When my son first came out as being transgender, there were a lot of 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 That transvestite is an out of date term, and many people in the LGBTQ+ community consider it offensive.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 getting started on my journey, and my son was years ahead in his. It felt like I would never catch up. I wish I knew then that it was going to be a long journey. One that would change me in ways I never could have imagined.
There are so many things I wish I knew 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 know it. But I didn’t, and many people don’t. It would have prevented me from asking my son questions that were 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.
No one told me that his transition wasn’t going to 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, 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 knew how best to support him in those early days. For the first few months, possibly the first year, I was very me-focused. I was processing his transition and how I could move forward through my feelings. I did reach out to him frequently and offer him my support. But I wish I had taken more time to be more him focused. 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, and it came as 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 all the things behind his post and 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.