My Child Came Out as Transgender Last Year: Why Being Her Advocate is So Important

Alexis and Amanda. Photo Credit: Sarah McCormack
Alexis and Amanda. Photo Credit: Sarah McCormack

Love is a really powerful thing.

I never knew just how powerful it was until my child came out to us as transgender last year.

She was 11, living miserably as a boy, hiding in her room, hardly smiling, riddled with anxiety, and keeping a secret that encumbered her more and more each day.

When she finally entrusted us – her parents – with that secret on a bitterly cold February evening, it felt like my heart broke in two and landed with a dull thud in my chest. Time stopped. My mind raced.

“Transgender” was a term I only knew peripherally. No one in my life, as far as I knew, was trans. I had always considered myself an ally of the community, but had no idea what transitioning entailed, especially for children. Could this be a phase? (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.) What were the legal implications? What about school? What medical options were available?

I didn’t know what to do. I had parented my three kids through a host of issues, like broken femur, a rare autoimmune disease, hearing loss, mental illness, and learning disabilities. But despite all of it, I still had no clue where to go from here. There was no roadmap for this one. I was terrified.

This is where love comes in – that deep, unconditional kind. The one that slaps you hard across the feels when you hold your child, clings to your insides and never lets go. That love kicked in, and it was mighty strong.

Love miraculously pushed all my worries aside for a moment, so I could wrap my arms around my child and tell her I love her; that we don’t care if she’s a boy or a girl, as long as she’s happy; that we would support her through her transition from living as male to living as female, whatever it took.

And then I left her room, took a few minutes, and cried that heavy, frightened cry.

Unconditional love pushed me to learn. Before I went to bed that night, I had emailed two friends who are experts in LGBTQ issues. By the next day, I had spoken to two leading experts in our city and placed a call with our local children’s hospital’s gender identity clinic. By the end of the week, my partner and I had joined a parent support group and I had read my way through two books, several articles and piles of studies.

I got informed for her. I learned with certainty that this wasn’t a choice, and that supporting her transition could very well save her life. I read worrying statistics (for example, 41% of transgender people attempt suicide in the U.S., 43% in Canada). I went to therapy and dealt with my own feelings so that I could be at my best for her and her brothers.

I became her advocate at school, in our community, and with medical professionals. With her permission, I began writing about our journey on the blog I’ve had for years, in the hopes of helping other kids and their families. This eventually led to writing for other publications, speaking to media, and rallying for policy changes on both a local and national level. The work can be tiring, but so rewarding.

I slipped into this advocacy role with ease, in large part because I, like many parents, have always been an advocate for my children.

The scale of that advocacy varies, but all of us must stand up for our kids at some point in our lives, whether it is in the birthing room or the classroom, the emergency room or the hockey arena.

Without always realizing it, we become accustomed to being our young children’s voices. This is one of the skills parenting teaches us, whether we’re paying attention or not.

My daughter watched me speak up for several months before a natural evolution occurred: she started wanting to advocate for herself.

Now 12 years old and 18 months into her transition, Alexis champions for her rights whenever she can. She gives her own media interviews, challenging long-held beliefs about gender with grace. I am forever amazed by her courage and insight.

I still get scared when I think about Alexis’ future. The obstacles surrounding friendships, dating and adulthood await her.

But seeing how her confidence has grown as she’s found her voice is reassuring. My not-so-little girl is will meet all those challenges head on, and I have to believe she is poised for success.

Advocacy at any level is an important part of parenting. It’s a skill we all learn, use, and hopefully teach to our children. And if we’re lucky, it not only makes their lives better, but the lives of others, too.

Unconditional love. It’s a powerful thing.


15 thoughts on “My Child Came Out as Transgender Last Year: Why Being Her Advocate is So Important”

  1. I have a transgender child as well, and what really bothered me about this article, is you never once referred to him, as a him.

