Sunday, December 6, 2015

Finding a Therapist

So I said my next steps were to find a therapist and educate myself.  Here is how the therapist part of it went.

Oh and let me note that I was finding a therapist for my transgender kid, not for me.  For any parent out there who is reading this, at the same time you are finding a therapist for your kid, make sure you get a therapist for yourself as well!   I did not get my own therapist, but as I mentioned in my last post, my BFF is a therapist and does an excellent job giving me thoughts and ideas.  I also believe very strongly that everything is in God's hands - when I get excessively worried or stressed, I pray and hand it over to Him.  And I won't lie, I had my fair share of Merlot and an occasional Xanax!  LOL!

If I had reached a point where I felt totally lost, I definitely would have gotten my own therapist.  It is very good for parents (especially for us women who like to talk through things) to have an unbiased third party with whom we can share our thoughts, concerns, fears, etc.  A good therapist will help you help yourself through the emotions.

Ok so back to my therapist search.  I'm all about convenience and my goal was to find a therapist close to home so we weren't driving all over the place and who had Saturday appointments so TN wouldn't miss a lot of school.   I started with my insurance company website and filtered to find someone close.  The site didn't exactly tell you if the person had specific experience with gender dysphoria but I figured I could call and ask.  This is the ideal way to search since you are guaranteed that person will take your insurance (cause I'm not just about convenience - I'm all about not spending money unnecessarily).

I found a woman close by who also had Saturday appointments, met with her in advance to discuss everything and thought it would be a good fit.  However, after TN met with her a couple times, it became obvious the woman really didn't have any real experience with gender dysphoria or the transgender population.  She was essentially trying to do things to convince TN that being a girls isn't necessarily a bad thing.   Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't want someone to push my kid to be a boy, but this therapist just didn't have the right experience.  We were fortunate that before we decided to "fire" her and find another therapist, she told us she had to move out of the state due to an ailing parent.

For my new therapist search, I did just a straight Google for "gender dysphoria therapist" (and added our state) and that brought me to the Psychology Today website.  This site allows you to filter on topics, types of therapists, locations, insurance, etc.    I found a new therapist that wasn't very convenient geographically nor was she convenient with her schedule (cause I really wanted Saturdays), but she was good.  She had many years experience working with trans teens and college students in a different state.  She spoke with me about how being transgender wasn't so taboo in other cultures.  Her goal was to give TN a safe place to talk and also act as a conduit to enable conversations between us and TN when TN wasn't comfortable bringing up a topic with us.

One of the first resources the new therapist shared with us was this TED Talk video called "Hey Doc, some boys are born girls" and it really opened my eyes to the thought process of a female-to-male transgender person.

Other things we've worked through with the help of the therapist are things like:
  • Haircut styles - once TN got a true boy cut, that kid's confidence shot through the roof!
  • Clothing choices (including my reservation in buying TN boys' underwear)
  • Name and pronoun changes
  • Working with the school on name and pronoun changes
  • ...and some others that just aren't coming to my mind right now!

While the therapist appointments progressed, I focused on educating myself and trying to understand what this mental illness is that plagued my kid.   More on that next....

Not the Life I Set Out to Have

Welcome to my first post!   I'm going to be vulnerable, honest and not politically correct here - hoping my raw emotions and thoughts will help other parents know their feelings are normal.

For years, I would joke that we will have succeeded as parents provided neither kid ended up addicted to drugs or pregnant.  Pretty simple, right?   That's what I thought...

A little over 2 years ago, TN, my 13 yr old daughter, told me she was a lesbian.  (I'll use "TN" instead of my kid's real name - the anonymity of this blog helps me to honest which should help some other parents out there going through the same journey.)  The news wasn't a shocker because she was dressing more masculine, wanted a boy's haircut, etc.  I told her that we love her no matter what she is.  End of story.  It was fairly uneventful.   

2 weeks after that, TN told me that she was actually not a lesbian.  She was actually a boy and wanted to be my son and not my daughter.  She told me she was transgender and was really a boy.

Now, my own mom taught me by example to love and accept your kid no matter what they say or do.  I have her to thank for my being able to respond calmly and reiterate that we loved TN and will be there to help and support with everything in life.  This was totally new territory for us.  Honestly, I knew what transgender was (at the most basic level) but really didn't understand or know much about it; I feared my kid would be viewed as a freak.  

On the outside, I was very calm.  On the inside, I was confused, questioning, wondering who to talk to, what to ask,  and what to do or not do for my kid.
  • Will my kid get bullied?
  • How will she ever date normally?
  • Is she mentally ill?
  • Did she not understand that she could be a girl and not be girly?
  • What will my friends think, especially my Christian friends?
  • What will my family think?
  • Will this start impacting her grades?
  • How does a transgender person go to college and live in a dorm?
  • Will she ever have a normal career?
  • Will she struggle getting quality jobs?
  • Can a good therapist fix her?
  • And lots of other questions..........

Fortunately, I quit my job just a few weeks prior and was taking a few months off work.  I had the time to find a therapist, do research, and find resources.  Also fortunately, I have the world's most awesome BFF (who happens to also be the world's most awesome therapist) in whom I could confide and get support.   She also happens to be pretty darn liberal so the whole transgender thing wasn't a new or shocking topic for her.

My next steps were to find a good therapist and educate myself.