Letter from Rachel's Mother
To Whom It May Concern:
My daughter has asked that I write a letter to parents of transgendered youth describing my experience with her transition, from the time I became aware of her situation until now, as we approach her Real Life Trial (living full-time as a woman). We have been on this journey now for a year and a half.
Having watched her as she struggled through high school with terrible bouts of depression, my very first reaction to learning about her gender dysphoria was relief it was wonderful to finally have a name for what was causing the depression. The relief was followed close on its heels by upset at the thought of how difficult a transition would be, and how we would talk to relatives and friends about it, and also by guilt that I had not known about this before. I felt that a good parent should have known, and could have done something earlier, so that growing up would not have been so difficult for her.
You should be aware that by the time your child has gotten up the courage to speak to you about this issue, they have explored it in some depth and made a commitment to this change. They are not presenting it to you for a discussion or argument, but to see if they still have your love and support. The most important thing you can do is offer that love and support, even if you are feeling upset, hurt, and bewildered by what is happening.
It's important to learn everything you can about gender dysphoria. There are some excellent books out there Â your child will undoubtedly be able to give you some information to get you started reading about it. Once you understand that this is a real condition, it will be easier to sort through your own emotions about it. Get what help you need to be able to support each other as a family.
One of the most difficult aspects of the transition has been re-programming myself to use the new appropriate pronouns and name. Years of habit are hard to overcome! For me, switching to the new pronouns and name as soon as possible has helped me truly "see" my former son as my daughter. I can't recommend that highly enough. Of course, it is complicated when some people know about the transition and some don't, and you must switch back and forth. This doesn't last forever, though, and you'll find yourself looking forward to the time when all you have to use are the new, true pronouns and name.
What has helped me with the guilt that I felt initially is finding ways to spend time together to replace lost opportunities - shopping trips together to buy new clothes, spending time with her during her electrolysis appointments, and so on. Put some effort into creating these times, because it will help you as much as your child.
I can remember back before our child was born, when we would say to each other that we didn't care whether our baby was a boy or a girl, as long as that baby grew up to be healthy and happy. Every parent has said that, I'm sure. But then once the baby is born, we all begin to add conditions to that, based on the child that we see that they'll be polite, or clean and neat, or bright, or strong, or good at math we gradually accumulate expectations for that child. When faced with the new information that your child, however old they now may be, is planning to transition to a new gender, it helps to go back to that pre-birth mindset. Transition is truly a new irth for your child. It is a difficult choice, requiring great courage and self-knowledge. It helps to remember that you once said that it didn't matter whether the baby was a boy or girl, as long as they were healthy and happy. Be proud that they have made the choice to be true to themselves, and that they have the inner integrity and strength to follow through.
Kathy (Rachel's Mom)