In response to the guest piece I posted earlier today, another mother of a teen writes in.
My teenaged daughter has some great qualities. If she sees someone being bullied, she will go and defend them (even if she doesn’t particularly like them). She holds strong convictions of what is right and wrong (and will enthusiastically debate anyone that believes differently).
She is open-minded, idealistic, and rejects stereotypes (sex, sexual preference, race, religion, you name it). She is convinced that drugs and alcohol are very harmful (and has voiced concerns about the very insignificant amount that her parents drink). She is very intelligent and has excelled academically. Even though she has been difficult to parent due to her stubbornness, strong opinions, and love of arguing, I thought we were raising her right.
When she was young, she never appeared to have issues with being female. She did have a rough time during her elementary and middle school years, though. Since she was emotionally sensitive, she cried a lot more than her peers and didn’t make many friends. She always felt different. She was bullied too. When high school arrived, though, she joined an extracurricular activity and made many, many friends and seemed to finally thrive. She became more confident and comfortable with herself. It was beautiful to see this change and I thought that she had left all of her troubles behind.
Later that same year she started dating a boy that grew increasingly clingy/dependent. She ended the relationship (with my encouragement). He started repeatedly threatening suicide and she became depressed herself. She felt like she was holding his life in her hands. I could see her crumbling so we started taking her to therapy, which did seem to help. But in therapy she also revealed that she had had two other episodes with boys that had made her feel violated (although not raped). It was at this point in her life that she mentioned “questioning her gender,” which I didn’t even understand at this point. I thought that maybe she was wondering if she was a lesbian.
She appeared to recover and become herself again. She had no interest in dating yet, but that was understandable. She had fun with her friends and continued dressing like she used to. She still had problems trusting, though. She never attained peak happiness again, but it seemed close. I thought that it would just take time, but that she was on the right track.
She gradually started dressing more and more in what I figured were comfortable clothes. Lots of loose T-shirts and jeans. She decided she wanted her hair cut shorter too, which I wasn’t alarmed about either. She started styling her hair in what I would have deemed an unattractive style, but it still didn’t raise any flags. It wasn’t until there was a special event that required her to dress more formally that something seemed wrong. She acted as if the dresses in her closet would burn her if she put them on. She fought tooth and nail and eventually we let her go in a pair of black jeans and a shirt that most would have considered inappropriate for such an event.
She started mentioning Tumblr. She said that she would post positive messages, accepting anyone who identified as LGBT. She was being an ally. She mentioned that many of her friends in school were gay and lesbian. I thought that this was great that she was so open-minded.
About a year after all of her troubles were revealed, she said that she had something very important to tell us. We thought that maybe she would tell us that she was a lesbian, which we would have been fine with, although she had always seemed to be attracted to the opposite sex. We were blind-sided, though, when she told us she was transgender and wanted to medically transition. She said that she was our son and that since she is attracted to males, she is actually our gay son.
She mis-remembers her childhood. She says that she was a tomboy. She thinks that all of her problems in her early school years can be pinned on being trapped in the wrong body. Also, since she has some male friends, this has convinced her that she is actually male, too. She talks about having a male brain.
Of course I have tried to debunk her reasons. We have talked quite a bit, but I have not been able to convince her otherwise—she has strong convictions. She is too open-minded about being transgender–she fails to research the other side of the issue. She feels bullied when I don’t fully accept her as my son.
I drink a lot more wine than I used to.