Close Enough to Open My Eyes
My daughter is at prom. I’m happy about it, mostly, but it’s been a long journey here. Not as difficult as others, but our story is similar. However, I’m optimistic, but not confident, that it’s actually over.
Like so many others, the challenges in our relationship started during COVID. We live in a very, VERY progressive state, and the COVID restrictions were very real here, and had a huge and still yet to be measured impact on our youth. Prior to the shutdowns, I had a bright, vibrant, outgoing and energetic daughter. Now, she’s the opposite. She’s finding her way back, but it’s slow, and so many things are now impacting getting her back to the girl she used to be.
It started maybe 6 months after the COVID shutdowns. Schools were closed for so long here, so my daughter ended her junior high school years, and started her high school career virtually. There were no other options. Shortly after her freshman year started, she shared with me that she was bisexual. I was surprised, a little, but not really, given her overall lack of interest in any relationships to that point. She was 14 when she made the announcement to me. I asked some questions, but took it for what it was, not a big deal, really.
Sometime after that, she determined she was lesbian, and also shared this with me, also. Again, I asked a lot of questions. I was curious, really, how she decided, how she knew, why it changed from bisexual to lesbian. As weeks went on, conversations drifted toward the trans topic. My general feelings about it, simple things. At some point, I started to read more into the questions, and became concerned.
I’ll note here, that we did poorly in dealing with COVID restrictions. I became very lenient in letting my daughter use her computer and phone. I checked on things, but I wanted her to be able to maintain contact with her friends. It wasn’t until after school began, that I realized she’d made new friends (from school), online. Kids I didn’t know. And me, left wondering, how does a teenager befriend people online, at their school or not? How do you learn to trust them and develop a close relationship? I still don’t know, but it happened. So, two new friends entered her life, via online classes, and became part of her life once they returned in person at the end of her freshman year.
Noticing significant changes in her attitude and general level of happiness, I did something I should have done more frequently. I checked her phone messages. She was sharing with a friend that she was “feeling dysphoric” again. I asked what it meant. I made her explain it in full detail. “I just don’t feel like a girl.” Well, that’s too bad, because you are one. Not my original response, but I tried to talk her through it, to some extent, and this was before I found all the other online resources, and stories of these sudden changes in teenage girls. Because yes, it was sudden. This girl of mine has always been exposed to “boy” and “girl” things, but has ALWAYS opted for the sparkles, the pinks, make-up, the typical “girly” things. Yes, she also played in the dirt and played with monster trucks.
She still trusted me then. She’d share (or let it slip) that her female friend, Brynlee, liked to go by “Sam”, and use they/them pronouns. Her male friend, Gavin, liked to go by “Kris” and also uses they/them pronouns. By this point, I realized she was in it. Though she hadn’t come out and said it, I knew she was following the same path, and these new friends had to have had a big part in it. Eventually, I’d snooped enough, found enough, that I learned her alternate name. It wasn’t bad, but was also chosen to “appease” me, because it is a shortened version of her name that she doesn’t like. She asked me to start using it. I said no. Partly, because to this point, I’d been on my own in knowing all of this. Her dad (yes, we’re married), has had no idea this was going on. I still had no knowledge of how to handle this, but I just couldn’t use another name for her, because her dad didn’t even know she was lesbian, let alone that she thought she wasn’t a girl, and wanted to go by a new name and they/them. I said we could only discuss this once she started sharing some of this stuff with her dad.
She took her time, but managed to tell him she was lesbian. It didn’t go well. He’s much more traditional than I even realized, and he’s struggled with the losses he didn’t know he’d have (such as the potential for no biological grandchildren). They’ve been at odds, but I’m glad he’s talking to her about how things impact her life, and the people she’s around reflect on her, and different things like that. She’s not always receptive, but I do think she’s listening. I hope she’s listening.
She never managed to tell him anything other than that. By this point, I’d also dug in heavily to researching the real goings on with trans, or prior to trans, the “they/them” that seems to lead that way. I started arguing with her. This was war, I was determined to win.I had a hard time controlling my emotions sometimes, because the reality of the situation was so heartbreaking. How could my beautiful daughter believe she wasn’t a girl? That she’s wasn’t female? It hurt me as a woman, for all the things I’ve worked for and fought for, for her not to see that she was capable of the same things, as a young woman, that she really believed that men have it easier, that it would be easier to be one, despite seeing the examples of strong, confident, successful women in her own life.
