Supporting My Trans Child Has Helped me Embrace Change
I grew up hearing people tell me that having a child would change my life. And I would think, "Well, duh. They do that. They're a lot of work and a lot of love." That change is epic, even in the most typical of circumstances.
So, my question is: what's beyond epic? Because in our family, the transformation has been that. I wasn't quite expecting it.
Dudes, seriously. If you've been reading my blog for a while (or are one of the growing number of people who incoherently email me at 4 a.m. to tell me you discovered it a few hours ago and have wasted the night away reading every single post and it's all my fault), you know why I'm writing a book about it all.
But today marks a special occasion.
On this day three years ago, our child came out to us as transgender. And it's changed all our lives for the better.
She was 11 back then, and terrified to tell us. The world wasn't quite ready to fully embrace her, and I'd argue, given the political climate and the ugly rise of bigotry, it's not quite ready today, either.
Still, we've come a long way since then, and I've learned a few things that I hope to share with those who still aren't quite ready to embrace LGBTQ families. This post is dedicated to you.
Over the last three years, we've watched the person we knew as a sad and hurting little boy transform outwardly into the glorious and gutsy girl she kept locked inside for too many years. The forced, pained smiles we would see on our child's face have grown into real ones (now with added braces). The child we once greatly feared for is now someone I admire for her strength.
She was in grade 6 when she came out; she's in grade 9 now. The doctors blocked her puberty a few months into her transition so she wouldn't experience any further testosterone-fueled changes. This eased much of her discomfort. This past November, once she turned 14, she started taking estrogen, and the changes are now happening in the right direction. She's never been happier or more comfortable in her own skin. She also gives me these incredible teenage girl eye rolls and "Gaaaawwwwwwd, mom!" moments. Super impressive.
But the impact her transition has had didn't end with her. She's helped both her parents become better versions of themselves.
Because of Alexis' courage to live outwardly, my spouse was able to come out as a woman the following year, and our family now has two happy moms in it.
And because I had to explore my feelings about my wife Zoe's transition, I dug deep enough to outwardly admit what I never felt safe saying to anyone before: I'm a lesbian. Our family had a pretty big closet.
Throughout all these changes, our extended family, friends and community embraced us. We still live in the same house. My wife still has the same job. Our kids still go to the same schools. While we did lose a handful of people, most folks have been all, "Hey, you be you guys and I'll love you through it." No big deal.
If you're someone who doesn't like trans or gay people, you're probably throwing up into the nearest garbage can right now. "What? A trans kid?" *Barf* "And then the parent comes out as trans, too?" *Gag* "And then the other parent says she's a lesbian?" *Heave* "And people are OKAY WITH THIS?!" *Breathing into paper bag*
I'm sorry. That's probably a lot to handle all at once. Let's sit down together. Here, have a tissue. You pull it out of the box though, so I don't touch it and inadvertently smear my gay all over your face.
Listen, hater-friend, I know what this looks like to people who see it through a certain lens. It looks like we were overly-permissive parents who would have let a child who thought they were a unicorn live as a unicorn if they said so because we don't know how to say "no" and we're brainwashed by the left/the trans agenda/fake news/Satan/vaccines/MSG. And then we all caught whatever's on that tissue I just gave you and now our family has reached maximum levels of dirty, sinful queerness.
Let's just get this out of the way: If there was any possible way I could live as a unicorn, I would totally do that. But they're not real. LGBTQ people are real, however. We're almost as cool as unicorns, too. But we don't have that magnificent stabby horn, which is probably why you think you can be jerks and deny us rights.
Over the last three years, I've tried to figure out what your problem is. Why you gotta be like that? After reading a lot of your manifestos and troll-y twitter comments, I think I've come up with the answer:
Families like ours scare you because we represent the future.
And deep down, you know it.
Your attempts at making laws allowing companies to discriminate against gay people and states to dictate where trans people pee are like putting Band-Aids on a bursting dam. The glitter flood is coming, my throw-uppy friend, and you can either ride the wave or be buried in it.
All the positive stories out of there, like that of my daughter and the authenticity she's brought to our family, are the canaries in the bigot coalmine. It's time to get out of that dark hole and embrace the rainbow. Your way of thinking is old and dusty. It belongs in a museum. And one day, just like segregated water fountains, it will be in history books for young kids to read and say, "Wow, I can't believe people used to think like that."
I get your fear. When Alexis first told me, I was afraid, too. I was afraid of what supporting that change would look like. Three years later, I'm here to tell you it looks awesome. Awesome on her, on us, on our community.
No open pits to Hell. No demons running through the streets. Just a family living more authentically and with a lot more happiness. How is that bad or offensive or dangerous? How does the way my family lives affect the way your family lives?
(Coles notes: It doesn't. At all. Zero percent.)
And yet, you are afraid. Sure, you hide it behind anger or judgment and maybe throw a few bible verses in there for good measure. But it all comes down to fear and a lack of education on LGBTQ issues fueling that fear.
Look, if you and your family members are straight and cisgender (AKA not trans), then you will remain that way no matter who comes out around you. If you're not straight or cis, then stories like ours will make you think. That can be scary, but also good. (Trust me, I know.)
If you let a trans kid use the bathroom they're most comfortable in, it will not change anything for you, but will make a big difference for them. If you make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, you're helping love flourish, and that's something every religion can agree is a good thing. (You can still make wedding cakes for straight people, too. )
Three years ago, my daughter taught me to embrace change. She's since taught millions of others through telling her story and allowing me to share it through my writing. We've spoken to live audiences ranging from 18 to 18,000, and our message is always the same: Find yourself. Be yourself. Love yourself. And let others do that, too.
If this brave girl can do it, we can all do it. Even you, if you step beyond your fear. We're happy to help you do that.
Happy third transiversary, Alexis. Thank you for helping us all learn to be better people. Your moms love you more than we probably show when you roll your eyes at us.