Friday, May 27, 2016

The Name Change Begins

So I wrote a post months ago about the name and gender marker change process. It didn't happen back then because life got in the way but now we're doing it. 

The first step is applying for the name change through the state via our county court. My husband and I had to fill out forms for TN since he's a minor. We both had to sign and get the forms notarized. (Both have to sign because 1 parent can't make decisions about a minor without the other parent's consent.)  It's a process and I went through the motions without thinking much. But when I let it sink in...

I am not sure how to describe how I feel. It's all very surreal. On one hand, my kid is my kid. Does it matter the name or male/female? On the other hand, as a mom, my inner core is connected with the daughter I birthed and the name we chose as mom and dad in anticipation of our tiny baby 17 years ago. 

It doesn't seem to really impact me until I'm having a stressful day. Then it all comes pouring out. How I'm losing my baby girl and how I just want it all to go away and never have happened. That doesn't happen very often but it does hit. It's funny, though, because later I'll hang out with TN (he loves doing almost anything with me to hang out - walk thru model homes... see a funny movie... come with me to our locally owned Mexican restaurant and just talk...) and realize how freaking normal he is now that he's male. He has great insightful discussions with me and is just a cool person to be around. During those times, I'm not sad at all.  I love my kid. 

It's somewhat of a mourning process, I guess. And at the same time, it's a relief to take steps to help my kid feel like his true self. One positive part of this is his middle name. I'm not sharing real names on this blog, but what I can say is that we all decided to modify his female first name into the male form of that name for his new middle name. I felt a little better - as if a small part of my naming him at birth will carry on. Oh and if I accidentally use the nickname of his female name, he can tell people I'm just using his middle name!  Win/win!

Once we get the approval from the county court system then we can change his social security info and driver's license. Those are the 2 key items to enable him to start his senior year in high school and apply to colleges with his new name. Of course, there's like 50 other things to change but those aren't as urgent. 

I'll have to write another post when we get the approval (hoping just a few weeks) and take the next steps. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Moms of LBGTQ Children Sharing

I previously mentioned that I'm in a few private Facebook groups for parents of transgender kids.   One of those groups called "Serendipitydodah for Moms" 1000+ Christian moms of LBGTQ kids (and those kids ages range from elementary school to adult children).  This group is such a loving group and the group admin, Liz Dyer, invites guests into the group for a few days to allow the group to have an online Q&A.

A few times Pastor John Pavlovitz has been the guest.   He's a fully affirming pastor in Raleigh, North Carolina.  By "affirming," I mean that he's accepting of LBGTQ folks in the church and does not think they are sinners.  If you're interested, you can follow John Pavlovitz on Facebook.

He became internationally famous after one of his blog posts (as a Christian Pastor) about how he will love and 100% accept his children if they ever tell him they're gay and would not try to "pray the gay away."  Here's a great news story about that post and him talking about it:

He was in the group again recently and he created a blog post out of the responses from the moms when he asked us "What is the greatest/most important thing you've learned since beginning this journey with your child(ren)?"

The responses were so awesome - and I remember scrolling through them all in that Facebook group post, being moved by all of them.   So I wanted to share them with you.  Here's his blog post: 

The Coming Out Letter

In my last post about coming out publicly, I mentioned that I emailed a letter to family and friends.   I decided to take the approach of sending them a letter and THEN having conversations.  That would give them time (privately) to react however they would naturally.   I think it worked well.

This letter is a compilation of thoughts and ideas from many moms in my private Facebook groups full of 1000's of moms of LGBT kids.

I've posted the letter below with the names replaced to preserve our anonymity.


Hi there,

I’m sending this to you because you are either a family member or an important part of our family as a close friend.   I apologize for the impersonal nature of this, but I have found it works best to give someone the chance to read this, absorb the information and then we can talk in person if you’d like.

I have something regarding <female name deleted> that I want to share with you.  After many years, things are changing.  In a nutshell (and just to get this out now and not force you to read several paragraphs wondering!), <female name deleted> is transgender and is going to live life as a boy.

Before you jump to conclusions, think this is due to recent news, or due to recent media coverage, etc, let me assure you that it is not.  There are years of history here.  This started well before we had even really heard the word "transgender."  There's much historical detail and way too much for me to put in a letter.  However, I wanted to share some historical highlights and some information with you.  I will refer to <female name deleted> as “<male name deleted>” and he/him going forward in this letter.

When <male name deleted> came out to us as transgender, our immediate reaction was that this is our kid and no matter what he says/does, we love him and will be there for him.  Of course I wondered if this was a phase, a mental illness or just not wanting to be girly. I worried would he be bullied? Would he be ostracized from social activities? Would my friends and family reject him and turn away? But the biggest question was: Would he be depressed and suicidal? So we decided, in order to save his life, even if he said he would never hurt himself, we would be the on-board parents.

Let me take a step back here...  <male name deleted> came out to us as transgender at 13 years old (and will turn 18 in a few months).  However, for years prior to that, he asked to dress like a boy, refused to wear things that were remotely girly and rejected being referred to in female ways.  Of course, we were thinking we just had a tomboy.  Nonetheless, there were so many things that also happened that, when added to everything else, put the puzzle pieces together. Those other things are incredibly personal and aren’t appropriate for us to share. 

Basically, <male name deleted> experienced "gender dysphoria" for many years.  That's when a person feels strongly that they are not the gender they physically appear to be. 

