When I found out that my child was transgender and not my daughter but actually my son, it took some time to wrap my head around it. I went through a sort of letting go process. Although so much of my child’s true being remained, as testosterone, a new name and pronouns and appearances took over, I was forced to let go of the idea of having a daughter. And I had to let go of my daughter.
Each person’s journey is unique to them and their circumstances. Some parents of transgender children adapt easily. Some resist the process, embrace denial, hold onto the child they thought they had. And then some fall somewhere in the middle. I like to think that many of us fall in that middle place- transitioning as parents while our children transition to reflect their true selves. I love my son but I missed my daughter. On a good day, I was torn. Feeling guilty for missing the daughter that never was, as if it took away from my feelings for my son. It took me some time to get to the point where I accepted that it was okay for me to feel this way. I had spent over 18 years building a relationship with Kerri and in the blink of an eye, it was all gone. What I had not realized was that underneath the mother-daughter bonding that we were so busy doing, there was also the basic mother-child relationship that remains regardless of what name my child goes by. Somewhere along the way, I came to accept that Kerri was gone and I let myself miss her.
When I first began getting “feelings” of Kerri being around, I was confused and did not mention it to anyone. I knew what they would think- that I wanted my daughter back or that I was wishing Kris was Kerri again or something along that line which would require me to explain (summoning up my patience with every fiber of my being) that Kerri wasn’t real….that she existed only in the context that Kris needed her to in order for him to survive. I didn’t want to place doubt in anyone’s minds regarding who Kris is. In some respect, it had been an uphill battle getting people to accept Kris as a boy. As it is, we still have people who refer to Kris by his birth name and feminine pronouns.
So as flashes of Kerri appeared, I shoved them into the background and carried on until I found out that Kris was no longer on testosterone and those flashes were not my imagination at all. As the last few months have unfolded and I learned more about what it meant for Kris to be genderqueer, non-binary, gender nonconforming (any or all of these) I grew used to those fleeting glimpses of Kerri and they didn’t sting quite so much. I was the only one who saw those subtle changes and rare sightings, probably because I’m the mom, right? That was fine with me. No need to give anyone cause for further use of wrong name/pronouns.
And then the other evening I was out with Diane, one of my best friends. I was in the middle of sharing some Baby Beej story when my phone screen lit up indicating a text from Kris. I continued talking while I opened the text but the words died instantly at the picture filling my phone screen. He had sent me a picture of himself in his Halloween costume. He had dressed up as an okapi- because hey, why wouldn’t a person want to be an okapi? The reddish-brown body of a deer with striped zebra legs and cute ears……
AND THERE SHE WAS.
Not the daughter I had let go of at 18. No, this was Kerri 4 years older- almost 23 years old. The only part that was Kris was his glasses. The rest was the daughter I had not seen in over 4 years. Not a glimpse. Not fleeting. Just pure Kerri looking back at me. I closed the text and continued to Beej story. My dear friend graciously ignored my misstep and let it pass.
That picture marked a turning point for me. It helped me pass a milestone in my acceptance of Kris as genderqueer. It made me realize that I might see more of Kerri and that was also okay, that Kerri is still part of Kris and this is what makes my kid so freaking unique and awesome and brave and wonderful! Whether he is dressed as an okapi or so non-binary that a person can’t gender or misgender him, he is one step closer to expressing his true self.
And as for me and those “Kerri” days, I can feel a little sad and a lot happy that he’s here and he’s my kid. I am truly blessed to have been given the gift of knowing my child WAY better than most people know theirs. His true spirit and nature and essence and being just radiate from him. How cool is that!!!!!