Recently one of our readers here on Transforming Love suggested that while their mother was loving and supportive, she couldn’t understand their being transgender. So this got me to thinking, do I REALLY understand? Is it even possible for me to truly understand my transgender son? I have come to the conclusion that we “transmoms”, simply can’t.
I am sure I am not alone in finding it tough to wrap my head around something that is so outside my reality. Even though I believe I have grown so much in the “acceptance department”, I do need to monitor my tendency to worry and fear what I cannot understand.
Since I was born cis-gendered (accepting and feeling comfortable in the gender I was labeled at birth), I really can’t understand what it’s REALLY like to have to wake up daily to feel like I want to be other than cis-gendered. I feel completely authentic and belong comfortably in the world’s binary system of male and female. I asked my son if he felt as if he was lying to the world?- Worse yet, lying to himself before he transitioned? To my surprise, he told me that he never felt as if he was incomplete and never felt inauthentic. His transgender experience is NOT CONFINED to appearances. My expectations of what he must be going through were confined to appearances- but HIS experience of gender is not.
Now this is a HUGE revelation to me. I thought if I could find an experience in my life that makes me feel dissatisfied, perhaps I could get closer to that understanding that we moms crave. I thought of my frequent visits to my closet. I am always asking- am I at the weight I desire? Do I like how that outfit feels or fits? How do I look? If you are a roller coaster dieter like me (same 10-15 up and back down again), you will recognize the discontent to which weight fluctuations can lead many women. If you are someone (like me) that is looking into the mirror and not finding the reflection of the 30 year-old they feel like they are internally, you may identify with some of my personal discontent. But here is the important distinction- I am merely dissatisfied with my appearance- I am NOT dissatisfied with WHO I am!
But then my son explained that it is not dissatisfaction with how he appears that brings him to negotiate difficult social waters. It is BECAUSE of who he recognizes as himself – his personal identity of self- that has him identify as trans in a world that limits and attempts to define him…BY HOW HE APPEARS!
I can be honest about how people “read” me because I align with the binary that defines me. Being able to do that fits neatly into what society expects. My presentation of self is AUTOMATICALLY accepted NO MATTER WHERE I GO! Aren’t I the lucky one?
I believe we trans-moms try so desperately to understand for our own comfort. If we can feel comfortable, we believe we will be able to more easily connect with our children in a way that we haven’t been able to thus far in their transition. We want to remain connected to our children- that is what mothers NEED. I am reminded of a study in which researchers observed mothers in a room as they casually chatted while their children played around them. The data found that the mothers routinely(and without realizing it)visually checked in with their children. Amazingly, the children would look up and make eye connect with their mothers and then return to their play. The younger the babies- the more frequent the eye contact between mothers and babies. Well, this “transmom” is trying to connect with her son, even though he is an out-of-state adult.
When connecting becomes a challenge, we moms worry. But worrying makes us hang onto our fears. The worry clouds our perspective- it fools us into feeling that we are closing that gap- filling that place we can’t understand. Instead of understanding, we must satisfy ourselves with empathy. We have to wrap ourselves in trust.
Join me in this goal, moms: Let go of the worry. Limit the questioning. Instead, trust that our children know the truth for them. Dismiss the concept that we are capable of having to experience everything in order to connect with our precious children.
We MUST rely on our love. Love reminds us that nothing else matters.