Acceptance: Parenting a Transgender Child

By Sylvie Griffiths:

I am certain all parents have anxiety, to some extent, when it comes to their children (fur babies count as well). The stereotypical “worrying mom” is me. It took me years to admit this out loud and I have come to accept there should not be shame in being concerned about your family. With that acceptance about the natural process of worrying about your kids, I have recently experienced a darker, more serious version of these feelings that are harder to acknowledge and embrace. My youngest identified as a transgender male at the age of six and a half. Our family and friends have been supportive beyond my wildest dreams. My little buddy’s new school this year has spent time talking to us and making sure he feels comfortable and accepted during his days in class. Overall, I cannot imagine our family feeling more supportive and loved throughout these changes. I am so lucky to have such a large support network.

But my little dude will not always be by my side when not in school or sleeping. He is charming, very social, fun loving, and curious eight year old today. There are statistics now that show the risk of depression, anxiety, intimate partner violence, and suicide regarding those who transition into their true gender. My natural mom-worries concerning him have grown to daily panic attacks and lost nights of sleep due to him being transgender. I worry about all four of my children, but my little guy, however, will be a target of hatred or ignorance at some point in his life. And unlike the rest of the kids, I am painfully aware that sooner rather than later his will experience negativity about this one part that makes up who he is. He has begun telling people and writing a journal about being a transgender boy and I am fully supportive of his journey. But I am terrified of the first time he is called a name or is bullied because of being simply him.

Doctor’s appointments since his transition have taken a lot of extra work. I call in advance and explain the change. Many experiences related to these appointments end well because people are curious. Even if they are inexperienced with the situation, they want him to feel comfortable. Recently, during my daily panic sessions regarding his treatment to hatred or ignorance, I had to bring him and his sisters to the dentist. We had gone over the recommended time frame and the office staff and dentist had not met him after he transitioned to the clothing, haircut, and name associated with being a boy. I called in advance, spoke with 30 minutes with the office manager, and figured at the very least they would use the proper name when calling him back for his exam. Unfortunately, it did not go that way. The two young women at the desk kept looking for my eight year old daughter and did not understand why I was whispering that HE was in attendance for his appointment and was standing next to me. I was annoyed, honestly, but he did not fully grasp what was happening. After the exam, the dentist called me into a private office, which has never happened before in the five years of going to this practice. My panic started to creep back in; my heart raced and I was wondering if I would have to find a new dentist. What if she was negative about our little boy? What if she judged me for accepting this change and I would need bail money? And most of all; did she feel the need to speak to me for the first time ever in private about him alone?

All my anxiety, fear, and doubt went away within two minutes of her asking me, “So tell me about John***?” She wanted to know about his transition but more importantly, she wanted to know how her office staff could do better with future appointments not only with my family but with other transgender patients she will certainly have at her practice. She listened to me talk and asked questions about how he was doing and how the school change went. She offered to show me their computer system to try to troubleshoot the name issue. (We have not legally changed his name and for insurance purposes, it must remain his female birth name on medical or dental records.) I cried after I got a kid-free moment after that dental appointment; it was a release of my anxiety and my joy in how the situation turned out. I must accept that he will face adversity, but I can now remind myself that there will be huge moments of love, acceptance, and community he will experience as well. So, I will work on acceptance of all those things in 2018.

About Sylvie Griffiths:

Sylvie is a happily married mother of four who enjoys writing, people and chocolate.

She is an Evaluation Associate and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Healthcare-Adult Community Concentration, from the University of South Florida. She holds more than ten years of experience in performance assessment and behavioral health services and is currently enrolled as an MBA student at Springfield College, School of Professional and Continuing Studies.