Saturday, December 17, 2016

Her Mom, Her Champion, Hers Always

When I was a child, I never expected that one day I’d be a mother. Having children of my own was the furthest thing from my mind. I honestly couldn’t envision being responsible enough to raise children. So when the time came that my husband and I were ready to start a family, we vowed to be the best parents we could. We read all the parenting books we could, researched child development articles, and made mental notes of all the milestones we needed to look for. None of these books, however, explained what to do when our three and a half year old child began telling us she was a girl, not a boy. I was a young mother, and new to this world of parenting so my reaction was one part immerse myself in any research I could find, which was little help, and one part freak out and call the doctor.

Luckily my pediatrician was supportive. Unfortunately, she didn’t know how to assist a child expressing a difference in gender identity than the one assigned at birth. Like us, she didn’t know how to handle a transgender child--what we eventually realized our child was--so she sent us to speak with a developmental psychologist. By then, around late 2006-early 2007, our almost four year old child adamantly identified as female, but there weren’t many medical professionals who agreed a young child could be transgender. The ones we did meet with told us our child’s “gender confusion” was a product of me being a stay-at-home mom and my husband not being masculine enough to model proper male behavior. These “experts” quoted studies that were either extremely outdated or bogus research conducted by anti-transgender organizations.

Constant Sadness (Age 3 1/2, 2006)

Being bombarded with less than accepting rhetoric, and as a young mother who constantly doubted myself, almost should have been enough to keep me from truly hearing my daughter. Indeed, I almost listened to this professional. Fear and lacking educational resources nearly had me shut down my child’s insistent, consistent, and persistent declarations. I was almost scared into submission by wild claims about my child’s mental well-being and future happiness I almost stopped her.
Fortunately, that’s not how this path ended. Now, almost ten years later, I am blessed to witness the happiness of my daughter Trinity, as she blossoms into a beautiful young woman.  Every scenario the psychologist laid out—of my child’s inevitable confusion and pain—didn’t happen. And yet, as a mother, who works hard at protecting her while giving her the wings to fly, never would I had realized just how vital my decision to choose her over the naysayers would be.

Finally HER! (age 4, 2007)
Recently, Trinity told me of a dream she had where she found herself lost in a large city. Scared she ran from shadow monsters spewing words of hate in regards to who she was. She explained how she cried and fled, unsure where to turn. She prayed someone would come to help her. It was then, the sky cleared and the monsters turned away, and suddenly dispersed. When she looked to see what frightened them, there I stood. I had my hand held out to her and told her to not worry. I smiled and asked her to be brave, and then led her home.
As my daughter relayed this vivid dream of hers, I experienced a multitude of emotions. I couldn’t form words. So, I did what I’ve always done for her: I listened. Smiling she told me, “My dream reminded me that no matter how many monsters are around me, I have you to show me how to be brave and to lead me home.”

Heading to NY and all smiles

Thinking of Trinity’s dream makes me reflect on my initial uncertainty as how to best support her. She has been my child for thirteen years, my daughter for almost a decade, and I can’t wait to see what the next ten years will bring. The beginning of my journey was filled with people who questioned her ability to speak with such clarity about who she was. Ones who used scare tactics meant to create fear, anxiety, and doubt. Methods that were meant to stop me, and stop her. But I wouldn’t fall.

So I ask new parents to this journey, to just breathe. Some articles will be filled with data that are against children socially transitioning. Some people will make comments that are meant to create doubt.  Don’t let that deter you. I’ve been there as well so do know how acceptance is so very important to trans children. Because for me doing just that, I have been gifted with an amazing kid. This girl of mine has taught me so much more than how to simply parent, but also how to listen with unconditional love. And she has taught me that when she has a world of so many great leaders, activists, and celebrities which she could have looked up to, it’s me she sees as her hero. She has shown me how to be a better parent, and a better person. The person who never gives up on her. The person who she has to turn to. Who see her. The one who will always choose her. My Trinity

My Trinity

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

It Takes A Village and My Daughter Has The Greatest One Yet

Becoming a mother has been one of the most exhausting and humbling experiences of my life. Some would say I'm a veteran mom having been gifted four times with some amazing kiddos. And I love them with as much of my soul as humanly possible. However, my younger three sons should give thanks to their big sister, Trinity. She is the one who made me a mother. Coming into my life, I suddenly went from DeShanna to Mom. No, I haven't lost my individuality, I simply, as she likes to say, leveled up in life. When she told me she was a girl at the young age of three, finally socially transitioning at age four, I went from Mom to something far greater than I expected.

