I received a phone call one day. It was a parent of a child who recently came out trans. The mother told me that her child was in a local hospital for a suicide attempt. I pulled my car over and collected my breath as I asked her how she was and how her child was. “He doesn’t want to see me. He hates me for not accepting him.” I told her she got his pronoun right. It’s a start. Conditional love is deadly.
I do volunteer work locally as a parental liaison. If your child has recently come out and you wish to connect with another parent, I am one of those parents you connect with. My son is the president of his GSA, has been openly trans in high school, and networks with other schools’ GSA programs. Teens often come to him. I learned many more teens read this blog than I knew. Sometimes young ones reach out directly to me.
Most of the time, if a parent asks for contact from another parent, they are accepting and supportive in their hearts, just a little lost. But it is not always the case. Sometimes they are looking for confirmation bias that this is not what their kid is.
Now my son? When the kids reach out to him, they are in crisis stage. They either fear their parents will not accept them or they have come out and their parents do not accept them. The pain when this happens is incalculable.
The mother who almost lost her child was one of those parents who did not accept or affirm. She was the perfect white liberal and her husband was the sensitive but strong executive. These were not people wearing MAGA hats spouting off Bible verses they did not understand taken out of context.
I remember my last conversation with them before this happened. I was fighting for their kid’s life and I saw the danger they did not. The dad looked at me and said, “How could she know she’s a boy. How? I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a living at 15.” I answered swiftly. “Neither did I, but I bet you had a crush on the girl in math class when you were 15. As you stared at her and let the imagination wander, you likely had some tingling going on. You had no clue what you were going to do when you grew up, but you knew you wanted to have sex with her and you were perfectly happy imagining using your penis to do it. So you knew you were straight and you were cisgender. Because this is what you were and are.”
He stared at me for a long moment. The gambit worked. He was on the cusp of getting it and I could see his defenses weaken. In my talks I knew he was afraid of letting go of the idea of daddy’s little princess. I’ve been there, done that, and let go to a richer reality.
It was almost as if his wife sensed his position beginning to change. She doubled down. She was firm. “I have a daughter. I gave birth to and raised a daughter. And I will not call her a him or a them or any other such thing. I have a daughter and her name is (deadname). You don’t understand my kid or her needs. She’s doing this because she thinks your kid is cool or Ari is awesome. You think this is about non acceptance. Our kid changes her mind all the time.”
“We’re not talking about guitar and ballet lessons here,” I started to reply, “This is…”
“This is over,”she cut in. “We’re done. Good bye.”
It was less than three months after that night their son tried to suffocate himself by hanging. Fortunately he was scared and not terribly good at the engineering required to hang oneself effectively.
I’m happy to tell you that there were no permanent injuries resulting from the suicide attempt. I am also happy to tell you that the family has come around, support the transition, and love and affirm their child as he is.
The difference between parents that accept their children verses those who do not is literally the difference between life and death. This is not hyperbole. This is not a token to win an argument. It is what’s at stake.
I know most of these parents are not without love for their kids. But they are hurting them.
How hard is it to call someone he instead of she or vice versa?
Is it really that difficult to say they instead of him or her? This is not about gramar and we all know it.
How hard is it to love someone as they are?
Is being right worth the life of your child? Is controlling the narrative because you do not want something to be true worth the risks?
I’ve never seen a family who accepts and affirm their child regret it. I see parents and children bond even closer. I have seen grades go up, behavior change for the better, and depression and anxiety ease. Additionally, I have seen trust in the family improve. Not all of these things have happened in all families, but there is one universal truth.
No parent that accepted and affirmed their child that I know has ever regretted loving and celebrating their child as he, she or they are.
A parent once told me that my blog is why they do not accept their child’s gender identity. They told me that the stories with hate were proof that this is not the right road. My stories are sometimes scary. I agree.
I asked her if she ever once read me complain about my son. Her social media feed was not as clean. Of course her kid came out to me before her. She shamed her kid to hundreds of people over dishes and makes fun of other families in a proud tradition called gossip over wine. It is not my blog that is in the way of unconditional love. It’s fear and bias.