I was re-reading a newspaper article that I had hung onto from last July. The author shared her feelings of loss in an Op-Ed piece. Her husband of 13 years had transitioned to female. The author explained that the “weirdness” of her situation didn’t appear to easily dissipate. She said that strangers asked personal questions. While she was grieving the loss of her husband, her former spouse was celebrating a new identity.
We moms of transgender kids often experience the same thing: our children often are thrilled with the actuality of their new found selves. They are “all about them”; the world revolving around all things new and free. Suddenly no longer held captive in a dishonest narrative, many of our children can become…well…”over the top”. Not all, but many may flaunt the new “them”. This hurts us as we try to stand by and support them. Among all their joy, we are missing what we thought was a perfectly wonderful and acceptable previous identity. It’s hard to take be in the midst of such joy when we alone are grieving and aching.
The writer, Lisa Jaffe Hubbell, shared that we join a club of sorts…”those who have lost husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers in a way that can only be compared to death but isn’t. All we can do is manage the pain, ignore the wide-eyed stares and inconsiderate comments, and hope for grace and serenity. We are forced to applaud with so many others what it takes to come out as trans, to live an authentic life. But we only know the courage it takes to redraw what gets erased.”
But the pain DOES dissipate. Since it has now been more than four years since I learned of my (now) son’s new identity and transition, I rarely consider my own loss. Instead, when reading or hearing about this very REAL and COMMON experience for the parents and loved ones of transgender children, I stop to measure my own feelings: while I am aware that I no longer experience the pain and grief of the loss of the child I once knew, I instead, recognize where I now find myself on this journey’s continuum: acceptance and gratitude.
My son lives two states away, so our visits are rare and always far to brief for this mom! I just saw my son and his family this past weekend. Any angst I felt in leaving were because I long to see him more frequently and leaving means another long stretch without the connection sharing the same physical space can only bring. I left my son knowing (and relishing in this realization!) that he made the right decision to transition! My son is healthy in a way in which I have never before seen- regardless of gender! He takes care of his health and lives an incredibly balanced life: making time for his passion (reading), carving out spiritual time, challenging himself with work, planning joy-filled activities with family and friends; building a relationship with a fabulous partner. He appears very present in his everyday actions and decisions. He inquires earnestly about others and has become an active listener. But most of all, he appears HAPPY! To say I am impressed with the way in which he conducts his life is an understatement! I am so incredibly grateful for his well-being!
So, my dearest mothers, take all the time you need to grieve for your children. My prayer for you is simple: May you find courage to stand in the pain as your support your transitioning child and reap the joy of his or her successes down the road!