There are often stories in the news about the impact that lack of acceptance has on transgender children. We read of the direct harm and deadly impact on these children. There are things that self proclaimed accepting parents do that also hurt transgender children.
After doing a feature story where I used a panel of transgender youth, I have been in communication with that initial panel. That group has expanded. As the term “Mama Bears” has become more popular on the internet, the triggers have been abounding for these teenagers and young adults. “Mama Bear” is a term often referring to mothers of transgender youth who voraciously protect their children.
These teens and young adults feel that there are many parents coming out of the woodwork claiming they are more supportive than they are while ignoring the hurt they cause. These are the top 3 hurtful things accepting parents do to their transgender children according to the panel.
1. Mourning the Loss of Their Son/Daughter
When a child comes out transgender, there are parents that miss the son or daughter they think they used to have. A little over two years ago I wrote an article about “The Bittersweet Truth About Expectations and Photo Albums”. As mentioned in that article, the initial reaction of a sense of loss is natural. But it is not a loss of a child, it is the loss of an expectation. As I said in the prior article in regard to my child:
His love of art, sense of justice, weird sense of humor that is very wry for someone so young, his intelligence, music tastes, morals, ethics….everything that is him is still him. Every experience I had with him still happened. Every zoo trip, ER visit at 2 am, dance recital, belt test for taekwando, family vacation, the pain of his parent’s divorcing, all of it. All of our firsts was still every first. The memories were with my child who is still right in front of me.
Many of these children overhear conversations, read what their parents post on social media and sometimes even hear it directly from the parent. More than one of the students in my panel said they wish they could tell their parent(s) that they are still alive, no one died and this hurts.
2. Having Negative Views Of Their Chosen Name
I once had another parent express names to me this way:
“The names we give our children are a gift. Like any gift, it can be returned or exchange for a different one if it does not fit.”
Some have had parents tell them they do not like the name. Some parents will overreach and try to claim they have a right to re name the child.
My student panel has a general consensus that this happens a lot on the way to choosing a name. Often times the negative opinion on the name continue for weeks, months and even years after the fact.
One panelist we will call “Taylor” commented, “My mom loves to remind me how accepting she is of me and supportive of me. She has a bunch of mama bear swag she got on Etsy, but you can’t say you accept me completely and deny me my name. If you met a stranger tomorrow and they said their name was Bill, you would not tell them that is a the wrong name. You would accept it as is.”
Another panelists we will call “Cassandra” commented, “Mourning my not death is just hurtful, this move is passive aggressive. And as far as dead names, if I wanna call it (assigned name) a dead name, don’t take that away from me. It feels like you love the idea of the little boy you thought I was more than you love me. It’s a name, this is me. Love me.”
3. Using Generation/Age to Justify a Relative/Friend’s Phobic NatureThe panel rapid assaulted me with some of the things they hear a lot from accepting parents.
“Your grandma was raised in a different time.”
“Stan was raised Methodist, you have to see things through his eyes and let it go.”
“Pronouns are hard for people your Aunt Peggy’s age!”
One of the young people we will call “Arial” brought up something most of the panel agreed with.
“It’s borderline gaslighting! Asking me to allow someone to assault my dignity to protect a grown adult from their feelings of discomfort is warped. Grandma can’t run around telling black people to use a different water fountain anymore either. Boomers and some Xers are the grandparents now. They have seen a lot of sh** change. They can handle my name and my pronoun. And if they can’t, the problem is not their age. The problem is my parent can’t parent by standing up to her parent.”
Hard To Hear
As a parent of a transgender young adult, some of the things they said were hard to hear. There was a lot they had to say beyond the “big three”. It was hard not because I disagree with them, but because they are right. In my next article I will be speaking about how ally is not a self proclaimed title, it is something we who are cisgender straight people have to earn from the LGBTQ+ community. Being a parent is non negotiable. We are assigned parent at their birth. But there is a difference between being a good parent and a bad parent. In a less black and white context, there is also a difference between a well meaning parent and a well doing parent. Parents make mistakes. That is a fact. But we have to own those mistakes, learn, and be better.
In the case of being a Trans-parent, there is too much at stake. If you are a mama bear or a papa bear, you need to be protective. But you also need to know that the threats do not always come from the outside world, sometimes they come from within.
Support Your Local Writer
I’ve not written in awhile. I needed to step back and think about the signal to noise ratio online right now. I also needed to think about my role and responsibility as a journalist in the op/ed world. During the time away from the keyboard, I have been allying with other journalists in the National Writer’s Union and the National Press Photographers Association. I’ve also been taking online classes over the past year when I can afford them to sharpen my writing skills and be more true to journalism.
When you take time off like this, readership drops. There are projects I want to invest my time into fostering. These include various photo documentaries on various matters that matter. We live in a world where the gap between have and have nots is increasing and the voice of the oppressed is silenced. I am seeking partners in this goal and the ability to fund these ideas. I will have more information on my Patreon page by Monday, Nov 4th.
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- Become a Patreon: Patreon is a space where you can support writers and artists much the same way many do PBS and NPR. You can go to my patreon at https://www.patreon.com/patlgreen and pledge monthly support for as long as you are able.
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