When my son first came out as transgender, there were many things I didn't know. What a binder was. How to administer testosterone. All the letters in LGBTQIA+. That transvestite is an out-of-date term, and many people in the LGBTQ+ community consider it offensive. In those first days, weeks, and months, I spent hours on the internet reading everything I could find, just trying to catch up. I was just starting my journey, and my son was years ahead of me. It felt like I would never catch up. I wish I had known then that it would be a long journey. One that would change me in ways I could never have imagined.
There are so many things I wish I had known then. So many things I wish I had done differently.
I wish I had known that gender and sexuality are not the same things. This seems like such a no-brainer once you realize it. But I didn't, and many people don't. It would have prevented me from asking my son questions irrelevant to his being transgender. Also, as a result of my misinformation, he had to educate me about this, which was not his job. I should have been doing the work myself, and I wish I could go back and change that.
I was surprised to find out his transition wouldn't have a straight-line, step-by-step process. I am a planner and a process thinker. This was what I expected. I thought that when he began his transition, it would follow a series of logical steps - some kind of timeline. I know now that not only is this not true, but not everyone's transitions look the same. What's true for one person may not be true for another. Knowing this would have saved me a lot of frustration trying to figure out what was coming next as I tried my best to support him.
Speaking of support, I wish I had known how best to support him in those early days. I was very me-focused for the first few months, possibly the first year. I was processing his transition and how I could move forward through my feelings. I did reach out to him frequently and offered him my support. But I wish I had taken more time to be more him focused and to ask better questions. To learn what the questions I should have asked were.
I wish I had responded better during those first days after he came out. I learned about his being transgender from Facebook, which was quite a shock. He was getting ready to go back to college, and I wasn't sure how to broach the subject with him. So I waited to see if he would come to me first. I have regretted that decision every day for the past four years. If I could go back and do it all over, I would have gone to him first. I wish we had that whole week to talk about everything behind his post, how he felt, and what it meant.
Making mistakes is a normal part of the journey.
As parents, we only ever want what is best for our kids. But, at the same time, we can only know what we know when we know it. There is no sense in beating ourselves up over what we did in the past. We learn from those moments, not mistakes, and do better in the future.
What do you wish you had known when your child first came out? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
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