Join the Fight to Protect Transgender New Yorkers!
Jan 20, 2015 — Like many parents of transgender children, when I look back on my daughter’s childhood I can’t help but see the countless indicators of the truth of her identity. They seem so obvious to me in retrospect, but they weren’t then – though I knew a little about transgender issues, it just never occurred to me to link them to my own sweet little baby. That knowledge was abstract, and my child, with her little dimples, her long eyelashes, and her cute little rosebud mouth was never abstract to me.
From the time she was three-years old, she would cry, kick, and scream any time we took her to the barber. The look on her face was like that of a puppy who had been kicked, one of pain and bewilderment that the people who were supposed to love her the most would put her through this misery. A few years ago, after a particularly heinous session at the hair salon, she sat silently crying in the car next to me. Irritated by the scene she’d put up inside, I angrily asked her what was her problem. In a deadpan voice, she said, “All I want to do is take the keys to the car and drive it headlong into traffic.”
That was my wakeup call. Though I still didn’t fully understand what it was, I finally realized that the torment brewing inside my child wasn’t some manufactured teenage angst, but was something tangible and real. When she finally came out as a transgender girl to her father and me a few weeks later, so many things fell into place. However, to my complete shame and regret, we persuaded her to resist the urge to be her true self; we asked her to wait until after high school graduation before beginning her transition.
Almost immediately after she had the diploma in hand, she announced to us that she was ready. We finally took her to an affirming therapist to help her navigate the challenges facing her as a young transgender woman just beginning to be able to express her true self. It was through this affirmative, positive therapy that we discovered our baby had been constantly thinking of killing herself. While we were shocked and hurt over the pain she was in, her father and I felt mostly anger – at ourselves for not seeing it sooner, for not understanding and listening to her cries for help, for the danger we had unwittingly put her through in our misguided, but sincere, attempt to keep her safe through high school. Gradually, as she realized that her parents were finally fully supportive, the sullen, depressed child we had become used to was replaced by this relieved, open, and almost happy person. A miracle had happened. She was finally being accepted for the girl she really was, not the boy she had pretended to be. I cannot imagine the terrible effect it would have had if we had brought her to an unscrupulous conversion therapist in a misguided effort to “fix” her, to try and force her to be the person we thought she should be instead of the person she truly is.
Her father and I have had to do our own soul-searching. The two of us realized that in order to keep our child, we had to let go of the idea that we had a son, and fully embrace the truth of our daughter. As a longtime advocate for women’s rights, I’ve always believed that a woman’s experience and identity could never be defined by our bodies alone, but having a transgender daughter has challenged me to truly re-examine and expand my own ideas of femininity and what it means to be a woman. As for my husband, who came from a very conservative upbringing, the changes I’ve seen in him are remarkable and truly heartwarming. He had to come to terms with the fact that his first-born, a child that he gave a “rough and tumble” boy’s name to was never going to play football or be the big jock he’d always dreamed about. He had to rethink many of the conventions he held about what makes a person complete. I look at my daughter’s transition as a blessing. It’s a reminder that we need to look deeply at a person, past the outer appearance or their superficial story. Take off the clothes and makeup. Take away the props. Who is really standing in front of you? Learn about them and accept them. Love them for who they are on the inside. The transition isn’t just about the transgender person. It’s transformative for the people who love them too.
For my daughter, life is just beginning. While she is aware of the hardship she will undoubtedly face along her journey, now there is hope and excitement in her eyes. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. That is why I am calling on State Senate Leader Dean Skelos and the rest of the New York legislature to protect transgender youth from conversion efforts, so every child has the same chance my daughter did to blossom into a beautiful, inspiring young adult. And that is why I am calling on those same legislators to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) to protect transgender New Yorkers, and ensure that my daughter and other children like her have the chance at a life free from discrimination and hate. My daughter deserves a future, just like any other young woman; and New York deserves a future with her and so many other talented, beautiful, and inspiring people like her as well.
Proud Mother of a Transgender Daughter
Westchester, New York
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