Briefly describe how your child first came out to you and your initial reactions.
Our child came out to my husband and myself together at the home of herself and her spouse. They had just gotten married a couple of months before in what we thought was a fairly traditional heterosexual wedding. Our child explained to us that she was transgender, that though she looked like a man on the outside, that inside she was a woman (and lesbian), and she told us her new feminine name. We were totally surprised, but we listened and asked a few questions. Before we left we expressed our love for both of them and prayed with them. This was good in that we were accepting of what she was telling us, but the truth is we were still in shock. We drove to our home a few hours away and began the process of our own transition.
What concerns did you experience over the first weeks or months? How did you deal with them?
I did a lot of grieving over the loss of the image I had of my only son in my mind and heart. I had to deal with the loss of my previous perception of our relationship and the loss of my expectations of the future. I was also concerned for the safety and well-being of my child. Fortunately I had some time off from work, so I cried and prayed a lot. I called my daughter and asked what would be helpful for me to read to understand her experience, and she recommended Jennifer Boylen’s book She’s Not There. I went to the library and got that very helpful autobiography and many more books about gender. Eventually I found friends, relatives and colleagues I felt safe to talk with about this change in our lives. I also chose to get some therapy to help myself process my feelings and to be the best parent I could be to our daughter.
Has your child come out to other family members over time?
She came out to my husband at the same time, and our other daughter a little later when she returned from study abroad. Our younger daughter was very accepting, saying she “always wanted a sister”, and quickly adopted a new set of pronouns for her sister. My husband was also accepting, but like me went through a long process of grief and education.
What is the hardest thing about knowing their LGBTQ identity?
The hardest thing is knowing how much she suffered before she was able to piece together and claim her true identity. I regret that I was so clueless when she was younger and had no way to recognize where her struggles were coming from. I knew she was unhappy, hurting, angry and depressed as an adolescent, but couldn’t figure out what was causing all those feelings.
What are some challenges have you faced concerning your LGBTQ child? How did you deal with these?
It took time to accustom myself to her new name and pronouns. Fortunately she was patient with my mistakes.
I have had and still have some struggles with a very dear sister of mine who though she intends to be loving has a very difficult time accepting our child’s being transgender. She appears to view it as a poor and unfortunate choice our daughter is making rather than truly accepting her gender identity as genuine and who she truly is. I often feel angry about this rejection which stems from my sister’s religious belief system.
What is the best thing about knowing your child's LGBTQ identity?
The best thing about our knowing our child’s identity is understanding her so much better, and seeing her so much happier now than when she was growing up. She is blessed with a supportive family of her own, and she knows her dad and sister and I love her and accept her with all our hearts. We are all a lot happier, and continue to work through our relationships. We find there is continual healing happening.
Knowing what you know today, would you want your child to “stay in the closet”? Why?
No, I definitely would not want her “in the closet.” She is so much happier and healthier out of it. I respect and admire her courage, her honesty, and her willingness to risk in order to be herself and to grow.
What would you say to other parents learning the LGBTQ identity of their child?
It is understandable that you may be experiencing a lot of pain, confusion, grief and a whole array of various feelings. Try to be patient with yourself and with your child. Read and learn all you can about gender! There is so much new and better information coming out. Take good care of yourself. Find yourself the support you need, whether that’s with PFLAG or friends or family. If you go to church, find a supportive one. Transition is something the parent goes through as well as the child, and it’s a process that takes time and energy. Most likely your child will become happier in the long run being able to be more themselves, and therefore you will be happier, too. Hang in there!
What would you say to youth coming out to their families?
Please try to be patient and loving with your families. Remember that it’s a big adjustment on their part, as it probably has been on yours. You are probably quite a bit ahead of them in the process and it may take them a while to catch up. On the other hand, don’t let them stop you from continuing to love and accept yourself. Remember that human parents are just that, human! God your heavenly Parent always loves and accepts you no matter what, so keep looking to that Ultimate Love and find other people with whom you experience it.
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