When my son Leo first came out as transgender, I didn't know that I needed permission to grieve the child I thought I had.
I was trying to model for others how to talk to and about Leo: how to use his new name and pronouns properly and how to talk about his past correctly. I thought setting an example for everyone else in our family would make it easier for them. And, in turn, more manageable for Leo.
In doing so, somehow, I decided I needed to be strong around my husband, the one person who most understood how I was feeling. I thought if I were okay, he would be okay too, hoping we would somehow get through this avalanche of emotions.
Okay was the furthest thing from how I actually was.
I cried in the car. I cried in the shower. Some days I cried at my desk at work. Every other week I spent forty-five minutes crying in my therapist's office. I didn't have a place to grieve—a place where other people knew how I felt.
I didn't know where to find what I was looking for. No one I knew had a transgender child. If anyone in my local area had a transgender child, they weren't sharing about it in any of the places I frequented. I learned about a local PFLAG group which seemed promising. When I checked the group out, I discovered local LGBTQ+ teens and young adults attended it.
There didn't seem to be any support for parents of transgender kids or young adults in my area. Five years later, there still isn't.
Every week, I get messages and emails from parents of transgender children and young adults. First, they thank me for writing about my experiences. They are so grateful to learn they are not alone. Then, they share with me where they are in their journey. The common threads that weave through the messages are the same: where can I go to grieve the loss of the child I thought I had? Where can I get support from other parents who have been where I am?
The one thing parents of transgender children want most of all is to know they aren't alone.
At the end of the first year after Leo came out, I told my therapist it was the loneliest year of my life. While I had a strong, small group of people who constantly checked in on how I was, most people asked about Leo during that first year. When you don't have the experience of walking in someone else's shoes, it can be hard to know what they need.
Parents of transgender children also need support. They need to share how they are feeling. What they are thinking about and processing. A place to unpack the emotions they are feeling—someone to listen to what they are missing or learning or how their lives are changing. In order to support their children, they first need to be supported.
If you are the parent of a transgender (or other LGBTQ+ child), and no one in your life supports you, you are not alone. There are places you can go to grieve. People who have been where you are. Others who understand everything you are experiencing.
"Online communities where real people make real connections." ~Liz Dyer
If you are the mama of an LGBTQ+ child, this is the group for you. With over 8,000 members, there are six subgroups, 60 regional groups, and a whole lot of people who will make you feel seen and known.
If you are the mama of a transgender child, this is the group for you. However, only mamas of the larger LGBTQ+ group can access this subgroup. But it's worth it. The content is trans-specific and super helpful.
If you are the friend or family of someone who is LGBTQ+, this is the group for you. The description says, "The group is for the full inclusion, protection & equality of LGBTQ people and is dedicated to supporting, educating & empowering those who are fully affirming of LGBTQ people."
Don't walk through this journey alone. Link up with others who are walking with you. We are stronger together.
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