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Raising A Transgender Child In The Conservative South
We live in South Louisiana. To say people are very conservative here is an understatement. So when my child began exploring gender, I became concerned. My concern is not about the exploration. Instead, I immediately became concerned about how other people would see my baby, how others would treat my baby.
A few weeks later, my child told me that they felt like they were born in the wrong body. As I let this wash over me, I’ll admit that it became a little hard for me to accept. My sweet, princess-loving, diva-licious daughter didn’t feel like a girl. It had to be a phase. If you asked me if I saw this coming, the answer would be, “Never.” But it happened. And my child felt comfortable enough to come to me right away. That meant that I needed to get over myself – FAST.
This news meant that not only did my child have a new role in life, but so did I as his parent. This is how we transitioned into these new roles:
- I read – a lot. I researched. I asked questions. If I now had a son, I wanted to know everything about raising a transgender male. I didn’t want to continue this blindly.
- With this new information and knowledge I had gained through research, we both had to decide if this was going to be a short term decision or a lifetime decision. In our case, my child was not following a crowd. He was not doing it because it was trendy. This was and is his life.
- I accepted my child’s chosen name and pronouns, and I began using them without question. I correct everyone who doesn’t.
- I let my child dictate his comfort level. He told who he was ready to tell when he was ready to tell them. I know there are people who don’t agree. They don’t have to be part of his life. If they choose to be part of his life, they will accept his lifestyle and choices. We never force anyone to agree, but we do not allow negativity regarding this.
- I stood by, and continue to stand by, my child. This is non-negotiable. I was there for my daughter, and I will continue to be there for my son. He stands up for what he believes in every single day. He is a strong, powerful force of a teenager. This is one of my favorite things about him. I don’t agree with everything he believes, but I ALWAYS fight for his right to those beliefs.
I’d be lying if I told you this hasn’t changed our lives exponentially. I’ve always considered myself a pretty accepting person, but I know now that I was more closed-minded than I thought. I can proudly say I am not that way anymore. Our school system recently incorporated a weapons detection system into every school. Many people are upset about this. My child is thrilled not to have to be afraid to be himself at school due to threats of violence. We regularly get looks in public. We both understand that people are confused. We both know that people are afraid to ask questions. When people do refer to my child, they deadname him. They use the wrong pronouns. They say things like, “the one that used to be a girl,” or “the trans one.” My child just wants to be referred to like everyone else. He wouldn’t mind even being completely ignored. It’s the stigma that is so hurtful.
Parent to parent, please teach your children to be kind to everyone. Please be accepting of everyone. You never really know what someone is struggling with on a daily basis.
I will leave you with a quote I read recently:
“You can’t be best friends with everyone, but you can:
Be friendly to everyone
Make room for everyone
Root for everyone
Empathize with everyone”