"You're Raising Your Trans Child Wrong." Sincerely, the Internet
Hi there. I'm the mother of a transgender child and the spouse of a transgender woman.
I choose to share parts of our family's story because it gives people an inside look into what it's like to learn someone you love is trans (or, in my case, two someones), support them through transition, and come to the realization everyone is better off when people can just be themselves (go figure.)
I believe the more connected a person feels to a community they don't belong to, the fewer misconceptions they have about that community, and the more learning and acceptance can take place.
This kind of advocacy work - writing, talking, sharing - is how I try to make the lives of my loved ones and their community a little easier in the long run. Change minds, change hearts, make the world safer. That's the goal.
But talking about trans issues - unfortunately, still a hotly debated topic - leaves us open to criticism, bigotry and outright hatred. We occasionally get threats, which is not the most pleasant experience. But mostly, we just get emails and tweets and Facebook comments about how we've got it all wrong.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Especially when it comes to how we choose to support our daughter. It seems everyone has an opinion about how to raise trans kids - especially people who have never done it themselves.
These people - always folks who don't know us in person, by the way - kindly and not-so-kindly like to inform me that supporting trans youth by allowing them to live as the gender they identify as is wrong.
And the whole "trans experience"? The idea of actually being trans? That's apparently wrong too. They feel I should know that. I've been misinformed, you see. Trans people are actually just confused or mentally ill, or a host of other things.
Lots of things!
What's happening, according to the kind folks who are trying to educate poor, misinformed me, ranges from our crappy parenting skills to what I was thinking when I was pregnant. Here's a quick tour of some of the "reasons" folks have used to explain why my child identifies as a gender other than the one she was assigned at birth:
We are bad parents. Like not purposefully bad, of course. We're not monsters or anything. Folks are quite sure we mean well.
We just did everything wrong from the start, that's all. We must have been overly-permissive, or too liberal in our thinking, or we confused our child because we didn't set strict enough gender roles. "This is for boys. You are a boy. Be a boy. Here are some testosterone-infused mini-muffins for snack time. Now go outside and wrestle the wildlife."
Or perhaps we went the other way entirely, where we were too rigid in gender roles and couldn't accept our child was a more "feminine boy." So she got confused, you see, and this lead to a catastrophic situation where she's now happily living life as a girl.
Given that we have three kids and must have made these mistakes with all of them, I'll have to check in with our two sons and see when they plan on transitioning. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before the confusion sets in.
Good thing, too. It's been a while since I wrote a big coming out post on here. Those get so much traction.
The "Transgender Agenda"
Apparently, this is like the Gay Agenda (which I've been informed is destroying the sanctity of family.) It's a real shame, since the Gay Agenda itself is quite lovely. My friend Jenn sent me a copy a few months ago and I've been using it to plan out my meals as well the inevitable destruction of all the values you hold dear.
Anyway, it seems the Transgender Agenda - or Transgenda, which is what it would be called if bigots had more imagination - is leading to an unfortunate level of societal acceptance and understanding. This, in turn, is causing young people to follow a terrible path where they finally get to live as their true selves in a way that feels right to them.
If only we could stop listening to transgender people and all their lived experience, and instead listen to people who have strong opinions about an experience they've never lived.
"Maybe you really wanted a girl when you were pregnant, so the baby changed to make you happy."
This one is new to me. It seems that young men are getting confused by the heavy focus on feminine characters in anime and that's leading them to question their own gender.
Once I found that out, I immediately went to talk to my twenty-year-old son, the only one in our household who watches anime. I'm worried. Despite his straight, cisgender appearance, he must be terribly closeted.
He denies it, but I'm going to keep an eye on him. Poor thing.
Low Quality Foods
Still my favourite reason, and by far the most plausible.
Do you know how many times I skipped adding a vegetable to the dinner plate? Too many times. And now look what happened: My kid is all comfortable with who she is.
And probably low in vitamin A.
Not Letting Jesus/The Lord/The Holy Spirit Into Our Hearts
Well, that explains why there are no devout Christian LGBTQ people. At all. In the whole world.
And why the "pray away the gay" approach is so effective.
And other things I could make up that are about as true as the original statement.
I asked some other parents of trans kids what reasons they've been given for their children coming out. Here are some gems, shared with permission:
"She wanted to be more like her sisters." (Meanwhile, my daughter wanted to... what? Stand out from her brothers? Maybe we could pick one judgmental, factually-unsound theory and stick to it?)
"You just really wanted a boy/a girl."
"It's easier for you to accept a trans daughter than a gay son." (Sure. Because people who would have a hard time accepting a gay child would have no problem accepting a trans child and all the changes in names/pronouns/ID/social support/medical support that comes with that.)
"I don't care what you read on the internet, it's wrong to try to turn him into a girl." (Still trying to turn my house into a beach house. It'll happen. If I can persuade my child to fundamentally be someone she isn't, I can do this.)
"It's the gluten." (It's always the gluten.)
"Because you're a feminist so you must hate men and your child picked up on that." (Hating men is totally what feminism is all about!, says no one who actually understands feminism.)
"Because you want to create conflict with your ex-spouse so you confused your child into transition." (Hey, why not? Custody issues are so affordable and comfortable, after all.)
"Are you sure this isn't another phase like Pokemon was?" (Oh, Anime. You're everywhere.)
And on, and on.
Look, here's the thing: It's okay to have an opinion on something. But it's better to have an informed opinion, especially if you want to share it with those who have lived experience in that something.
I've spent nearly three years now learning about trans issues from my wife and daughter, from hundreds of people in the trans community, and from experts around the world with years of experience working alongside the community they support.
I know where to find the latest research and what older research has been debunked (like the 80% "desist" rate in trans kids - the article people love to throw at affirming parents.)
Basically, I have a great deal invested in understanding trans issues, have devoted much of my life these days to understanding them, and I still don't claim to know everything. Not even close. And I would never claim being trans isn't a real or valid experience just because I've never experienced it. It wouldn't make sense for me to do so.
So chances are, if you are not trans or non/binary, not an educated family member, or not an expert in the study of gender dysphoria - if you are simply someone who has an opinion and has read a few articles you feel back that opinion up - what you have to say isn't going to hold much water with the rest of us.
Instead of your opinion, I welcome your questions, your openness, and your concerns.
I welcome discussion and learning.
I welcome misconceptions and the opportunity to talk about them.
But if you're just going to tell me I'm wrong in supporting my child or my spouse in being who they are, I'm not going to pay you much mind. Sorry. (Sorry for saying sorry, I'm Canadian.)
Either be willing to learn with us, or just don't show up. It's that simple. Because we won't be serving any testosterone-injected mini muffins at this party.