Kim Pearson, co-founder of TransYouth Family Allies, describes her intensely personal journey of raising a transgender child.
In early 2006 I was a fifty-something, stay-at-home mom who was thinking about jumping back into the work force. I wanted to do something really meaningful and fulfilling. I had no idea what it would be — hospice, perhaps, children’s reading program? I just didn’t know. However, what was keeping me awake at night was the alarming depression of my 14-year-old — always a lovely child, well behaved, a bit quiet and shy, incredibly smart with a wicked sense of humor, but of late, profoundly unhappy. At first it was barely noticeable, like fog rolling in. I couldn’t remember exactly when it started, but it had probably been years ago; I was terrified. We talked about it, but neither of us could identify the source. Career search over! Crisis mode engaged!
Our first stop was the doctor’s office, the diagnoses was profound depression. Concerns of self-harm and suicide were discussed, anti-depressant medications were prescribed, and my child and I started counseling sessions together. It is a bit unusual for a mom to accompany her 14-year-old to counseling, but it was necessary. I was the only one who could get a single word out of this child. We continued week after week with very few insights. After one session, I tried to relieve some of the pressure by suggesting a movie outing. We went to see TransAmerica, the transition story of a transgender woman. We both enjoyed the movie and our conversation afterward never suggested what was to come.
On June 6th of 2006 at 2PM, I walked into the counselor’s office with my daughter for the last time.
You see, the movie had given my child context for questions that had never been asked out loud. Questions such as: Why do I feel so different? Why is everyday such a struggle? Why do I feel so uncomfortable in my own skin? The clarity with which he declared his identity was breathtaking. In a matter of minutes I realized he was indeed a boy; he had always been a boy. How could I have missed this? Wasn’t I paying attention? Oh wait, why would such a possibility cross my mind? I had no framework– no point of reference from which to process such information.
Crazy days and nights followed. There were so many questions with too few answers — no books, no websites, nothing! The Internet saved me (us). I met Shannon and Amy, and together we co-founded the first national resource devoted to serving transgender children and their families, TransYouth Family Allies. Today my son is a happy, healthy 21-year-old working with his father in the home improvement industry. Me? Well, I have this wonderful, really meaningful and fulfilling career. I travel around the country creating understand through education.
Transgender children are wondrous gifts when we view them through the lens of love.
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