An open letter to parents of transsexual children

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Dear Mom or Dad,

I know that the contents of this letter are going to be difficult for you to think and talk about. I know that you feel like all of the furniture has been rearranged. I understand. I know you are feeling a sense of embarrassment, of loss, of confusion, and maybe even denial.

I know what you are feeling so intimately, and it is my hope that in sharing, I can ease your burden just a bit.

No parent expects to hear that their child is a transsexual though in retrospect many can see that signs were there. You, no doubt, noticed how deeply unhappy they were, and you probably noticed that they tended to isolate socially. I am certain that you have often seen your child's pain and wished you could fix what was wrong with them.

The truth is, though most transsexuals know something is deeply wrong with them in childhood, they are often reluctant to talk about it. It is a normal part of development for children to try to fit in socially, and transsexual children cannot help but worry that their cross-gender feelings are wrong. As a result they tend to internalize them. Transsexual children quickly become actors, trying to play a role that does not fit them they can never fully act on what they are thinking and feeling.

You no doubt noticed your child struggling to fit in, and perhaps in looking back you can see that they have spent a life engulfed in loneliness and solitude. It's heartbreaking, but this kind of childhood is the rule for transsexuals rather than the exception.

And now your child has revealed their feelings to you. Please understand that it was not a decision that came brashly. Your child has spent years struggling with this. They have likely bargained with it, denied it, pleaded with it, and tried to compromise with it to no avail. And now it is likely they are seeking or will seek medical treatment.

And although I know it's hard for you, please remember this. Transsexual children need as much love, and probably more, than non-transsexual children and yet, they are far less likely to receive it. And although your pain at this revelation might be great, be assured that the greatest burden lies with your child the hurt of this falls first and hardest on them.

A personal note, I always hoped that my parents would understand this about me. My parents are highly educated. My dad is a gynecologist, and I've always been closer to my mother than any other human being. I knew it would shock them, but I hoped that in time they would finally see what had been so wrong with me for my whole life.

When I came out to them, their first reaction was anger. We raised you as a boy and you will stay a boy!” yelled my father as he pounded his fist on the table. Dazed, they told me they would always love me. I told myself that I needed to give them time.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. I would try to talk to them about my progress in transitioning, but they would refuse to discuss it by changing the subject. Educational materials went unread by these remarkably educated people, and I found our conversations quickly reduced to simple and quick trivialities.

Then one day, unexpectedly, they gave me 400 dollars to take a trip to the other side of the country, and never spoke to me again.

I had known that losing them was a possibility – and I proceeded with transition in the full knowledge of this. It was something that I had to do, I had to get better or I was going to die.

But what I could not have known, what I never would have guessed was that the pain of being rejected by them would surpass a tortured lifetime of transsexualism.

The reason I tell you this is not for my own sake, but because I want you understand the magnitude of what your support can mean. Denial might be easier, but it's a temporary truce at best. A family relationship can be one of the richest and most rewarding experiences in our lives, but true closeness in dependent on mutual openness and honesty. And the truth for you is that this includes your child's struggle with transsexualism.

You can help them by not assigning blame and trying to keep an open mind. Call them by the name they ask to called by, and use gender appropriate pronouns. Try to pass on to them what you would have taught them if they had been born your son or daughter.

Your reward will be a happier child and a richer relationship that you have ever had before.

Sincerely, B.D.

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This page was originally authored by members of Susan's Place and Susan's Place WikiStaff.