I’m starting this blog to document my journey as the mum of a child who doesn’t fit with the gender binary, who is transgender, or agender or gender fluid, or gender questioning, or any other label that fits at that moment in time.
Let’s start at the beginning shall we?
About two years ago my husband and I had a chat and realised we both expected that there would be a ‘coming out’ process of some sort from our child. He was born in the 70’s, I was born very early 80’s and we grew in the era where gay people were becoming more accepted, HIV/AIDS awareness was rife and we saw ourselves as very open minded. This ‘coming out’ we expected thought, we assumed it was related to sexuality, because we didn’t anticipate anything else. A few months later, January or February 2016, my then 10 year old ‘came out’ to me. I remember it like it was yesterday, I was in the kitchen doing something when R stood at the entrance to the room and said something like “I have something to tell you mum” and they looked absolutely terrified, with tears in their eyes. In that moment I was so so so scared because I had been expecting something, and thought our attitudes and approach to life would mean my child wouldn’t be scared to tell me anything. BUT this, whatever it was, clearly scared R and that meant I was utterly terrified. R then told me they identified as non-binary. I had never heard the term, and didn’t even associate it with being transgender. To be honest, I didn’t really know what transgender meant at that point.
I should give you some context, about a year before this ‘coming out’ R had confessed to taking a lot of pills and we ended up being seen by CAMHS, there were bullying issues at school and I just knew my baby was unhappy. The thought that whatever this was, my baby was scared to tell me made me think it was something terrible, devastating, and any other horrible thought you can come up with. I had a difficult and unconventional upbringing but I’ve always prided myself on combining the positive points of both parents and then adding my own thing into my parenting style.
Back to that time when I had never heard the term non-binary, never mind knowing what it meant. I quickly reassured R that no matter what I loved them and their dad loved them, and always would. Then, as soon as I could I went online searching for parent support. The only thing I found was a group operated by parents of LGBT kids (I wish I could remember who it was so I could link to it). I called the number and spoke to a lady who was in her 70’s. She had no more idea about this non-binary thing than I did but having a son who came out as gay in the late 70’s/early 80’s meant she could understand the concept of having a child who was open and out very early on, before the world was ready, acting as a bit of a pioneer.
That first night was horrendous. Even though I didn’t really know what it meant, or what was involved, I just knew I was scared for my baby. What I did know was that R was different, and I was terrified because I knew that this difference would mean being open to prejudice, discrimination, ridicule, and so many things.
I’m ashamed to say that after than initial reaction, I buried my head in the sand and ignored it. For those who don’t know non-binary means, it is very simply identifying as something other than male or female (or binary gender). Agender is, I believe, having no or neutral gender. At that point I remember thinking that we didn’t really need to do or change anything.
The fear I felt, even while not really knowing why I felt that fear, meant I stuck my head in the sand and ignored things. Now, that reaction makes me ashamed but I also know it was natural and normal. Part of the reason for this blog is to raise awareness of the fact than the term trans or transgender doesn’t necessarily mean male-to-female or female-to-male but that gender is a spectrum, and any gender identity is valid and any response from parents is okay, acceptable, natural and normal.
We, as a family, are in a totally different place now, and it’s a much better place. But, our journey to get here has been full of ups and downs, and it’s been awful, stressful and difficult while being fine, okay and totally acceptable.
The turning point was R saying I’ve found this group for trans kids, and can I go. At that point we met a worker from the amazing LGBT Youth Scotland and they not only made R feel totally safe, accepted and able to experiment but told us parents about a support group, Transparentsees. I still remember collecting R from that first group, I had this happy almost carefree kid, which seems like a tiny thing but it had been so long since I had seen that side of R I almost didn’t recognise them. The young people meet twice a month and R fights whatever else is going on to get there without fail. I can definitely say that mental health rises after being at the group, and I can see it dipping again just before the next group is scheduled to meet. Transparentsees has a few groups in Scotland that meet regularly and they consist of parents giving support to other parents. Both groups are a lifeline for us, giving R a safe space to express their gender identify, and giving us as parents a safe space to talk about how we feel and the issues that crop up, and find out about things like Gender Identity Clinics, changing names, dealing with school, and all the emotions involved in having a child who is questioning their gender, in whatever form that takes. If you’re struggling please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details of groups in Scotland, or go to Mermaids
Future posts will talk more about the support those groups have given me as a mum, how to go about changing name legally, how we got used to using new names and pronouns at home, telling family and dealing with their reactions, coming out in primary school , transition to high school, and many more things.
I really hope you’re enjoyed reading, but I’ve enjoyed being able to let it all out, and it’s great therapy for me 🙂
Feel free to comment and tell me what you want to hear about first in future posts 🙂