Stories are a powerful way to communicate information. In the past, people used stories to pass oral history down from one generation to another before the invention of the printing press. It was how many civilizations passed on information about their ancestors, taught their children moral lessons, and practiced their religion.
Today, we use stories in many of those same ways, but also as a means of entertainment and to record the time that we are living in for future generations.
There is power in storytelling. It's how we learn about our families, how we remember events in the past, and how we share who we are with others.
What is the story you are telling yourself about your child being transgender?
As parents of transgender children, we have stories that we tell ourselves about our children: of their childhood, their coming out, and who we are as their parents. There are many layers to these stories, questions, emotions, and parts of their stories that we will never know.
The story of our children's childhood is complex. It contains the life they lived before they came out as transgender. It is full of memories of when they used a different name, went by different pronouns, and presented as a different gender.
When you reflect on those stories, do you look back on them fondly or search for signs you missed that would have pointed to your child being a different gender? Additionally, telling those stories requires you to reframe the narrative: you have to remember to use a different name and pronouns. Instead of saying, "When (child's name) was a little girl...", you have to remember to say, "When (child's name) was a child," because little girl doesn't match their name or current gender.
You may feel guilty when you think about the pain your child felt keeping their gender a secret while growing up. Remember that guilt implies that you did something wrong and there was something you could have done differently. It's okay to be sad when thinking of your child suffering and experiencing mental or physical anguish, but guilt is something you should let go of.
Then there is the story of our children's coming out. There are actually two stories there. There is the story from their perspective and the story from our perspective. Obviously, there is some overlap because part of our children's coming out story contains them coming out to us and how we responded.
You may be carrying guilt about how you responded to your child's coming out. While you can't change your response, it's not too late to repair that interaction with your child. You could apologize for how you reacted and tell your child what you would have done differently if you weren't so overcome by emotions.
Finally, there is the story of our role as the parent of our children. This is a multi-layered story because it contains many emotions and is constantly changing. It includes your journey if you have grieved the child you thought you had, which is a normal reaction, or any grief you have experienced as you navigate a new family configuration and the change that comes with it. Guilt also comes into play in this story, as we often feel guilt for how we have failed our children or could have raised them better. This is especially true for parents of transgender children, for all the ways I have listed and more.
But it also includes our support for our children after they come out. It's important to include the positive ways we impact our children and not focus only on the negative.
So what story are you telling yourself about your child being transgender? Is it complete? Is it full of guilt? Does it need some editing? Maybe it's time to take it off the shelf, dust it off, and give it another look.
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