Turning the Page

Our oldest child came out to the world as a transgender young woman a couple of weeks ago. We have known about 6 months, although if we are honest, we have known something was going on a lot longer than that. Writing the facebook post to announce her new name was in a lot of ways a relief, but there was also a really large amount of anxiety and fear. This is the post I shared with our friends:

We would like to reintroduce everyone to our oldest child. This is Madeline. For 17 years we thought we had a son, but it turns out that we have 2 daughters. Parenting is full of unexpected news, and we certainly didn’t see gender dysphoria in our future when we embarked on our journey. At the same time, it wasn’t actually a shock when Micah told us in February. We are so sorry that we do not have the energy to have this conversation separately with all of you. Please know that this has come with lots of counseling, soul-searching, and not a small amount of awkward/humorous situations. We are confident this is who our child is, and we will do all that we have to in order to keep her happy, healthy, and safe. We know it will be confusing for all of us for the foreseeable future. Respectful discussion is welcome. Judgement and hatred will not be tolerated. We strongly feel God has trusted us with this incredible person to care for and protect and we intend to do just that. While our little family unit has known and been processing this for 6 months, we ask that you are respectful of extended family members as they are still processing this news and are all at different stages of acceptance. Thank you.

In the end, the post received over 200 likes/loves and so many responses. All of the responses are loving and kind and supportive and uplifting and I sobbed with relief and happiness at reading them. We have obviously found the right people to be a part of our lives. They love and support our family, even when we barely know what we are doing. They lift us up in prayer when we don’t have the words. Our people are amazing!!

Since Maddie came out to us in February, all of my energy has been focused on the logistics of telling everyone. I was not naive enough to think everything would be smooth sailing after that, but I really thought it would be the biggest hurdle we would face for right now. And in a lot of ways, that was correct. We have big things on the very near horizon – blockers and hormones and name changes, oh my – but there is a definite lull in what NEEDS to be done right now. Maddie is getting more and more comfortable being herself, we are slowly replacing her wardrobe, and everyone at school is adjusting nicely.

Other parents in my circle are going on college visits, helping with college applications, prepping for auditions, and worried about the right combination of classes to get into the first choice of schools. I am so relieved that we are not trying to do that right now – Maddie has decided to attend Community College for at least a year to get her associates degree and then transfer to a four year institution. That buys us time before we need to help her navigate being a trans student in a dorm living situation, and I truly believe she will be stronger and have a better sense of herself because of this choice.

I was naive enough to think that this lull in what needs to be done, this small respite time without major decisions, would be an easy time. I thought I was emotionally spent and would just be able to coast for a bit. I do not pretend to know what living as a trans woman who wasn’t out to the world was like for my daughter. I am sure it was tremendously hard. For us as her family, it was like we were living a lie when we talked about her to people. We were having conversations about a person that we knew didn’t exist, at least not as everyone perceived her. There were all kinds of excuses about why we aren’t going on college visits and which schools she is considering. There were lots of funny looks because our answers didn’t seem to make sense with the obvious intelligence and talent our child possesses. It is a huge relief to not have to make excuses or leave questions hanging anymore.

It is in this place of relief that tiny things have started sneaking up on me. Little things that are small in the grand scheme of things, but little things that break my mom heart. I started getting the September calendar ready this week. We use a large desk calendar on our wall – the kind with the tear off pages – because we have a very active family and we need the space. I also use an electronic calendar that we share on our phones, but I like being able to see the month at a glance. As I prepare to turn the page to September, it has hit me that I am also completely turning the page to Madeline. The name Micah will not appear on our calendar again. The name we have spent over 17 years with. The name we chose with love for our first baby. The name I have signed to hundreds of cards and letters. The name that carried with it so many hopes and dreams. And I am suddenly grieving in a way I never expected to and in a way that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

My child is still here. My child is alive and well and has unlimited potential and opportunity ahead of her. She is intelligent and funny and kind and strong. And I am so proud of who she is and who she will become. But I have to let myself grieve the loss of the hopes and dreams I had for her before we knew. I need to grieve for her, having to live as someone she wasn’t for so long. I have to let myself feel and then let go of the guilt of not knowing for so long. The guilt of trying to force her to fit into a life that wasn’t meant for her. I have to sit here in this place of sadness before I can let the person my child was before, the child in my memories, merge with the daughter I have going forward. I know that eventually it won’t be awkward trying to talk about the past. It won’t feel like our memories are of a different person. It will be perfectly natural to call that child Maddie instead of Micah. And look forward to that merging because I know it is what is best for my child. But today? Today I am just a mom grieving the passage of time, which I guess isn’t so different from my circle of friends after all. Stay strong Mommas – we’ve all got this!