Post submitted by Terri Cook, author of "Allies and Angels" and co-facilitator of TransParent. Cook will present on a panel at HRC's office in D.C. on February 11 about how parents can support transgender youth and each other.
I’m the proud mom of two young men, but I didn’t always know I had two sons. For 15 years I believed I was raising a daughter. My younger child, who I now know is my son, is transgender. My husband and I supported his transition with support, love and acceptance.
Over the years I’ve been asked countless questions, such as, “How could a child possibly know who they are or what they want at that age?” and “What kind of parent would allow their child to make irreversible changes to their body with hormones and surgery?”
I get that. I had those questions too and many more. If you asked me several years ago what it means to be transgender, I couldn’t have provided a good answer. I’ve learned a lot over the years, and what I’ve learned has completely changed me. My husband and I share our story in the book, Allies & Angels: A Memoir of Our Family’s Transition.
Our family’s journey was hard and our son’s struggle to understand, accept and simply be who he is was even harder. It was very difficult for him, despite having the loving support of his parents.
The tragic death of Leelah Alcorn really shook me. The role Leelah’s parents played in her life sparked much discussion about the importance of parental support and acceptance for our transgender children.
My husband and I started out as many parents do, full of fear and ignorance. I was uncomfortable. At first I didn’t want this for my son’s life or my own. I wondered who would love my child the way he deserved to be loved. I was worried about what family, friends, colleagues and even strangers would say. I didn’t know how to explain what was happening or how to effectively advocate for my child. I felt alone, afraid and overwhelmed.
Some parents remain stuck in these feelings of fear and denial, which can harm their children. However, despite our fear and discomfort, my husband and I admitted our ignorance and committed to learning what we needed to learn and to finding support and resources. The LGBT youth center that was a lifeline for our son became one for us as well. It was there that we first met other transgender youth and transgender adults. Most importantly, we met the parents of other transgender children.
One way parents get to a place of understanding and acceptance is with the support of other parents of transgender youth. Meeting others, I realized I wasn’t alone. I found new friends who shared my concerns and questions, and others who had similar experiences with answers to those questions. I finally saw beyond the fear and could soon picture a wonderful life for my son.
For several years I co-facilitated a support group for parents of transgender and gender-questioning youth in central New York called TransParent. We supported each other through heartache and rough days and celebrated our joys and victories. I’ve seen many fearful moms and dads go from denial to love and celebration. Many went on to help other youth, their families and the fight for transgender civil rights.
I hope you will join me on February 11 in D.C. to discuss how parents can support transgender youth and each other. For more information about the event, click here.