For the past year or so I have found myself to be in a peculiar place. It has been evident in my posts (or lack there of).
Quick background info (you can skip this if you are familiar with the story of Kris): 5 years ago my 18 year old daughter, Kerri, came out as transgender. Within 6 months, she had transitioned to male name (Kris), pronouns, presentation and took testosterone for over 3-1/2 years. Less than a year ago, Kris stopped taking testosterone and more feminine clothing began to appear in his wardrobe. He explained that he is non-binary/genderqueer- not identifying really as a boy or as a girl. Currently Kris has changed to they, them, their pronouns and their gender expression is primarily female.
And this brings us to where I am. I’m finding myself at a loss at times when I’m faced with a new parent of a transgender child who is struggling. I will never forget what I felt when I found out that Kris was transgender. When a person in that position starts speaking, I hear a certain quality in their voice that transports me right back there. I remember feeling so incredibly much. I often felt like I was a walking exposed nerve. I know I looked the part. So I can easily relate and hopefully offer words of encouragement and comfort.
It’s the next part that has me stumped. So many parents are unsure of starting hormones, name and gender marker changes, surgeries and all that.
Kris saw a gender therapist and a psychiatrist and a doctor who had tons of experience with transgender patients. They all agreed that Kris showed very consistent signs that he was transgender and identified as a boy. Kris knew he was a boy. He was consistent, persistent and insistent. He fit the mold for the model female to male transgender person. He wanted to start testosterone as soon as he could. He was looking forward to getting top surgery but we had told him he needed to wait for that- start T and let’s see how it goes. My husband and I were very cautious entering this journey. Part of that was our fear and ignorance but then, we just wanted to be sure that we were making the right decisions with Kris. We were also dealing with a potential ticking time bomb because the truth was that Kris was over 18 and did not need our stamp of approval for anything he did. He was okay with not having biological children and ready to adopt.
And then the last year unfolded before our eyes and our transgender ftm kid became a non-binary kid whose gender expression matches their sex assigned at birth. Although Kris has been off testosterone for over a year, there are a few side effects that will never go away.
The top surgery haunts me. Or I should say, the top surgery that we did not do. Kris and I have talked about what would have happened if we let them have that surgery that first year, like they were pushing so hard for. They’re glad we did not. Kris wants to be pregnant one day and experience pregnancy and childbirth. We are not sure if that will be possible due to the past testosterone use. Kris was 18 when we began this journey. Kris is now 23.
I don’t want to be the voice of doom or a cautionary tale. I want to be encouraging and supportive for parents who are in the position I was in 5 years ago. But I look at Kris and I worry. And when I start responding to a parent’s concerns with my own experience, I find myself leaving out the part where Kris is now or deleting my response. I remember what it felt like in those early days- really that first year. I know that if I read about Kris now, I would look at it as if it was a lifeline. I’ve seen the look on other parents’ faces when they hear about Kris- that hope that maybe their kids will end up like Kris. The problem is- you just don’t know. For all I know, Kris could have a buzz cut and be asking if I know where their binders are next week. You don’t know until you know and then you still don’t know for sure.
Kris and I have talked about this a lot. Not all kids are like Kris. Maybe most are not. But I keep going back to the first 3 years when Kris was certain that he was a boy. Kris had to go through those years to reach the place where they were comfortable being themselves and it helped to confirm that being a boy was not who they were. Maybe some feel it differently than Kris did/does.
I’m not even sure we belong in those groups anymore. When people hear about Kris, they jump to the conclusion that Kris is “going back to being a girl” and it literally causes me pain to try to explain it at this point. Kris has admitted to not going to LGBT groups anymore because they feel like they are taking up space that someone else needs more. This tells me that I’m not the only one in this strange place.
So, what am I saying? I’m not sure. Each parent will be helping their child make these decisions, if the child is under 18. These are not decisions to be made lightly and having been there (although with an older child), I don’t envy the task at hand.
What do I say? Nothing? Everything? Something in between?
I just don’t know. For the time being, I will err on the side of caution and go with-
When in doubt, say nothing.