I found out my son Leo is transgender through a Facebook post. After reading that post multiple times in disbelief, I opened up Google. I searched multiple things because I didn’t know what I was looking for. I also didn’t understand what Leo had just told me. “What does it mean to be transgender,” “What is transgender,” “My child is transgender,” and “What does transgender mean” were some of the things I Googled. The results were overwhelming. By the end of the first hour, I was in tears and had a blinding headache. I still didn’t understand the difference between gender and sexuality, and I feared for my child’s safety.
I had read about suicide rates and crime statistics and how transgender people are the target of hate just for existing. None of this was new information, but it was all new to me, and now it was personal. Now it was impacting someone I loved and cared about. And I felt shame and guilt for not being aware of it until that day, but I also acknowledged that sometimes this is how life works. We do better when we know better, and I was learning about the transgender community in a big way.
Instead of being excited that my son proclaimed his truth, I feared for his life.
It makes me sad to think about that now. How during those first few months, I was so focused on how hard Leo’s life would be versus how hard it had already been. I couldn’t see past the fear and worry I felt.
All I could think about was that I didn’t want my child to become a statistic.
When we hyper-focus on one area of our child’s life, we lose sight of everything else. Worrying about my son’s safety and how he would navigate the world’s hate caused my anxiety to increase. It blinded me to how coming out freed him from the pain he had been living with since middle school. It wasn’t until much later that I could process and understand that part of his experience.
In addition, I realized I wasn’t giving my son much credit for his own safety.
When we worry about the safety of our adult, young adult, and older teenager transgender children, we are saying to them, “We don’t trust you to take care of yourself and to make good choices in regards to your well-being.”
As parents, we raise our kids to be smart and safe. We hope that when faced with a dangerous situation, we have given them the tools for a positive outcome. That doesn’t mean we won’t still worry about them, but we aren’t going to do it obsessively.
But somehow, we don’t do the same for our transgender kids. We hear those statistics, and we think we have to be the ones to protect and keep them safe. But that’s not our job. And it discredits the job we did raising them to try and do so.
Trust that you have given your kids the tools to keep themselves safe and do their best to protect themselves from the dangers that face the transgender community. Know that they can take care of themselves. Let go of the idea that you are the only one capable of that job.
As a parent, you will always worry about your child. That’s okay.
But excessively worrying about things out of your control doesn’t help you or your child. It will make you anxious and stressed. This, in turn, can make you physically unwell and can lead to micromanaging your child as well. If you trust that your child can make good choices for themself, you will be able to let go of some of the fear and worry. It won’t be easy and will take time and hard work. But you will be able to do it, and your relationship with your child will be better.