I don’t think I handled the conversations well, ever. But I did not budge from my position that she is a female, and she cannot change it. She can change her clothes (more on that shortly), she can change her hair (I struggle with this one), but she’ll always be female. This is what I’ve stuck to for the last 18 months. We had some good conversations about how it’s wrong to allow males in female prisons, and males in women’s competitive sports (many discussions around Will ”Lia”m Thomas).
Throughout that time, other things also came up. She would “black out” and come to and say she didn’t or remember things (I think she was aiming to mimic DID). She acted like she had a sudden tic (she did pretty poorly). I found notes about her sadness, and indications that she may have been considering the end of her life. We talked SO much. I talked at her, she talked at me. We talked circles. It was so messy. It’s still messy. I’ve lost so much sleep. She says she doesn’t sleep well. I’m grateful for one of her friends, who stands her ground, doesn’t put up with the nonsense, and also lets me know what’s going on, or confirms things I’m seeing or the way my daughter is acting or feeling. This friend has stuck by my daughter, in the best way possible.
She also doesn’t get along with her new friends, and has no problem letting her know she wants nothing to do with them, and why. I’m very glad she’s in our life.
My daughter never changed her clothing style much through this, she’s always worn leggings and a hooded sweatshirt. She quit wearing makeup. She wanted a binder, but she didn’t get one. She wore tight sports bras. At home, she still wore short-shorts to sleep or lounge around the house. And she cut her hair short(ish), as short as I’d let her. When we went clothes shopping for school it was a nightmare. She didn’t know what she wanted, she couldn’t choose. I don’t think she really knew.
I also put significant restrictions on her phone. When she could use it, what it could be used for, and I insisted on knowing who she was texting. I also required that all her computer time be in a common area. I know she’s still communicating through some apps with people, but it’s limited, because she knows we’re there watching. It’s not a perfect system, but unfortunately, COVID made so much school work move online (even while back in the classroom), that it’s difficult to do assignment or turn them in if you aren’t in front of a screen (which I really dislike).
Where are we now? She’s returning to me, but it’s not over. She wore a beautiful dress for Homecoming earlier this year (with all the glitter). She still wants short hair. When I take her shopping, she wants crop tops and cute girl clothes. She even wants some dresses. She still wears bikinis. She’s seemingly more accepting of her feminine body and feminine features. She doesn’t try to hide them. She’s requested more appropriately fitting bras, including non-sports bras.
But, she’s also still hanging out with the friends who I believe started her down this path. There are many rumors about her and these friends at school. It breaks my heart that she is subjecting herself to this, when she could do so much better. My “lesbian” daughter is apparently dating “Kris” now. I haven’t asked her how she’s still a lesbian if she’s dating a boy. She’s also dated “Sam”, too. Whenever she does speak about either of them (which isn’t often), and uses they/them, I will correct her. I will reinforce the gendered pronouns of the correct sex of these friends. I also use their birth names.
I think we’re still pretty close with our relationship. We’ve had ups and downs, but it feels stronger as time passes. She reaches out to her dad, I think she knows she needs us, and our love for her. Or she has me really fooled. But, she’s always been a little immature, and I think she does realize she still needs her family, the people she KNOWS care about her, her well-being, and her future. I wish she’d let go of these friends, I wish she could see the full truth, and be willing to say it to them. We have support from others, quiet support, teachers I trust who see what I see, and know how we feel, and aren’t affirming, but see the toll this movement is taking on the teenagers of the world. They see what COVID did to our youth.
I love my daughter. She has made me visit a world of information I never thought I’d have to dig into. We could have it so much worse, and I’m grateful that things seem to be ok where they are, and not headed further down any path toward trans, but hopefully headed down a path of truth and reality. I’m watchful and cautious, for my own daughter, and hope all our children can also find truth and reality like us parents that have dealt with any of this to some degree know.
Tonight she’s at prom. She looks beautiful, with a lovely dress, great hair, and make-up she did all on her own. She left with friends. I’m 99% sure she’s meeting her “boyfriend” there. I’ll have to be okay with it for now, for our relationship, and for my mental health. I have to trust she knows her parent’s love is stronger than all of this. And we’ll be here to catch her when she finally, fully, opens her eyes.