinkles.
So I'm basically the older, wrinklier twin.

BRB, need to call my therapist.

In its simplest form, it all started with an email.

I think about this all the time. We got an email on a cold February night from the scared little person in the other room. A desperate cry for help. She told us she’s transgender. She told us she needed our support and understanding.

There was a moment when Zoe and I were sitting in our room across the hall, separated from a terrified child by two walls but only a mere 8 or 10 feet, when a decision had to be made: what do we do? How do we handle this?

So many things could have gone wrong that night. So. Many. Things.

I could have chosen to remain ignorant to trans issues.

Rather than embrace her child, Zoe could have chosen to keep her own then-unaddressed true gender buried with a total lack of acceptance for her child’s true gender – a safety measure I’ve seen happen many times. (Remember the guy in high school who was super homophobic and then ends up coming out in college? That.)

We could have considered conversion therapy (still legal at the time for youth in Ontario) and tried to “fix” Alexis. I feel sick just thinking about it, but, sadly this still happens in many families today.

Or, we could have just ignored the email – and all the fears and uncertainties it brought up – and hoped it would all quietly go away. Shove it under the rug. We never saw an email, dear. Let’s talk about this in a couple of years, when you’re a little older and understand yourself better.

I will never forget that moment. I sometimes relive it in slow motion: read, process, look at Zoe, look at across the hall at Alexis’ closed door, look back at the email on the screen, process, repeat.

That moment changed everything. Because, for whatever reason, we chose the right things. We put love first, even though I felt like I was drowning in fear of something I knew nothing about, and Zoe was doing the same in fear she knew all too well but tried never to look at.

It’s important to note this: We are not amazing parents. We are not perfect parents (I fed my family takeout twice this week and forgot to do my kid’s homework with him – again.) We are not parents who are somehow better, smarter or more capable than other people raising kids.

But for our many imperfections, I think we have our priorities straight: Love before fear. Belief before doubt. Questions before assumptions.

In other words: We chose to let love lead rather than our own fears. We chose to believe what our child was telling us about who she is rather than doubt her. And we chose to ask questions about what was going on rather than make our own assumptions.

(Now, if only I could make a meal plan as well as I can make room for acceptance, I would be BOSS at this parenting thing.)

The reason I keep going back to that one moment in time is because it was the start of something beautiful. It’s the moment I found out I have a daughter – that we all got it wrong for so long and she could finally tell us. I hold it in high regard, like the day my babies were born, or the day Zoe and I said, “I do.” Like those moments, it was the beginning of incredible things; a transformation in our lives.

Because of Alexis’ bravery in that moment, Zoe was finally able to come out.

Because of that moment, I am married to the woman of my dreams, who makes me so much happier now that she’s finally happy.

Because of that moment, our kids have two moms who are modelling authenticity. The cloud that hung over our household for years has been lifted, and it’s made all our lives better.

Because of that moment, I started sharing the story of our family’s transition – because it is a family transition, in many ways – and it’s resonated with people all over the world. Because maybe you can’t relate to being trans or having a trans family member (or two), but you can relate to the bigger picture: unconditional love, acceptance, support, fighting for the people you care about, and taking care of yourself in the process.

Or maybe you can relate in deeper ways. Because of that moment, I’ve heard from trans people and their loved ones from all over the world. Five different continents! (Oddly, no one has emailed from Antarctica yet.) We even had a family stay with us for a few months while attempting to find their footing in Canada, a place where they can hopefully escape persecution.

And now, because of that very moment, Alexis and I will be tackling our biggest speaking engagement ever. We’ll be sharing our story at WE Day Vancouver on November 3rd, 2016.

I often go to WE Day in Ottawa as media, and will bring one of my kids along as my “assistant.” (I’m not sure how much they’re assisting me, but it makes me feel important and they get to go the press conferences and such.)

Last year, I took Alexis for the first time, and her eyes lit up. “Imagine being up there?” she leaned over to me as she gazed at the stage. “I want to speak at WE Day. I think I could make a difference, too.”

“You already make a difference,” I told her. And I meant it, obviously (see above.) But I knew what she was saying. WE Day is magical. I always leave ready to take on the world. The speakers are empowering, the messages are strong, the thousands of youth who attend are changemakers in their own communities. Having an impact on a crowd like that can make a sizeable difference.

You may recall we did some work with Microsoft earlier this year. That project was particularly special to me, as I fully understood how a company of that calibre putting its support behind trans rights was a bold and important statement. It shows us the world is moving in a direction that embraces people for who they are, and that some companies – the best kind of companies, in my opinion – are prepared to stand with the LGBTQ community beyond pride parade sponsorship. It’s big.

So, you can imagine how it warmed my little activist heart when Microsoft asked if Alexis and I would be willing to come to WE Day to share our story of how technology – in the form of an email – helped make that all-important moment in our lives happen. And the WE Day organizers having trans youth on stage is a big step forward, too.

Basically, all these people deserve hugs.

But most importantly, it warmed my mama heart to know this was happening, because I could tell my daughter her wish was coming true: on November 3rd, she will be a WE Day Speaker! (Insert many heart emoticons here and probably some crying face emoticons because I tend to get emotional over this stuff.) Her brave message of authenticity is going to be told in a whole new way.

One moment. That’s all it takes to change your life and make a difference in the lives of others. I’m glad that, in the moment, we chose love. And now we get to spread that love all over.

Okay, I’m crying. I swear, I'm my own worst enemy. 

Off to make a meal plan.