Journey of a Trans Family - Melissa Ballard - Transgender Universe

Until 2014, I guess I had never really heard (or understood) what ‘non-binary’ meant in regards to a person’s gender identity. I had a reasonable idea of most LGBT terms, or so I thought, but then I learned I was WAY behind it seems, like I was actually 20 years behind! I had previously lived in a “gayborhood” and had gay friends over the years. I knew there were lesbians of many types, gay men of many types, bi-sexual folks and then transsexuals, although I had ever personally known one.  [The term transsexual is only used there to express where my terminology education had been at that time period; dated, antiquated, incorrect.] There were many terms under the LGBT umbrella I had never heard at all and this was quite overwhelming when I suddenly had an eleven year old daughter telling me that she was a lesbian. I began reading and updating myself on all things LGBT. Supporting my kid was what I planned on doing! Rainbows and fabulousness were in our future!

“And then I hear a new term – ‘genderfluid’”

And then I hear a new term – ‘genderfluid’ – from her a few months down the road. I needed to understand this more and I was having a hard time with it all. My daughter said she felt like a girl sometimes, but not always and sometimes she felt like a boy. WHAT? So you are a butch lesbian was my understanding at that point but no, I was wrong on many levels. I never really thought about it much myself. I am a woman, and that just was. Apparently I never thought about it much because I did not have to. I did not have an opposing pull from within that was trying to find its place. I did not realize this was what was going on with my child at this time. Sadly, I tried to play it off as a phase or a fear of puberty that was just around the corner and the unknown associated with that. Little did I know at the time how hurtful this was to my child, and they were actually trying to express more but did not know how to do this effectively. The struggle was real for her and soon she told me she was not really any of those previous revelations, but she thought she was transgender . Of course I argued this point and said, “I think you are just confused about these hormonal changes going on and do not know what that is when you say you are ‘transgender’”. Again, probably more damaging to my kid but unknown to me at the time and as they say, hindsight…What people do not realize it that kids know things intuitively about themselves that we have a hard time understanding. My daughter was trying to help me understand, but I was not listening.

Journey of a Trans Family 2 - Melissa Ballard - Transgender Universe

Even though I was feeling like my recent self-education had begun to pay off I was still clueless. At the time Bruce Jenner was in the news for the “possible” transition he was trying to conceal. I barely knew who this was, or anything about them, but I knew about Chaz Bono and a few stories about some kid named “Jazz” that I had seen on one of the TV channels like TLC or OWN. I dove into a bit more reading and self-education. I also plugged her into a LGBT group for kids so we could figure things out as we went, until she brought up hormone blockers. I immediately assumed HRT or hormone replacement therapy and said, “absolutely not until you are older if ‘this’ really lasts that long.” I had never heard of pubertal blockers at this point and did not know there was a difference or why this was done.

“This was our wake-up call and our second chance.”

My child took this as a rejection and spiraled into a deep depression, began to self-harm and had suicide ideations and (many) attempts. After seeing such darkness and struggles, we admitted her into a children’s hospital for further evaluation and a possible diagnosis beyond just depression. While taking this step we searched her bedroom for anything that she could harm herself with and we found the thing that turned our way of thinking. We found a suicide note that was very well articulated and told us that she was not a girl and he was actually a boy. He expressed this all so clearly that he was ready to exit this life and this world if he could not live his life as a boy. As a parent these are not the words anyone wants to read. This was our wake-up call and our second chance. We now had the option to reject this beautiful child again or embrace him and accept the changes. We chose the latter option and began our journey as the parents of a transgender boy. We chose to love our child and would rather have a wondeful living son than bury the daughter who was that unhappy with herself.

We have become transgender rights advocates and we want to share more about our story. We hope to help others to know they are not alone.

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Melissa Ballard is a native Texan with a wonderful husband, Ken, transgender teenaged son, Ashur, and a quirky daughter named Kennedy. When not struggling with multiple sclerosis or chasing her husband while cycling for Bike MS, she is advocating for trans kids and their rights. In early 2015 a group was formed as a social connection for local transgender kids and their families and soon after www.dfwtkf.com was born. In just under a year, the social group has grown to more than 100 active members including parents and siblings of trans and gender non-conforming kids. Speaking to others and letting them know they are not alone is one of her greatest goals and will continue to be a focus in the future.
  • Emma Sweet

    Very well said. Heartfelt and articulate. Your son is so fortunate to have you as his mother.