You see, raising a transgender child, my first child, took me to a higher level emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I saw in this young person a strength I was often too afraid to show. Her telling me who she was; her authentic self, revealed a side of vulnerability. Someone so small opening her heart in hopes I wouldn't shred it. And I didn't, obviously! I then learned to be strong and humble and vulnerable. Which has helped me a lot during my 13 years of parenting.

Yet, I could never say I did this alone. Perhaps in the beginning, yes, as it was 2007 and there weren't many resources of parents with young transgender children. But now, I have a community, no, I have a VILLAGE and my daughter (along with her brothers) are truly lucky. I'm writing this post to name some (there are so many) who have come into our lives and given my daughter the best chance at life and love in the world.

1. Sarah McBride 

A Delaware Native, like myself, Sarah helped me understand how to fight for my daughter when the time came for her to get the puberty blockers she needed. She is kind and honestly, the "best big sister I ever had"-Trinity. Sarah has done so much for the LGBTQ community and especially reaching out and helping families like ours. I adore her more than she could ever know.

2. Monica Roberts

I met Monica for the first time at the Philly Trans Health Conference and since then, she has been one of the biggest inspirations to myself and Trinity. She has a vast knowledge of history, especially within the transgender community, and gives my daughter the words of encouragement and love that even I can't sometimes provide. You can see just how great she is by going to her blog TransGriot

3. Angelica Ross

After we went public for a video done by Trans United Fund titled "Meet My Child" Trinity caught one of the not nicer comments in response to the video and was hurt. This was really the first time she experienced this and while I tried to tell her not to worry, it didn't seem to help. Angelica Ross spoke with Trinity via Skype and helped my child so very much. When they realized they were also both girls who love to code, there was a bond made. Angelica sparked a fire in my child and her goal became to be a great transgender video game developer. Angelica continues to do amazing things and as my daughter watches, I see her too striving to be just as great.

4. Vanessa and J R Ford

 I've known Vanessa and J R through the online community, but finally got the chance to meet them IRL (In Real Life) recently and I felt like I found a long lost line of my family! They too are the parents of a transgender child so having that connection really helped. They are two amazing people and my children are so lucky to have them part of our village. Trinity is also super best friends (her words) with J R!

5. Debi Jackson

Debi is a fire cracker and fierce advocate. Mother of a trans child as well, she is so very outspoken about the rights our children deserve that you can't help but listen. Some may not agree, but dang it, you WILL listen! Finally getting the chance to meet her as well, I know that if Trinity ever needed it, Debi would be there to call out anyone who had something negative to say. She is working tirelessly to make this world a better place for our children and so many others.

6. Cathy Renna

Cathy and I got to know each other after the launch of the video and while she started off as a publicist, she is now family. My children adore her! They also call her aunty (she didn't know that but after reading this she will!) because that's who she is. She has been there as someone to listen to me when I'm down and lift me up so I can continue to be the advocate for my child and others. She is a true warrior and I'm glad she fell into our lives!

7. Rep. Paul Baumbach (DE-D)

Paul helped me immensely finding a way to get Trinity the proper healthcare she needed to stop puberty. Hearing our story of the fight to get Medicaid to approve her in church, he immediately reached out to me and asked how he could help. That started the friendship and bond we have now. He's been to my daughter's birthday and is by far one of the most genuine and wonderful man I know. He's the reason I take voting so much more seriously now as well!

8. Governor Jack Markell (DE-D)

Gov. Markell met with our family after we had won the battle with Medicaid. This man helped set the protections my state has for LGBTQ people so that they can't be discriminated against. He is authentic, funny, and can really handle when a toddler demands to be picked up and held! I'm so glad he was my state's Governor and that he is now part of our village to keep families like our safe. 

9. Online Community

I have mentioned before that there weren't many places online I could go to and find the information, as well as, support I needed in 2007. That remained relatively true for a long time. Now, I'm thrilled that there are places I can go and vent and have the love and support I need. My daughter has a large community that knows of her and will be there for her if needed. It touches me to see the growth of acceptance for transgender children that I didn't necessarily experience when we started out almost a decade ago. They all know who they are and I love and thank them for welcoming me into their embrace. 

So, that's just some of the ones who have really made my village a wonderful place for myself and my daughter. My whole family really. They've had a hand in shaping us to be who we are now and given us the strength to stand up for what's right. I'm not just a mom, I'm not just an advocate for my daughter, I'm her world and now she has an even bigger one to help guide, support, and love her as she grows up. Thank you all. Thank you so very much for everything.