Feelin’ The Love: Watching the journey of parents

My work with my transgender clients often includes not only the transgender individual, but the family as well. As important as it is to be an advocate for my clients, it’s also essential I understand the process that is being undertaken by the loved ones of the individual. (See “It’s Hard for Moms”.) Many parents of my adult clients are very resistant to the idea of their “child” being transgender or transitioning, and are initially quite wary of me for supporting this venture. Typically with my adult clients I only hear of the resistance expressed by the parents without witnessing it directly. In session, I am privy to the intense longing of the individual for support and acceptance by their parents, no matter how old they may be.  This is yet another reminder that unconditional love from parents is crucial at every stage in one’s life.

When I work with parents of transgender youth, it’s a little different story. These parents are willingly seeking gender therapy for their children, searching for answers and a roadmap for this unforeseen journey. Fear and resistance are often still a part of the work, but there’s so much more than that.

I have seen parents evolve in the journey with their transgender/gender nonconforming child from tearful and terrified to peaceful and resolute. I’ve seen parents give their child space to express themselves in a way that allows the child to be honored and embraced, even if the parents are scared by the possible ramifications. Some parents accept very quickly while others fight to hang onto what feels safer and more familiar. Some become advocates, others are willing to share their stories, still others remain very private; all of them intensely love their child. To see a parent accept something they never wanted or saw coming is a source of true inspiration for me, and a very touching part of the work I do. I respect and admire these parents more than they know.

The passion I sense from these parents for their child can be expressed in all sorts of ways: fear, anger, pride, doubt, guilt, sadness, grief, bravery; the list goes on and on. I’ve always loved children, but it wasn’t until I became a parent that I could truly understand the passionate love a parent has for their child. The kind of love that makes you willing to do anything for another’s happiness, willing to sacrifice, fight, and conquer all for the sake of your little person even in the face of your own anxiety or trepidation.

Sometimes I feel hot tears spring to my eyes* in the middle of one of these sessions with parents, especially with those early in the journey. What brings on these tears? Is it sadness? No. It’s not quite something I can explain. It feels like a mixture of compassion, inspiration, and awe at the intense love I’m witnessing, along with honor that I get to be a part of such a life-changing journey.  I’m definitely feeling the love, and in the end, I know the child will too.

*Not a robot.

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. And in turn, hot tears spring to my eyes when I see and hear people able to respect and understand what we as parents of a transgender child are going through. Thank you for this, Darlene.

  2. Thank you for your insightful post. It has been 2 years now since our handsome, kindhearted, caring and sweet 32 year old son told us that he was transgender. At first I was so broken hearted that I ended up over medicated by doctors and ending up in a crisis center referred there by my new therapist. I fought it so much by sighting examples to my son about how happy he was as a child. Showing him pictures of himself growing up, having girlfriends, going to proms. I was so desperate to “save” him. My husband, his father was very angry. He said he did not want anything to do with him. They were very close before the announcement. They hiked together, played music together and talked on the phone often. Our family was close. We celebrated holidays together, vacationed together and visited each other often even though we lived in different towns. That is all no more. This is a hard journey for a parent and a child. I have ask ” why God, why my boy ” so many times. I am trying so hard to be happy for him as he transitions because my love for him is stronger than the sadness for myself. I am not saying it is easy but I am doing it. We have all been through so much including my sweet child. The journey of transitions is hard but as my child says, the path he/she has already travelled has been harder. I am reading and educating myself on what transgender is and about what others have experienced. It is eye opening. I wish I could see a bright future but right now I just am happy for good days.

    • Hi Donna,
      Thank you so much for your comment. This journey is SO hard, for so many parents. I’m so glad to hear you are educating yourself and staying open to truly understanding your child. I really hope your husband can realize the same person is there who was there before. 🙂 I really recommend finding a parent support group; talking to other parents can really help! Also, a great book is called “Transitions of the Heart”. It’s written by parents of transgender children of all ages. Wishing you well!

  3. I am a parent of a 26 year old that has suddenly claimed to be trans male. She told me that I have no right to have upset feelings, and it has NOTHING to do with me, so there is nothing to work through. All I asked was understanding that it’s a process that I have to go through as well. The response I got was it’s not about me. Is this how the trans community is? Are they as a whole cold and heartless like this?

    • Thank you for reaching out! I know this can be a hard process for parents. I don’t think your kiddo is trying to be cold and heartless. My guess is that this journey has been difficult for them, and it took all they could to come out to you. Many times, if parents only see their part of the struggle, they miss connecting with the loved one who has likely agonized over this for a long time, and is personally dealing with a lot on their plate. Your kiddo may have been worried this is what was happening or was going to happen.

      That doesn’t mean you can’t have your own feelings! Ask them for time and patience while you educate yourself on this and get support from family, friends, and online supports (just as you are doing). Process your shock, grief, fear, or whatever you may be experiencing with other trusted adults in your life, away from your kiddo. It might just be too much for your kiddo to take on your emotions while they are dealing with all of theirs. The trans community is filled with loving individuals who have to fight for their right to be their authentic selves, so it may have come across a little strong. Once you communicate your unequivocal support, they will likely be less guarded. Sending many positive thoughts your way! ❤

      • Well, I don’t see it as warm hearted. They seem demanding and selfish. She’s not my kiddo, she’s 26 years old. She married a guy that became trans woman, now she’s deciding she’s trans as well. People transitioning shouldn’t be given a free pass. Every adult needs to take responsibility for their actions, and how they treat others.

      • I understand! “Kiddo” is a term I use as a gender-neutral term. They will always be your “kiddo” no matter how old they get. 🙂 Let them know you will treat them with love and respect, and you expect the same from them.

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