Around the time of the first anniversary of Leo’s coming out as transgender, I sat in my therapist’s office. I had just seen her a few weeks earlier, before Christmas. She knew, however, I was going to need extra support as that day drew near. So she scheduled me to come in. As I stared at the floor, tears running down my face, I said, “It’s been a year now. I didn’t think this would still be so hard.” I looked up when she didn’t reply. She looked at me in that gentle way she does, and after a minute or so, replied,
“There’s no timeline on your emotions.”
I nodded. I knew she was right, but shouldn’t it be less hard at least?
The answer is no. I didn’t understand it fully then because my pain was still too raw. I just realized that I was thick in the throes of grief, but I didn’t know why. I hadn’t yet come to the understanding that I didn’t actually lose a daughter; I had always had a son. What I lost was the idea of having a daughter.
It would take me another year to come to that place.
During that year, I identified why the idea of having a daughter was so important to me. It was because I grew up as the only girl in a family of five—the oldest with four younger brothers. When my youngest brother was born, I lost every dream of having a sister. As I grew older, that dream transformed. I dreamed that one day I would have a daughter, or even better two. My ideal family was four children, two boys, and two girls. I wanted my children to know what it was like to have a same-gender sibling. To not miss out on what it was like to have a brother or sister in the same way I did.
Once I came to understand why the idea of having a daughter was so important to me, I was able to begin the work of letting go.
That doesn’t mean the work was easy or painless. And it doesn’t mean that once I was able to let go of that idea, things suddenly became less hard. That I don’t still get sad or have days where that dream takes hold, and I wonder what if.
If you are the parent of a transgender child of any age and you’re wondering why it all still feels hard, you are not alone.
It still feels hard because it is hard.
We get this idea in our heads that it’s going to be hard for some amount of time, and then it’s going to get better, and we’re going to move on. Except that’s not how it works. Our feelings have to run their course, however long that takes. And when you think things have turned a corner and you are over the worst of it, you might end up right back where you started. Your emotions might be all over the place. That’s okay too.
You have to let the hard things be hard.
Even if you don’t like it. Even if you want to be done with it. Even if you are so tired of everything feeling hard that you can’t stand it for one more minute.
We have no control over our emotions. Whatever you feel about your child coming out is how you feel. And your feelings are not wrong or bad or unsupportive. You have to let yourself feel those feelings and identify what is causing them (it’s different for everyone), and then begin to work through them so that you can move forward.
And it takes as long as it takes.
Don’t be discouraged if someone else is “doing better” than you are. Or has “gotten over” their hard thing. You can’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. And if you are following people on social media, remember that social media often shows the highlight reel. We can’t know how other people are suffering behind closed doors. Wherever you are on your journey is where you are supposed to be. Keep taking one step forward. Eventually, you will come out of this on the other side. Your emotions will settle down, and it won’t be so hard.