“‘I want to be a girl, Mom! Just make me a girl!’ That phrase will be etched permanently into my memory for the rest of my life. The vision of my child throwing her fists down in anger and frustration as we were about to get into the shower can never be erased. That was the moment when I knew I had a transgender daughter and our lives as we knew them were about to change. I could feel the air suck right out of me after she said it; I could not breathe. I am sure she noticed the fear and shock in my face as I stood there silently just staring back at her not knowing what to say.
I threw open the bathroom door and repeated what she just said to my husband who was lying on our bed. He looked like a deer caught in headlights, his face mimicking how I felt inside as he sat there silently processing what he heard. I closed the bathroom door and tried to maintain my composure for her as I held back the tears. I am sure I said something similar to, ‘It isn’t that easy baby, but I am here for you and we can start growing out your hair if you want, okay?’ I do not remember what words actually came out of my mouth, but I knew right then we needed help.
A few short years before, she and I were standing there in the bathroom together, my husband and I were surrounded by family and friends having her ‘gender’ reveal. The days leading up to the reveal everyone at work told me I was having a girl and my husband would tell me he only makes boys. I had a gut feeling my husband was right and that we were about to let down a handful of people. When we bit into those cake pops, there it was: the bright blue center.
I could see the disappointment on my best friend’s face immediately even though she tried to hide it, but for some reason, I felt relieved. I was ready to be a full-on boy mom with a life filled with baseball, superheroes, and dirt. What I did not know is this gender reveal did not really reveal anything about the child we were having at all.
Ever since Ella could start expressing herself, she was drawn to anything a cisgender girl would be attracted to. She would dress up in my shoes and wear my shirts for dresses. She would wear a giraffe towel on her head to imitate long, flowing blonde locks. She would only be female characters when she would have fantasy play and she would draw herself in pictures with long hair, as a girl, every single time. So, I started researching. I found there were many more Moms just like me wondering what all of this meant.
Would I have a gay son? I bet that is what it is, I remember thinking. Would she just be more feminine? When I would do this research, I would find stories about transgender kids, but I refused to go there at that time. After all, Ella did know she was a boy, right? We reminded her of it constantly. Friends and family would thrust their gender stereotypes upon her, hoping they could help us end this phase. However, the constant ache in my stomach would always be there to remind me this was not a phase and I needed to do whatever I could to accept and protect my child.
One of the questions I get asked the most when people learn I have a transgender daughter is, ‘How does your husband handle it?’ I have always been curious as to why this is the most asked question I get as if Dads do not love as unconditionally as Moms do. Perhaps it’s due to the staggering point that most men who have a transgender child do not support their child’s identity, a sad statistic that I have come to learn after diving deep into my own research as a Mom of a transgender youth. I blame our western culture for that.
However, when I answer this question, I am usually perplexed to say that my husband, in my opinion, is handling it better than I am nowadays. This has not always been the case as we have had an endless back and forth about how to move forward and what we both felt was best. In the beginning, Daniel was eager to avoid approval or praise over anything that was gender non-conforming and tried and encourage the opposite. He was never harsh to Ella or mean about the things that intrigued her, but he was never too far behind with a baseball bat and mitt in his hand to try and spark her interest either. He was always trying to counteroffer with something more ‘acceptable’ for her biological sex, but her interests never wavered. He was scared, as was I.
I have come to see the same fear in my husband’s face that I saw the day she told me to make her a girl more than once on this journey. I too have felt it deep down to my core and resonated right there with him. Now, more often than not, that fear of his is replaced with strength, love, and the ability to not stand down to anyone who has something to say about it. He now combats my constant worry about the future with hope and reminds me daily that we cannot control anyone other than ourselves. He is constantly talking me off a ledge when I want to shut out everyone from our lives or move away, and he has held me when I have cried more times than I can count.
I don’t ever tell him about the moments I have fallen in love with him all over again, but many of them have come out of this journey. Some of those private moments include him buying her first doll and both of their faces lighting up, him having to finish reciting the letter I wrote to the school board because I couldn’t get through it and then him barely being able to get through it himself, him secretly scrolling through girl names after our first counseling session, him constantly ingraining in Grant the importance of always protecting and accepting his sister and that no friendship will ever be greater, him sharing a documentary with family members so they could get a closer glimpse of what Ella is going through and will continue to go through, and him asking friends and family to call her Ella and use female pronouns when I was not ready to do so.
When we decided to do a new gender reveal for Ella, I wanted to highlight how big of a role my husband has played in her transition, and I also wanted to highlight the grieving process that comes along with being a transgender parent. If you love your child unconditionally, then accepting your child for who they are is never a choice, it is just something you do. That does not mean it is always easy, though. This journey has been anything but easy. I am often praised for accepting and loving my child, but behind the scenes, I am filled with anxiety and fear most of the time and I continue to grieve the easier path I had predestined for her. This continues to get easier as we continue to grow support from those around us and watch her fully blossom.
Initially, our photographer reached out to us. She wanted to do a shoot highlighting our story as she herself has a gay son and knows how important it is to their well-being when they are accepted by their parents. She was inspired by a few of my raw Facebook posts and I was extremely grateful she had offered to do it. My hope is that when people see our photoshoot celebrating our daughter they will want to understand more about transgender youth and will be less scared of what it’s all about.
I hope they can push their preconceived notions aside and recognize my child is not some mistake like many have made her out to believe. I hope they can see she is now living her best life and would want the same for every one of them, and I hope we can gain more allies. At the very least, I hope I can help at least one other parent struggling with the decision on how to move forward with their gender-nonconforming child who insists their identity does not align with the sex they were born as.
As I look back on my journey as a parent of a transgender child and doing a second gender reveal, I can only think of what Ella’s perception of all of this will be one day. I can only give my recollection of how her life has unfolded up until now, but I always wonder what she will have to say. Will she be mad at us for not letting her be who she is sooner? Will she be thankful we eventually came around and stopped making her compromise her way through life? Will our acceptance of our daughter keep her from being one of the statistics? I pray with all my being this will be the case. I used to question whether we are doing the right thing:
Will she change her mind?
Will she be safe and protected when I am not around?
What will it be like with her going back to school?
Do I share our story publicly and put her safety at risk? Or will sharing our story build more support and help keep her safe?
Do we legally change her name now?
These questions constantly rang in my mind. What has helped silence them and any doubt I had was seeing her transformation after the social transition. The gender reveal officially solidified that we are doing the right thing and have been all along. Her smile continues to answer all my questions along with the support of families like ours and our counselors, the science behind trans, and the research I’ve been doing. Finally, it all makes sense.
Her happiness has begun to outweigh my fears and I slowly shed them one by one. My child is happy. That is all any parent ever wants for their children, right? As for me? I am a completely different woman because of what Ella has taught me throughout these years. I can only imagine how many more she will continue to teach throughout her life. If you are questioning whether to celebrate your trans child in the same way we did, my advice to you is to JUST DO IT. It is liberating, exciting, and in the end, their smile is completely worth it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Julie Hindsley from Waco, Texas. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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