Image is of a person sitting at their desk with their head in their hands, eyes closed, in front of a computer, glasses on the desk. When you are stuck and can't move forward, it might be your own fault because you are putting the focus on yourself and not your child.

When You Can't Move Forward

coming out parent support transgender Apr 04, 2023

When my son Leo came out as transgender at the start of 2016, I had just come out of a challenging year. In February 2015, I quit my job in education after a dozen years due to burnout, overscheduling, and exhaustion. I spent the winter battling pneumonia, and when my body made it clear I wasn't going to heal unless something changed, I decided it was my job standing in the way.


I started a new job that appeared on the surface to be lower stress, and it was lower hours, and things began to improve. Then, in the middle of the year, as I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, my job turned upside down, and it never recovered.


When Leo came out as transgender, I was in a state of transition at work, worried for my oldest at college, and pushing my way through my own college work. While I tried to focus on his needs when he came out, I was absorbed in my stuff.


I wouldn't understand how this impacted how I responded to Leo's coming out for another four or five years. Leo came out through a Facebook post, and I can see now how this was a safe choice for him. How his not coming out to us in person shielded him from our emotions and kept him from whatever our initial reactions might have been.


I like to think that had he come out to me in person, I might have been supportive and loving and hugged him and told him how proud I was of him, all of which were true. I can tell you, though, that when I read that post, I was confused and overwhelmed, and there was a lot of crying.


A lot of crying.


Leo didn't need that. I wouldn't have wanted him to have seen or been a part of that. That's not what his coming out should have looked like. It should have been a celebration of him and his bravery, which was precisely what happened in the comment section of that Facebook post.


For a long time, I thought about how hurt I felt about his not coming out to me in person. I questioned why and wondered if he didn't feel safe to do so. I wondered why he had told one of my sisters-in-law but couldn't tell me. I played the what-if and how-come game and ran through a thousand scenarios in my head.


What I was doing, although I couldn't see it at the time, was putting the focus on me. And eventually, I came to understand it was never about me. Sometimes, when you are so wrapped up in your stuff, it blocks you from understanding someone else's perspective and where they are coming from.


And when you put the focus on yourself, it keeps you stuck and from being able to move forward.


This would continue to be true over the next six years as my job became more challenging, as I pushed through grad school, and continued navigating challenges with my oldest child's mental health.


In 2021, when my oldest was changing their name, I needed time to understand why they wanted to change their last name too. I felt like they were saying they didn't want to be a part of our family anymore by changing their last name. All I wanted was an explanation for the change. What they needed was for me just to be okay with it. Eventually, I came to see why it didn't matter.


But I could not move forward until I reached that point, and it was all my own doing. I'm sure if you asked my oldest child, they would tell you how frustrated they were by me during that time.


As you continue your journey, you may find that sometimes what is standing in your way of moving forward is you. You may find that focusing on yourself keeps you stuck and in a place you can't get out of. Without even realizing it, you could be sabotaging your journey.


While that's okay, you have to acknowledge it before moving forward. So if you are feeling stuck right now, think about what might be keeping you from moving forward. Is it a problem with your child or a problem you've created by focusing on yourself? What's one step you can take to get unstuck?



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