From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I sensed I was having a girl. Due to a difficult relationship with my own mother, I had huge fears about having to negotiate a mother-daughter relationship. Nonetheless, my husband and I felt a kind of crazy excitement about what the gender of our firstborn might be - that was before I knew or understood the complexity of gender for a child.
As many parents do today, we decided we would reveal the baby’s gender in a unique way. I spent several hours one day with a good friend and co-worker (while we were supposed to be working) looking for quotes about boy children and girl children. We decided that after my appointment to discover the gender, I would send my family and friends a text that would contain a gendered quote. The boy quote (and the one I ended up sending out) was something about how a mother learns the secret world of men when she has a boy. The girl quote was brooding and complicated, reflecting my previously mentioned fears.
Our Sam was so gentle and quiet from the start. My friends would tell me that they could not believe how calm our baby was, especially compared to their boys. Sam would sit and look at books and puzzles while the other children ran circles around the room. When Sam was just a baby, at about 18 months, a therapist friend bought a doll, a stroller, and a high chair which Sam played with for hours. We didn’t think anything of it, except maybe that we were open minded unbiased parents. Little by little, Sam would ask for more girl type toys, and I would spend hours online and in stores debating about buying something pink or searching for the most gender neutral or even “boy-colored” shopping cart, kitchen, doll, etc. It was exhausting.
For quite some time we just thought we had a "feminine boy." And we were ok with that. We let our child play with anything, even though it meant we had to feel a bit uncomfortable sometimes or think outside the box.
Then, during a trip to Spain to visit our family, everything changed when I overheard my nephew telling other children. “Sam is a girl.” My first thought was that my nephew was making fun of his cousin, but Sam later told me that she had confided in him that she felt like a girl.
We consider that trip as an important event in this journey, because after that, things progressed pretty quickly. A few weeks after the trip, Sam started expressing distress over her body. She asked, “Why do I have a penis?” Sometimes I would find her hiding, and she’d be pushing her penis down, and she would say, “Mama when can I have a vagina?” Sam had always played with cars and trucks, too, so we thought maybe this was just normal for a boy.
It wasn’t until we had her brother that I noticed the differences in how they both played with cars. For example, Sam would have all of her cars in a circle and they would talk to each other, and she would sometimes put them to bed or take them to the table to feed them. Her brother, on the other hand, would endlessly crash them together and make car noises all day long. Sam would pretend to breastfeed her dolls and would pretend to be pregnant and give birth to her stuffed animals. She would say, “When I grow up I’m going to be a mama and have a baby in my belly”.
Sam was showing more and more signs of unhappiness, and at the same time showing more interest in “girlish” things like Barbies and painting her nails. One day we were sitting in the living room, and Sam went right into the kitchen and got a knife. I stopped her on her way to the bathroom and asked her what she was doing. Very seriously she told me that she did not need her penis anymore and was going to cut it off.
She was 4 years old.
My husband and I panicked. I immediately made an appointment with our doctor, an amazing pediatrician who has a lot of experience. To my surprise, the doctor did not seem surprised. She pulled Sam aside and told her that her family loves her and supports her, and that she can be herself but that she cannot hurt herself because it could lead to her going to the hospital or even dying. Then the doctor turned to me and said, “I have some referrals for you.” Incredulously, I asked her: “Does this kind of thing really happen?” She said, “More than you think.”
After that, there were more requests from Sam. Her first dress, growing her hair out, female pronouns. At first, we only used them at home, and we only wore dresses at home. But there came a point when this was not enough. After Sam had almost completely transitioned, she still wanted to perform in her dance recital even though she would have to do it as a boy. She participated, but she just stood there through most of the song. She was disappointed with her costume which was not nearly as nice as the girls’ costumes.
One of the things that still surprises me is the incredible turn around in our kid after we let her be herself; she is happy, and healthy, and it’s clear we’ve done the right thing. We went from having a kid who seemed depressed and would hide from playdates when they came over to having a happy little girl who is just... a normal little girl. Well, normal in a very special way, that is. We love her so much it is crazy.
Before I was a parent, I never understood the kind of deep and unconditional love we have for our children. Accepting Sam has never been hard, but what’s hard for a Mom (from my perspective) is the fear of how people might treat her, how it might be harder to protect her, and how she might face discrimination just for being who she is.
I won’t stop reading, and advocating, and asking questions, and forming support groups, and getting experts involved. I want Sam to be proud of herself. We know we have challenges ahead, but I think she will be ok. The newest studies show that trans kids with supportive families do just fine. We are a strong family with a lot of love, which it seems is the best we can offer. I only hope the rest of the world can support and love her, too.
This guest post was submitted by a loving mom who would like to remain anonymous for now.