As a parent, from time to time you have to deliver unsettling news to your child or children. Whether it’s a death in the family, a move to a new town, a cancer diagnosis, or a major change in your family’s financial situation. There is always a plethora of stress involved. From finding a safe space and the right time, to using age appropriate language. It is never an easy task, however it is part of the job of a parent. I personally have never subscribed to the thought that you keep those important things from your children and tell them when you think that they are old enough. Our children are super sensitive and connected to us. When we are going through something life changing or traumatic, our children can sense it, even when we don’t verbalize it.
“We sat around the dinning room table and told them the news.”
It was only a few days after my wife came out to me as transgender, that my second oldest daughter pulled her aside. “Something is wrong with Mom,” she said, “I am worried about her, is she okay?” My wife not wanting her to worry reassured her that I was fine, we just had news to share with everyone and that was the reason for my acting strange. In order to not have three separate conversations, we waited till the weekend when we knew our oldest daughter would be home. We sat around the dinning room table and told them the news. Our youngest let out a sigh of relief, “I thought you were going to tell us that you were pregnant, I am happy you are not,” she said. I laughed out loud. To think that she would rather be told that her parent was transitioning over becoming a big sister struck me as hilarious.
A definition of the word transgender was not needed, as all of our children have a friend who is transgender. Their first question was, does this mean that you are getting divorced? We reassured them that we still love each other, that we were still committed to each other, and the vows that we made eight years before. The early months were rough. At the suggestion of our middle daughter we all went for family therapy sessions. We talked, shared our feelings and got everything out in the open. I became a bridge between the girls and my wife. When someone had something difficult to share, I helped them find the words. No one wanted to say anything hurtful to anyone else. So I answered questions, listened when they needed me to, and gave everyone extra love and care.
“I have heard too many times from people who have transitioned that their children no longer speak to them.”
I have heard too many times from people who have transitioned that their children no longer speak to them. I can’t tell you how sad that makes me. It would be impossible for me to imagine loosing my relationship with my children for any reason. And what is worse is that sometimes the other parent fuels the fire. I saw it as part of my job to make sure all the members of my family were heard and understood. That we spoke to one another with love and compassion. Your child could never imagine what it’s like to be transgender if they are not, just like you can’t imagine what it’s like to have a parent transition from male to female or female to male if they didn’t. However, this life-changing event is not a reason to never speak to your parent again. This is not a reason to destroy a family. It is part of our job as parents to nurture our relationship with our children.
If only there was more education, we had more conversations, and more understanding maybe this would stop happening. We need more support groups for children and spouses of transgender folks so we don’t feel isolated and alone in our journey. Like freaks and weirdos sitting on the sideline of life navigating transition on our own. Listening to all the negative talk in the media about transgender people. If the proper information were made available to us to pass along to our children, perhaps it would take some fear out of the unknown. Even if you decide not to stay with your transitioning partner, it is important to be supportive. Remember this was not a decision; it is the way they were born. It would have been devastating to me if my girls no longer wanted a relationship with my wife. I simply don’t understand how this is acceptable to some.