There wasn’t one exact moment when I knew my child was transgender, it happened over years of my son asking me in various different ways to help him be a girl. I was not prepared to recognize or address that my young child could be transgender and my first incredibly awkward response to her is evidence. In fact my daughter told her therapist that she recognized it would take time for her parents to be ready to understand even though at this point she was only seven and didn’t even know what transgender meant.
Like a lot of other parents whose child appears to be transgender, I tried to convince her that she was a boy who just liked to wear dresses. I bought her books celebrating the gender expression of little boys wearing girly clothes. I pointed to the illustrations saying, “Doesn’t he look like fun?” using an unnaturally excited voice. Mattie responded, “Yes! I would definitely be friends with him.” Encouraged I asked, “Doesn’t he seem a lot like you?” She looked at me with disappointment and shook her head, “No, I am not like him.”
After doing more research I bought a book called, “I am Jazz.” It was written by a young transgender girl to help kids understand why the boy they knew was suddenly a girl. I irrationally feared that by reading the book to my child I would make her transgender. I can say that now and laugh at my ignorance but back then I cried at the thought. I worried that by giving her information it would put ideas in her head and I was still not ready. Not ready to know for sure what had been nagging me since the first time she brought up being a girl when she was four.
I pulled Mattie onto my lap and read the book to her. She kept saying excitedly, “That is me, that is me” while pointing to the illustration of the transgender girl in the book. I had goosebumps and my eyes filled with tears that I tried to prevent from rolling down my face. She asked, “Is that really a girl who was born a boy?” Fearing she would hear the sadness in my voice I simply nodded and squeezed her tightly. For days after she thanked me for buying the book for her. She practiced saying the word transgender as she walked around the house. She had always known but now she had the name for it.
It was still a few more weeks after that before my husband and I decided to “let her” socially transition and live as a girl. I say “let her” but even before then she had started introducing herself as a girl, not letting her buzz cut or boys clothing get in the way. She was no longer waiting for us to be ready because she had waited long enough.
We told our close circle of friends and family and assumed that there would be some great change in Mattie. She would just be different now she had our approval to socially transition as a girl. We waited and waited to see the difference. But there was no change. Yes she took the opportunity to wear dresses that she had been begging me to buy her for a number of years but her behavior wasn’t any different. We were all surprised and I wondered for the thousandth time if I had done the right thing by letting her outwardly identify as a girl. People said things like, “I thought she would be less active,” or “She still likes rocks?” Even as enlightened as we thought we were, we still held prejudices when it came to gender behavior.
It took us months for it to click that she was herself this whole time. She was just waiting for us to see the girl inside her that had been there all along.
This author has chosen to publish anonymously.