Someone recently took me to task for daring to criticize PFLAG for abandoning parents of young lesbians, and for daring to suggest that parental or clinician homophobia might play a role in the increasing number of kids and teens who are medically “transitioning.” This first-person piece in the Advocate, written by the mother of a young lesbian who decided to “transition,” is a good case in point. Mom wonders “what she did wrong” to make her child turn out gay. She feels intense shame at even the word “lesbian.” But when her daughter decides she is actually a guy, not gay, mom’s main worry is that her straight son will have a hard time finding someone to partner with.
The Advocate, first published in 1967, was originally the flagship publication for the gay and lesbian community. Back in the day, a mother admitting openly to homophobic feelings in the pages of this journal might have been challenged. Perhaps we would have seen her coming to terms with those feelings, before overcoming them and embracing her daughter’s lesbianism. It’s unlikely that the Advocate of the 1960s or 1970s would have published an Op-Ed celebrating a lesbian turning into a straight man.
What about the fact that mom only turned to PFLAG after the child came out as trans; could her lack of support for her daughter’s lesbianism have had any impact at all on her child’s desire to become male?
But this is 2015, not the dawn of the gay/lesbian liberation movement. Transition stories–particularly of young people–are gobbled up like candy. The reporters at the Advocate obviously didn’t think the mom’s discomfort with lesbianism was worth looking into. In fact, I haven’t seen a single journalist in any media outlet raise the question of why, perhaps, this or that lesbian in the latest trans confessional story couldn’t just stay a lesbian and skip the hormones and double mastectomies.
While this particular piece is an Op-Ed and not a news story, the unfortunate thing is that celebratory feature and news stories about lesbians “transitioning” to male are no different, and no more balanced, than first-person accounts like this one.
“…when my daughter came out as a lesbian, that same voice echoed in my head, reminding me of the honor of our family name. This elder had long ago passed away, but his words lived on.
For months, that voice drove me into the closet. I couldn’t say the word “lesbian”; in fact, it made me cringe. Publicly I walked around feeling dishonest, carrying a secret I wasn’t ready to share, and privately I cried as I searched to learn what I had done wrong to cause my child to be gay. I was lost, I was alone, I had no idea how to support my child, and so I quietly criticized myself for my failure as a mother; I was ashamed.
When my daughter revealed to me that she wasn’t a lesbian but was actually a transgender male, even more fear and sadness entered my life, mostly for my new son’s happiness and well-being: How would my new son find someone to love him and a society to accept him?
I turned to PFLAG, a national organization that brings support, education, and advocacy opportunities to parents, family members, and friends of people who are LGBTQ. PFLAG helped me tremendously as I looked for information, worked to raise my awareness, and discovered new ways to support my child.”