PFLAG National Board Member Catherine Hyde has penned a powerful piece for Huffington Post that will resonate with all parents raising a transgender or gender-nonconforming child. While Hyde initially struggled raising a transgender child without experienced help, her family ultimately triumphed after they connected with other parents, teens, and knowledgeable providers at the Gender Odyssey conference in Seattle.
Before finding Gender Odyssey, the Hydes followed the recommendation of providers to try reparative therapy—without any success.
Our child was born in 1993, the happiest baby you ever saw. We named him after both of this grandfathers, and simply adored him. But it soon became evident that this was no ordinary boy. And at the age of four, he told me that something had gone wrong in my belly and he was supposed to be a girl. In 1997, there was no Google, and the providers we saw gave us very bad advice. They told us to encourage boy play and discourage girl play, which we did. Two years later our child was threatening suicide. The child psychiatrist we saw told us our child was anxious and depressed, but never mentioned gender. So we learned how to parent an anxious and depressed child, but we continued to disallow girl things and only allow blue and green colors. Our child went to a very dark place. He lived online where all his avatars were female. He was self-harming and self-medicating, and attempted suicide twice. Our happy baby was long gone.
The Hydes knew of no other families like theirs, and could find no providers who had ever worked with a transgender child, but they did find a conference that supported these families and kids. At Gender Odyssey, they found a wealth of information and support.
For the first time, our child met other kids like her. And my husband and I met other parents on this same journey. We found professionals to discuss an array of challenges. And I got answers to so many questions. Could I require the high school, which gender segregated so much, to allow my child to wear a drape for her senior picture instead of a tux? To walk with the girls in white gowns for graduation instead of in blue and with the boys? What about that bathroom-at-school issue? What are puberty blockers and how do they work? What about fertility and freezing sperm? What should I expect from estrogen? Where are other families like mine, and what are they doing? How do I create a local support system back home?
And my child found her tribe. Other kids like her. The collapsing in, as I call it, which we had been witnessing for years in our son, now became a slow blossoming out of our daughter. At the conference she also found professionals to talk privately with her about dating and disclosure, hormone options and her rights in school.
Now more than ever, Gender Odyssey’s safe space is critical to help trans children and their families explore their journey and connect with other families and knowledgeable professionals. From thought-provoking workshops and discussion groups, to social events and year-round connections with like-minded people, the Gender Odyssey experience is enriching the lives of trans and gender-nonconforming kids, teens, and their families across the country and beyond.