We have worked with therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. I joined support groups locally in person & online, read literature, spent days researching medical & psychological journals, and even watched videos on youtube about it. I've always believed that education is the key.

I spent days at GMU reading through medical and psychological journals trying to prove that this is a mental illness that can be fixed.  Much to my surprise, I could not prove myself right.  All the research pointed to the fact that is how that person's brain works (transgender is not listed as a mental illness in the American Psych Assoc DSM) and the solution for gender dysphoria involves talk therapy and social transition to the gender in which they are most comfortable. Transitions vary depending on the person - it ranges from clothing choice to hormone therapy to surgery.  But not all transgender folks take the same steps.

We have not taken any of this lightly.  There isn't a "cure.” It's not a "phase" or the rebelliousness of a teen to young adult. He is hardwired this way.

When <male name deleted> cut his hair in a boy's cut, wore boy clothing and started being referred to as "he" by strangers, we immediately saw the transformation from an anxious girl to a confident boy.  I saw, in a short period of time, this "boy" do and say things that the "girl" version of <male name deleted> would never do.  It's like all of a sudden, my kid's real personality came out.  While with people who didn't know <male name deleted> as a girl (and thus treated <male name deleted> as a boy because that's how he presented) he was so incredibly different.

Sooooo....  after lots of research, professional input, meetings with the school and, most importantly, listening carefully over time to our kid, <male name deleted> has been "socially transitioning" which includes being referred to by a male name and pronouns.  

And this is where you come in...

All we ask is that you continue to be our family & friends as you have for years and respect our wishes for name and pronoun changes. We made these changes at home, with friends and at school starting last summer.

I understand you may need some time to process this news. But we hope that you will open your heart and minds, as we have opened ours. We know the road ahead may be rocky at times but we feel that the support of loved ones will make <male name deleted>'s journey a bit easier.

We love <male name deleted> unconditionally. Our utmost commitment is to support him in living life as his true self. Research shows there is nothing more damaging than to force a transgender kid to live as someone they are not, simply to conform to societal expectations.

Being transgender is not a choice. How we handle this as <male name deleted>'s family is.

Here are a few links to an article and videos about this.  I hope you take the time to watch it, as it may do a better job of explaining everything than this letter has.

American Medical Association Talk (Science behind sexual orientation and gender identity) Very long but you can skip around the topics.

We’re happy to answer questions that you have regarding the topic, our decisions, etc.  We just ask that they be respectfully thought out before asking.   J 

Thanks for listening,
<parent names deleted>

Coming Out Publicly.....

So how does one tell friends, neighbors, and family that their child is transgender?  That their child is biologically one thing but mentally another. A concept that is 100% foreign to 99% of the population today?

How do you share, with people who literally know nothing about it, years worth of research you've done in one single conversation, phone call, or email?

The answer is that you do it in many ways.  We had individual conversations and phone calls.  We had meetings with the school.  We sent emails to family and friends with a letter attached (I'll share that letter later).

Fortunately I had 2 strong resources at my finger tips:  my awesome "moms of trans kids" Facebook group moms who have shared ideas and my grad school experience of presenting ideas concisely.  I knew that masters degree would pay off in the office, but who knew I'd use it so much in my personal life!   LOL

TN is all about just being blunt and straight forward.  His thought is that people can just take him or leave him.  He's got that fearless teenager brain.  I admire that though.  While I hesitate, plot and plan, he just walks into a local restaurant to apply for a job and says "By the way, I'm transgender and go by xxx for my name.  Will there be an issue with that?"   I mean, for real.  This kid did just that at the ripe young age of 16 and the restaurant manager was totally cool with it.

One of the next things TN did was go in for a haircut.  We all go to a locally owned salon - the owner has done my hair forever - and both TN and his younger brother go to a male stylist who is covered in tattoos and, frankly, is one of the coolest and most sincere guys I've met.  You can sit
and talk with him for hours.   So TN went in for a haircut.  The stylist knew there was something going on over the years since TN kept getting a "boy" haircut even though TN was being referred to as female.  TN made the appointment without my knowing under his male name.  He showed up and the stylist was a little take aback by the name (he wasn't sure who was coming in for a haircut) and when he looked at TN a little bewildered like, TN just said "Yeah, so, I'm transgender and I go by xxxx now."   The stylist was totally cool about it and called me later to talk and let me know that he'll always have TN's back. And that if any kids at school ever gave TN crap, the tattoo covered stylist (who does tend to scare people sometimes just walking down the street even though he's a sweetheart!) offered to meet TN at school and chat with any means kids.   haha.  I love that guy!

There are other stories where TN has just come out to people and they don't even bat an eye.  I think when you present it in a matter of fact and confident fashion, that makes a difference.

So back to my masters degree and mad "coming out" letter writing skills....  I wrote a letter that was pretty concise, pulled together facts, and made it clear we were open to questions as long as they were thoughtful.  I sent it via email to probably close to 40-50 people.  Friends, neighbors, acquaintances, church friends, etc.  When I clicked Send on that email, I felt like I was going to throw up, I was so nervous.  I had no idea how people would react or what kinds of replies or calls I would get.

The results I got from that were pretty amazing.  It was a major outpouring of love and support.  Like, lots of it.  Like, I was crying reading all of the email and text replies I got after I sent it.   It just goes to show we chose the right friends because even if they didn't understand or agree, they were all there for us.   The actual letter that I sent is in my coming out letter post.