  2. Does the child have a penis? Then it is a boy, no matter how he/she feels.
    Very sad situation, but wanting something doesn’t make it true. These children unfortunately will likely have high suicide rates even after they decide to transform because they will never really feel normal.

    1. she is a female idiot. why is it bigots come to our articles and blabber out trans phobic hate. Do you have a problem with an 11 year old child? are you that ignorant. here let me enlighten you bigot.

      Male-to-female transsexuals have female neuron numbers in a limbic nucleus.

      Kruijver FP1, Zhou JN, Pool CW, Hofman MA, Gooren LJ, Swaab DF.

      Author information

      Abstract

      Transsexuals experience themselves as being of the opposite sex, despite having the biological characteristics of one sex. A crucial question resulting from a previous brain study in male-to-female transsexuals was whether the reported difference according to gender identity in the central part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc) was based on a neuronal difference in the BSTc itself or just a reflection of a difference in vasoactive intestinal polypeptide innervation from the amygdala, which was used as a marker. Therefore, we determined in 42 subjects the number of somatostatin-expressing neurons in the BSTc in relation to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and past or present hormonal status. Regardless of sexual orientation, men had almost twice as many somatostatin neurons as women (P < 0.006). The number of neurons in the BSTc of male-to-female transsexuals was similar to that of the females (P = 0.83). In contrast, the neuron number of a female-to-male transsexual was found to be in the male range. Hormone treatment or sex hormone level variations in adulthood did not seem to have influenced BSTc neuron numbers. The present findings of somatostatin neuronal sex differences in the BSTc and its sex reversal in the transsexual brain clearly support the paradigm that in transsexuals sexual differentiation of the brain and genitals may go into opposite directions and point to a neurobiological basis of gender identity disorder

    2. Wrong. The suicide rate for those who successfully transition is greatly reduced from those who have not. Perhaps a little reading on the subject would enlighten you. Of course, that depends on whether you’re interested in learning something about it. But I’ll give you a little fact to get you started; what you have between your legs is not the sole determining factor as to what gender you are, in fact it’s not even the most important. Let me give your words right back to you; wanting something doesn’t make it true. Just because you want everyone to fit into the slot you assign them, doesn’t make them who you want them to be. It never ceases to amaze me how people still cling to the “what I see is who you are” mentality.

    3. I love it when people try to show what moral, upright citizens they are by speculating about a child’s genitalia.

      p.s. Shayla, what you know about biology, natal development, and neuroscience would fit into a matchbox without taking the matches out first.

  3. “And then I left her room, took a few minutes, and cried that heavy, frightened cry” Oh boy, I know that one. My son transitioned when he was 15, and I too felt like his greatest advocate, and still do, but there is that moment…when we hurt for them, for what they may face in the future that guts you like a knife. Our kids are the lucky ones, there are so many who are thrown away for being who they are, so thank you for being a champion for your daughter, and for sharing your story.

    1. or worse. I came out at 3 years old. worst mistake of my life. the abuse and beating were horrible and long ago I did get on hormones I was 21 then and they ran off my doctors told me I would die a male and that I would never become female they would make sure of that. it cost me 30 year of happy life. it was not until a LGBT clinic opened up last fall I was able to get back on HRT. and they still show me nothing but hate. worse yet we still have no right to anything I was fired and blackballed for being transgender in 1985. never worked again but I heard lots of we do not hire ITS in my county 15 years worth before I finally gave up. now I have been on HRT 7 months and still hear the hate and caught this on my phone but I have no SD card so it was only able to get a few seconds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KhCk-MmFJg

  4. Wished my parents would accept me as the boy I am on the inside the same way you accept your daughter… 🙁 You’re a great mother!

  5. This is a wonderful story and I can so relate. Any time anyone ask me what I think or how I feel, I always reply unconditional love because I love her( my daughter) very much.
    Destiny,Diane and Geena, you are all doing good , I love your answers. Some people just call it like they want to, they don’t read or research things they don’t understand and I don’t understand that at all especially since in this day and time you can research everything on the Internet .

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