It was our youngest child’s second day of Kindergarten and I got the call every parent dreads.“Your child just said something incredibly disturbing, you need to come to the school immediately so we can discuss this.”
So there I was, waiting in anticipation when the Vice Principal pulls me in and tells me,“Your child told their teacher: ‘I have a secret, I am going to be a girl when I grow, please call me she.’ What do you expect me to do about this?”
In a moment of defiance, I boldly replied “well, call her ‘she’ then.”
Internally, the conversation was much different. I was in shock. So I went home and googled: “my son says he wants to be a girl.”
What came up was just as confusing. Every website talked about being transgender and I had no clue what that meant. Kids don’t come with a manual and they sure as heck don’t come with a transgender manual. So I reached out to youth centers, counselors – really, any and everyone I could think of. I called a children’s hospital in New York, no answer. I called a phone number in Minnesota and left a message. I called over to Seattle and left another message.
Personally, I believe in fate, serendipity and kismet. I started Graduate School two weeks after this initial conversation and was able to dig deeply into the library. I shared everything I was learning with my husband and we learned pretty quickly: we could bury our son or we could support our daughter.
See Betsy tell her story to the Spokesman Review in their feature story: A transgender child’s journey
Neither myself or my husband grew up in supportive homes. We swore we were going to be different than our parents. So, even though we were surprised by the news –who wouldn’t be?– we chose to support our daughter.
We learned so much about what it meant to be transgender but it was Rachel who really taught our family how to accept her.
She has such clarity about who she is and she is steadfast in her truth. In the early years of her transition, she let our family slowly come to terms with calling her Rachel at home, but made sure to correct us in public. It felt like she was gently guiding us through a journey, taking moments to look back so that we could all catch up to her.
And, boy, it has been a rigorous ride at times. We have a small support group and a new, amazing church congregation that emphasizes that we don’t need to decide between our child and our faith. However, we mostly live in an area where people in similar situations stay hidden. That leaves our family, including our four additional children, often left to figure it out ourselves.
For my reserved husband, the worst part is the uncomfortable questions we don’t always have the best answers to. Even though I am usually an open-book, there is one question that raises my hackles. It is when people shake their head and ask why would we chose this course for our child.
It’s a ridiculous question. While being a part of a community that is marginalized by society is not the life I would want for my daughter, she is who she is. We love Rachel and we will do anything to make sure that she has the best life possible.