☆All names have been changed to protect those that need to be protected in today’s society
I guess this is actually one of the most important things I’ve ever had to write, the responsibility is heavy and I just don’t know where to start. I know for some of you it must be a huge leap of faith we are asking you to take. I get this.
Awhile ago I watched a moving short film, made by a Mum who just like me is desperate to explain her child and to pave a future for her. Her story is so much like ours that I could almost play you the film and that will say it all, but not quite. So I’m going to plagiarize just the first few lines of her story to get me started. Thanks gendermom.
4 years ago I gave birth to my second child.
By the time he was three he was insisting on wearing my t-shirts as dresses. Preferably ones with lots of pretty colours.
He wanted to wear them all the time.
He asked me again and again, when his hair would grow long?
We let him wear what he liked. After all, his older brother had also loved wearing my tops, even his Nana’s tops.
Sometimes though, which seemed inexplicable to him, I would say ‘No, you can’t wear that out, it’s just for home.’
When we went to Op shops, he’d straight away be looking through the girls clothes, oohing over handbags and high heels – trust me, he did not get this from me!
I let him lead when picking a “treat” at these shops he picked: teapots, a pink headband, a pair of pink sparkly ballet slippers, a tutu, a lipstick case, a purse, Barbie dolls… and he loved them.
His room became filled with more and more feminine articles, we barely noticed, it was just him.
He loved and lived the film Frozen, first he was Anna and then Elsa, his true hero. He sang the songs and acted them out. His brother was Hans. We filmed it. Super cute.
He started to compliment me on my hair, my clothes. He asked me over and over, when would his hair be long.
He picked girls names all the time and told us that was his new name – Anna, Elsa, Cinderella, Angelina, Beauty…
He started to express his wish to be a girl. I told him lots of boys wear girls clothes and like girls toys, that’s awesome, go for it.
My partner and I assumed he would grow up gay. Cool. No probs we thought.
When strangers mistook him for a girl, he absolutely beamed.
All of this was just so normal to us, this is our kid, that’s what he does.
At kindy he had some problems socialising, the older boys just didn’t like him. He wore girl’s clothes. They were confused. He got angry, a lot.
I emailed my son’s OT about his social problems, I mentioned as well that I was beginning to suspect his love of all things girly was more than just a passing phase. She, this amazingly generous woman, told me not to worry, we’d sort it out, and a couple of days later at our OT session she gave me a brochure for a prestigious therapy group, a place I could never dream of affording, and told me to make an appointment. She would pay.
That very next week we had our appointment. While I spoke with the psychiatrist about the social problems we were having, my son played with his colleague – a psychologist. There was an array of toys, amazing model cars and planes, huge amounts of lego. My son fawned over the sparkly pens and almost fainted when he saw the dolls house set up. An hour later, all talked out, I was relieved to hear that the social difficulties were solvable and I went away happy and with some parenting tools.
When I got home I realised I’d not mentioned my thoughts around gender. But happy to bask in the psychiatrist’s compliments about my son being a well-adjusted child, I let those concerns go.
Then one night, as my son and I lay side by side in the dark, a conversation I kinda knew was coming, came. My beautiful little boy said to me “Mum, can you chop off my dinkle so I can be a real girl?”
I turned to my son and I held him and told him that no I couldn’t do that because it would really hurt but that he could still be a girl, a real girl if that’s what he wanted. He could wear girl’s clothes, he could play with girls toys…He was sad and explained that he wanted to be a real girl and heartbreakingly said “I’m never going to be a girl am I mum” I told him we’d work something out. He said “Thanks Mum” and went to sleep.
I told my son’s OT. She told me that she would help us. She emailed the psychologist and explained what had occurred.
A couple of days later in the car, he was chatting and I said, without thinking …good boy. He said “Good Girl Mum.” Heart once again in my mouth, I asked my son if he preferred me to say girl, and he said “yes”. Then he said “Mum, will you help me be a girl?” I said that yes, I will, and again, he said “Thanks Mum.” I explained that Dr# and Dr* would help us too. He was content with that.
A few days later I walked in to a shop looking for some pj’s for my boys. I froze. All around me were clothes I just knew my son would go weak in the knees for. But they were girl’s clothes. With tears in my eyes, and the now familiar lump in my throat, I picked out the first ever, brand new set of girl’s clothes. For my son. I knew in that moment that I was a changed person.
Lying in bed with my son that night, after lights out, I asked him if he felt happier as a boy or a girl. He answered “As a girl mum. But I can never be a girl can I.” I asked him why he thought that. He said “Because people always say “but you’re a boy” and it makes me feel sad and angry”. I promised him we’d find a way. And I vowed to myself I would never say that to him again.
I started to experience panic attacks at this stage. Real panic attacks. I’d be driving along and just feel so incredibly overwhelmed, tears would be streaming from my eyes and my chest so heavy that I could barely get a breath.
Then Dr# called me. She wanted to assure me that we were in the right place and that they were there to support us. She asked me if our OT had told us what exactly it was that Dr* specialised in. I said no. It turns out Dr* specialises in transitioning transgender adolescents. He is the only Dr in NZ who is trained to do so, what’s more – two weeks before our visit the partners had been discussing introducing gender therapy for younger children into their practice.
Through a series of amazingly generous and supportive woman we had ended up in this man’s hands. Basically the only person in NZ qualified to help my son. They couldn’t believe we had walked in to their offices.
I told Dr# all my fears. Was I actually insane and just creating this drama in my son’s life? She said ‘No, you’re not insane’ Dr# had sensed the possibility when she had spent that hour with him, and had spoken with Dr* about the possibility my son was Transgender.
My son is Transgender. Only he’s not my son anymore. She’s my daughter. My oldest son now has a sister. She is your Granddaughter, your niece, your cousin (still). One day she will be a wife, a mother and an aunty. Or maybe she’ll be a he again, who knows?
Yesterday we decided to let our son live fulltime as a girl. Not just at home or where people don’t know us. But everywhere. Kindy. School. With friends. Family.
We decided that while Twilight Sparkle was a great name for at home, we needed a name that meant something to us and that people would accept and recognise as a real name. We all agreed on ☆Izzy Rose. The name that our children may have been given had one of them been born with girls bits rather than boys bits. Then we refined that name to Iz. Iz. Close enough to ☆Oz that it felt natural on our tongues. Close enough that in these early days we can say it to each other, and in public, without feeling so exposed. But most importantly of all, it is a name that our daughter accepts. A name that she wants. And a name that she is grateful for.
As we head down this new path with our beautiful children we know we will meet with anger, denial, hate and of course fear. But we’re prepared for that and we’re strengthened daily by the acts of love we’ve already received from friends, family and strangers.
I hope this is a dialogue that will continue with all of you. I had intended to send you some facts and figures and tell you all about what being transgender is and isn’t but you can read about this on Human Rights Campaign or at Rainbow Kids NZ or probably even on Wikipedia. What you can’t read about is the deeply personal and beautiful journey this is and that’s what I’ve tried to give you a sense of. Forgive me if it doesn’t answer your questions.
And lastly – we want you in our lives.