I’m the parent of a trans child, and I’ve been called abusive for believing and supporting her more times than I can count.
Alexis came out over four years ago. She was 11 at the time, a depressed and anxiety-riddled child who had tried hard to live as a boy, to be just like her two brothers, for her entire young life. Once she was able to find the right words, she told us she wasn’t a boy, but rather a girl who was tired of trying to be something she’s not. We listened. We supported. We affirmed.
What does that look like?
Well, it looks like giving your child the opportunity to explore who they are.
It looks like listening and following their lead, not pushing or forcing them into your own definition of who you think they are.
It looks like getting them the right professionals to talk to, especially when you know puberty is either happening or about to happen and that it’s causing them distress.
In some cases, like our daughter’s, it looks like using blockers to stop that puberty after blood tests confirm it’s already at the midway point, and that going any further would cause irreversible changes.
Eventually, after lots of time and many discussions with parents and professionals, it sometimes looks like hormone replacement therapy to get puberty going in the right direction.
That’s where we are now. Our daughter has been on estrogen for a while and is happy with what she’s seeing and feeling when she looks in the mirror. Today, because of all this support, life is fairly status quo. She’s a typical teenage girl doing typical teenage things. She has friends and likes to go downtown and loves video games and coding and photography. She talks our ears off about every new thing she learns, which is still a delight to hear after so many years of unhappiness and isolation.
She feels free.
This is what I – and many other caregivers in similar situations – get called abusive for doing. I usually hear it at least once a day, and often several times a day, usually from complete strangers. They truly believe what we’re doing is a terrible thing.
Well, I think what they’re doing is a terrible thing.
I think it’s terrible most of them have no lived experience in being trans or raising someone who is, and yet feel justified in sharing their opinions with those who live it every day. Many will create accounts specifically to target, shout at, insult and attempt to discredit trans people and their loved ones. (Ironically, they’re the ones yelling “what you’re doing is abuse!” the loudest.)
I think it’s terrible some of them are seemingly parents of trans kids themselves but refuse to believe their children and give them the support they need because they don’t subscribe to what they call “trans ideology.” They would rather try to convince their children they’re the gender they were assigned at birth and “help them get comfortable with that idea,” which history has shown us is a very painful and often fruitless experience for trans kids. It also greatly increases the risk of self-harm.
I think it’s terrible they spread misinformation about what it’s like to support a trans child, insisting we “mutilate their bodies with genital surgery” and other such nonsense. Surgery isn’t something all trans people get, it’s not something everyone in the community wants, and it’s certainly not performed on children for a variety of reasons. Anyone in the know understands this is not the case, but we’re constantly having to defend ourselves and our kids against false information.
I think it’s terrible some of these people claim to be feminists, and yet focus heavily on invalidating the identities of trans women and girls. “They’re not women!” they’ll yell to anyone who will listen, and argue that my daughter should not be allowed in women’s spaces because she’s “a danger to ‘real girls’.” They would rather my very feminine looking daughter use the men’s bathrooms and changerooms. Trans women are women and trans girls are girls. They’re also at very high risk of violence simply for being trans, which makes them a vulnerable part of the sisterhood. If we’re not protecting our most vulnerable – particularly since there’s no evidence the rest of us need to be protected from them whatsoever – then what kind of feminists are we? Spoiler alert: Awful ones. I would argue not very feminist at all.
I think it’s terrible people get upset that affirming parents are “sterilizing” our children with hormones. This is something I hear all the time. First, the decision to begin hormone treatment is a slow, careful process, involving many consultations with specialists, risks thoroughly explained, and consent forms signed. Within that process are several conversations about the potential for permanent sterility, possible preservation of sperm or ova, and other pathways to parenthood. My daughter is excited for motherhood down the road. She simply won’t be going about it in the traditional way. “There are many ways to become a parent,” she’s told me many times. “There are so many kids out there who need good homes. I’m going to be one of those homes.” Because we listened and supported, my daughter is alive today to become someone’s happy and healthy mom down the road. This is far more important to either of us than whether she has biological children.
Mostly, I think it’s terrible people are using the term “abuse” so loosely. By calling affirming parents like me abusive, they’re watering down the meaning, which does a disservice to actual victims of abuse. Abuse is a very real and dangerous problem in society, and the term should not be misused in the name of ignorance or outright bigotry.
The definition of abuse is: “to treat a person or animal with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.”
There is nothing cruel about supporting your child.
There is nothing violent about getting them the help they need to live.
And the only thing we’re doing regularly and repeatedly is demonstrating unconditional love in the face of unnecessary adversity.
So, no. What I do every day isn’t abuse. What I do is take a woefully misunderstood parenting situation I found myself in and fight hard for one of the best and bravest girls I know.
What you do, however, if you’re constantly harassing parents like me with name-calling, slurs, insults and threats? That’s far closer to the definition of abuse.
But I’m not too bothered by it.
I’m kind of busy over here, watching my kid thrive.