Contributed by Brandon, who previously shared about the events that prompted the decision to move with his wife and family from Utah to Seattle for the sake of their gender-nonconforming child.
I am the father of a transgender boy.
I wish you could feel the emotional struggle of the past several years which brought me to declare the above statement. If only you could listen to the teary declarations of a child who isn’t confused about the very core of his identity, but is confused and upset by how the world sees him. If your compassion wraps around these concepts and experiences then you understand why my wife and I left both our native Utah home and the Mormon faith of our birth to give our child a chance at a better life. It wasn’t an easy choice, as I described in my previous post, but it was necessary.
When we moved, my wife and I decided we would stop going to church. Both of us had grown more and more distant from our belief in Mormonism, not just because of our son but also due to other factors. We felt the move was a perfect chance to start fresh. After we settled into our new home, a close friend introduced us to a religion which openly accepts and welcomes the LGBT community. We were happy to find fellow transgender congregants as well as gay and lesbian couples. We met and talked to a parent of a transgender teen. It was a safe and helpful place for our family to transition from our Mormon faith into this new life we were building for ourselves.
We found new friends here in Seattle through a support group for former Mormons. One of those new friends found a podcast on the local NPR station. The podcast was an interview with Aidan Key from Gender Odyssey, a mother of a transgender child, and Stephanie Brill who runs a support group for gender-variant kids in California. I listened and I was blown away. It was amazing how close their stories mirrored our own. I was amazed to find someone who knew what we were going through. I searched online for the organizations they represented and I found a lot of useful information. I showed my wife and we read and read all of the stories on these different websites, forums, and blog. It was interesting and informative, but scary. We weren’t sure how we fit into this new world we were learning about.
Meanwhile, Chris settled more and more into a male identity and we slowly and cautiously assisted. We enrolled him in kindergarten with his birth name, long hair, and male wardrobe. It was tough for us to accept what was happening but we slowly started to see how Chris fit the description of a gender-variant child.
It was about this time when I reached out to Aidan Key and asked him about the support groups he runs. I also sent an email to TYFA (Trans Youth Family Allies). I heard back from TYFA and Aidan and they both scheduled intake interviews. As we spoke to them over the phone and told them about Chris, they both kept saying “Yep, yep. I know what you mean.” They had heard our story over and over again and they knew how to help. We gathered as much courage as we could and went to our first support group meeting. I am so glad we did. It was life-changing to have so many other parents and caregivers embrace us and Chris. We mainly listened and cried. It was such a help to know that there were other parents out there who could understand and help us. This new community of support helped us through the ups and downs of kindergarten and first grade.
Through Aidan and our new support group, we also found the Gender Odyssey Family conference. We weren’t sure at first, but we decided to attend. I am so glad we did. The conference helped bring out our confidence in Chris. Because of the conference, we decided to listen to the constant messages he kept sharing with us about his identity and help him transition fully to a male identity (he/him) for first grade. The conference helped us to listen and understand both the science and emotion behind gender identity.
Our new friends, the support group, and the Gender Odyssey Family conference were invaluable to our family. We shared our new confidence and the desire for our child to be called by his new name and pronouns with the school teacher, principal, and counselor. They were very supportive and understanding. Everyone was willing to look out for Chris and help him transition during this new year of school. Without all of these people’s time, support, and care for our child, we wouldn’t have the confident and happy child we have now.