This is a post that I’ve been thinking about for the past several weeks… I wasn’t sure if the timing was right or not, but I’ve decided that there’s no better time than the present, so here we go…
This is pretty big news, so you might want to sit down and take some deep cleansing breaths before reading further if you are someone who doesn’t handle surprises well.
Many of you have been following my blog, parent trainings, and Facebook groups for a long time, and you have come to know me and my family well through the stories that I’ve shared about adopting a wonderful 10-year-old girl in 2011 and our journey of transforming trauma together.
I’ve shared some very personal and vulnerable stories with you over the years, and all of this was done with 100% support from my kiddo, who is also committed to helping as many other families and children as possible. I could not be luckier than to be the Mama to this amazing child!
Speaking of vulnerability… If you haven’t read Brené Brown’s books or seen her TED Talk, you really should… you can check out her most famous talk HERE: The Power of Vulnerability
With all that said, I have something very personal to share with you today.
Over the past year or so, I started noticing a change in my daughter. She had always had a lot of anxiety and distressing symptoms/behaviors related to Complex Developmental Trauma, language deprivation, and early abuse and neglect, but this was… different.
As most of you know, she had some very explosive and aggressive behaviors in the early years right after I brought her home from Guatemala, but we were able to resolve those with compassionate, connected parenting, therapy, and a lot of patience and support.
But when she turned 15, something changed.
In Guatemala and other Latin American countries, turning 15 is a big deal for a girl because of a special “Sweet 15” party called a quinceañera. Debora and I had been planning her quinceañera for years.
We had the big, poofy dress. The shoes. The crown and the bling. We even bought 15 hand-beaded peacocks from Guatemalan artisans as decorations.
But when the big day approached, Debora started getting extremely anxious. I thought it must be because of the “traumaversary” of birthdays and thinking about her Guatemalan mom and siblings.
So we put it off… for a month, then several months… then a whole year passed, and we still had that sparkly purple poofy dress hanging in a closet, collecting dust.
As her 16th birthday got closer, I asked if she wanted to wear the dress so I could get some pictures, and she gradually obliged… for my sake. We ended up making it a very small gathering with just a couple of close friends.
She put the dress on, but she didn’t want to do makeup and hair. The whole thing just seemed absolutely mortifying to her, and at the time, I didn’t know why.
That was the last time Debora wore a dress.
Several weeks later, she started getting very agitated and depressed. We talked, and she opened up to me. Finally she explained why the quinceañera was so hard for her.
She told me that she just didn’t want to wear dresses any more, and she didn’t want to wear makeup and do her hair anymore. She said she was a “tomboy” and not interested in girl things. She wanted me to buy her some boy clothes so she could change her look.
So of course, we did that. Because… teenagers. Trauma. Connection. She started changing her appearance more and more, and even wore a suit and tie to school one day.
One night she came to me choking back tears. “Mom, I need you to cut my hair off.”
I asked her if she wanted to wait and go to a salon, but she insisted that I cut it off immediately.
I could tell that this act of cutting off her hair meant something much more to her than just a change of style. There was desperation in her face, and a mother does what a mother has to do to take away the pain of her child.
So I cut off all her long, beautiful black hair. Instantly, a wave of relief swept over her, and she started to relax again.
Over the next couple of weeks, Debora started talking about being a tomboy again. Later, she said that she might not be a tomboy, but she did feel more like a boy than a girl.
We talked some more about how she has always loved action movies and horror movies and hated romance movies and “chick flicks”… how she feels about her body… how she feels about friendships, dating, and attraction to other teens. Lots and lots of talking.
We Googled gender nonconformity and talked about what that means. We looked up mature words and ASL signs related to gender expression and discussed what they mean.
She started to open up more about how she had always felt uncomfortable in her body.
And then over time, as we talked and explored all of this together, the clouds of confusion lifted and the truth eventually became as clear as day…
My child is transgender.
What this means is that my child was assigned female at birth and was named Debora, but his true gender identity is male and he needs to express this outwardly, not just hide and pretend to be a girl any more.
We are now using male pronouns, he is dressing and presenting as a boy, and he is going by the male name, Hiro.
The name change happened by accident when I noticed and mentioned that with his new haircut, he looked a lot like the character Hiro from the animated film, Big Hero 6. He decided that would be a perfect boy name because the character in that film has also suffered tremendous loss and has a lot of anger and explosive behavior, yet he eventually overcomes his trauma to be a champion and defender of others.
Hiro from the film, and my Hiro, are both true HEROES.
I realize that not everyone understands and accepts LGBTQ+ people like my son, and he will likely be a target for a lot of misunderstanding and discrimination. However, he is very brave, and he also has a strong Mother Bear to defend him from those who would bully and demean him.
So far, we have had nothing but support from family members and friends, and for that I am thankful.
This is obviously a HUGE transformation for us and affects so many aspects of every day life that I can’t even begin to blog about right now. I’m also going to need to go back and re-do a lot of my training content to update the pronouns! This will take some time, of course.
However, for now I just ask that anyone who follows me understand and respect that I must do what is right for my child, no matter what others may think. Hiro has made it very clear to me that transitioning to male gender expression is what is best for him, and we are taking things day by day.
In my Families in FLIGHT group and Teaching With Connection Facebook groups that I am the administrator of as well as other parent support groups I am active in, there is GREAT diversity of world view, religion/spirituality, and political perspectives.
I have always believed in embracing and celebrating diversity as one of my core values. That means that I can worship in a church with an evangelical Christian or Catholic, be comfortable visiting a Mosque, or celebrate my father’s Jewish heritage.
I spend time with and have friends who are both conservative and liberal and everything in between, and I identify as a progressive Christian.
I have been a Parent Coach to those who are active in church and ministry as well as those who are active in social justice community work. So, I’m hopeful that this news won’t scare too many people away just because my kiddo is different.
Even if it does, I am just not willing to keep that purple poofy dress OR the truth of Hiro’s identity stuffed in the closet any more.
I am so glad that Hiro was able to come out to me and trust me with his deepest feelings about gender identity and expression, as some studies say there is a 40% suicide attempt rate for transgender teens whose families do not support transition, while for those whose families are supportive, attempted suicide decreases to around 3% (similar to the general teenage population). I would much rather have a transgender son than a dead daughter.
More that that, though, I am learning to understand, appreciate, and yes, even CELEBRATE that my child is not at all the “ugly duckling” that the world thinks he is, but that he is just a beautiful and creative swan baby trying to make his way and be himself in a world full of boring, “normal” ducks.
If anyone has a transgender child or suspects that their child might be gender questioning, please feel free to reach out to me at Support@WingBuilder.com. There are some wonderful resources and supports available to other Mama Bears, and I’m happy to share those with you!
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT PRONOUNS:
When I originally wrote and posted this article, it was the first time I referred to my child as a boy and used the male pronouns “he/ his/ him”. I have recently gone back into the older articles to change ALL of the female pronouns to male pronouns, as I have learned that my son’s gender identity as a boy began at a very young age, but he wasn’t able to express this to me until recently in early 2017 when he came out as transgender. So reading this article might seem odd for those of you who are newer to the blog and were not even aware that my child was assigned female at birth and I thought I had adopted a ten-year-old daughter. I decided to leave this post here because I believe it’s important to be honest, authentic, and open about our journey to help as many others as possible, including parents of transgender children.