Monday, May 2, 2016

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.

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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.  http://media01.commpartners.com/AMA/sexual_identity_jan_2011/

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>


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