Trans Children Are a Gift, Not a Loss
Challenging a common — and harmful — narrative around trans kids
As an outspoken mother of a trans child I regularly get asked for interviews and usually I say yes as long as I can be anonymous. I say this because I want to protect as much of my child’s privacy as I can, and while she has said she’s fine with me talking about having a trans kid, she’s still young and might change her mind. So I walk a cautious line of not saying anything I think could one day upset her while also being aware that it’s important the voices of trans kids and their families are heard. One question I repeatedly get asked in interviews is did I feel a sense of loss.
I want to talk about this question, and how offensive I find it. My healthy, happy, loving and kind child I love was the exact same child both when I thought she was a boy and after she told me she was a girl. The facts that changed in those few moments were inconsequential to my mother’s heart. “Now I have another girl.” That was the sum of my thoughts in that moment.
I was not so tied to expectations of any of my children dressing a certain way, or keeping their names, or having certain pronouns. I didn’t need my kids to perform my ideal of a gender in order for them to secure my love. I find the idea of enforcing a rigid expression of identity on anyone - least of all a child in my care — to be abhorrent.
If I was in the care of someone who forced me against my will to behave as a male, who forced me to live to their standards of masculinity - I would consider that to be abuse. Knowing how my child felt allowed me to free her from the idea that she needed to act male to be loved. The only sadness I felt was that my child ever felt this way, and that it had taken her so long to tell me. I felt so awful thinking about all those years she spent thinking she needed to pretend.
When I think of the people I love most in the world I don’t segregate them by who has a name I like, or what pronouns they use or what gender they are — these arbitrary delineations are so silly to my mind and heart. I think about who they are as a person, what is their spirit and how does their gorgeous spirit interact with mine. So it is with my kids. Why would their name or gender change the love I have for them?
To suggest I have suffered some kind of “loss” implies that I hold a greater value on my child adhering to sexist ideas about femininity or masculinity, than my child being able to freely express their true identity. I struggle to see where the ‘loss’ is? Surely I have only gained? A happier, more content and secure child, one who is not crippled with a sense of ‘wrongness’ or spending her life pretending to act out maleness for me and society. I’ve gained so much from having a trans child. Our whole family has gained, our school has gained, our community has gained. There is no loss here, only win.
I’ve had people react badly to my saying I felt no sense of loss, as if this perhaps implicated me in being a driving force behind my child’s “transness”. I’ve felt damned and judged by my loving acceptance and non-adherence to gender norms. It’s a topsy-turvy world when the loving acceptance of a parent can be perceived as a strange response. I imagine this is what it was like for supportive parents of gay kids a few decades ago — society being baffled by why they weren’t forcing their kids to act “normal”.
None of my kids are “normal”. We’re not a neuro-typical family. We’re a messy family with all different surnames and schedules and needs. My trans kid is the least of my parenting worries. She’s my easiest, most well-adjusted and happiest child. Who knows what sexuality my kids will have and who cares. What my kids wear, who they fancy, what names they want to use and what gender they are are all so low down on my list of important qualities.
I care about kindness, respectfulness and happiness. Being able to live her true gender made my kid much happier. That’s a gain for both her and for me. Being asked if I feel a sense of loss now that I know she’s a girl, enrages me. As if my child somehow died, as if the child I have now is wrong somehow, a bit off, a ghost of the former child. My daughter is the exact same person, the same personality, the same likes, dislikes, same friends and interests as she was when I thought she was a boy. Her health is the same. She’s still alive.
I hadn’t dreamt up an imaginary future for her as a hetero man, because I have no expectations that any of my kids will ‘be’ or live a certain way. I don’t know how they’ll be, or what kind of futures they will have — that’s up to them. The most I dared to hope was that my kids would be kind to themselves and others and that they’d be happy. For now, my daughter is all these things and that’s enough for me.