A local couple opens up and talks about raising a transgender child in our valley
Last week was Transgender Awareness week. This annual, global event helps raise and center the voices and visibility of transgender people; it brings to light the myriad of issues and discrimination trans and non-binary people face. It is also a time of hope and celebration for this incredibly diverse population.
On the last day of the week, November 20th, the community holds Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor the memory of the transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence during that year. I find myself thinking about how our binary and gendered system of male or female excludes and punishes those that don’t prescribe or fit within this social construct. Being excluded, different, or othered can be dangerous.
I’ve been trying to educate myself on this issue over the past few years by considering what life is like for individuals born one gender but then realize they don’t fit that gender assignment. I’m grateful to one local couple for sharing their journey as their child explores their gender identity and expression. This friendship has helped reframe and shape how I see and experience the many nuances of gender.
They asked me to keep their real names confidential because they are adamant about protecting their child’s privacy, so I’ll call them Bob and Lindsay for the sake of this article. “We’ve always believed that gender is a spectrum (rather than binary),” Lindsay told me. But that didn’t prepare them for the day when their child started crying and said, “I have always felt more like a boy.”
That event started a challenging family journey they could have never imagined — one that began with a lot of fears and private tears by the parents. Immediately they began to methodically reach out to mental health providers and connected with other parents of transgender children.
Additionally, they met with their child’s primary care physician to determine how best to support their child. “Not supporting our child was never an option,” said Bob. Their child did receive a mental health diagnosis of gender dysphoria — a condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity is different than one’s biological sex. Why can’t we open our minds to the notion that gender is more than a male-female binary?
The family accessed three essential resources: local social worker and psychotherapist, Micah Vacatio, LICSW; Wenatchee Pride, LGBTQ+ non-profit, and Trans Families. Trans Families is an organization led by well-known transgender activists, educator, and speaker, Aidan Key. This non-profit supports and educates the parents and guardians of gender diverse children, youth, and young adults.
As loving parents committed to supporting their child, they chose to follow their child’s lead. “The journey hasn’t been easy, but it’s been beautiful watching our child live as their authentic self,” shared Lindsay. We should put ourselves in their shoes as we consider this scenario. Would it be good for the child to ignore them and force them to live unhappily as a girl?
There’s compelling evidence that doing so is harmful. “We want our kids to be their happy, authentic selves,” said Bob. The family researched the issue, asked many questions, and considered every possible angle. Their decision to support their child, I’ll give him the name, Oliver, wasn’t a whim or a fad — it was based on science and a devotion to their child’s best interest.
Oliver started third grade in the Wenatchee School District as a boy, and, according to his parents, it’s never has been an issue with classmates, teachers, or the administration. Their child is well-liked in school, participates in many local activities, and has a great group of friends. “I kind of feel like we came in at a fantastic time because it feels like the structural support of this gender community is developing,” Bob told me.
The parents are grateful for all of the support but remain concerned because of society’s bias against seeing gender as anything but a male-female binary. As for the bathroom issue that often gets trotted out as a reason to disapprove of transgender individuals, Oliver’s parents gave him a choice to decide on which bathroom he felt most comfortable using; he chose the boys. There have been no issues. The kids and the staff at his elementary school accepted Oliver as they present themself.
Oliver’s mother told me that there is great beauty in diversity — that differences remind us that life doesn’t fit into neat categories. “We’ve always told our children, ‘if we were all the same, life would be boring.’”
Bob and Lindsay believe we would all be better off if we met other people where they are rather than where we would like them to be. “Be a nice person, be kind, and then give people the benefit of the doubt,” Bob told me. This family’s experience invites us to open our hearts and meet people where they are as we journey through life. That’s an approach that could benefit all of us.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, here are a few places with more information: Wenatchee Pride, Trans Families, The Human Rights Campaign, The Family Acceptance Project, GLAAD, PFLAG, and Gender Spectrum. If your family needs support, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, Attn: Micah and they will get back to you within 24 hours. Link: https://www.wenatcheepride.org/
https://transfamilies.org/ https://www.hrc.org/resources/transgender-children-and-youth-understanding-the-basics https://familyproject.sfsu.edu/ https://www.glaad.org/transgender/resources https://www.pflagwsc.org/ https://genderspectrum.org/