I thought this would be over by now
I thought this would be over by now. I really did. You're smart. Really smart. And a staunch feminist—like I raised you to be.
But it's been over a year now. And it's not over. Not even close. And it's killing me. Bringing me to tears day after day as you deny reality and set yourself on a path of self-denial and self-destruction.
You know that you were always a feminine kid. Stunningly beautiful as a toddler and young girl. Strangers gasped at your looks. You were that pretty. You were wild too—running away from me and jumping off playground equipment while your twin brother stuck close to me and yelled for you to come back.
I never dressed you in girly clothing. But you loved wearing them on special occasions. I'll never forget the vision of you in the frilly costume you wore for your skating recital—with makeup, a shiny tiara and a huge smile on your face. You reveled in your strength and beauty and accomplishments. I did too.
Then it all came crashing down. Some friends decided not to be friends with you anymore. You were so sad and confused. You asked me what you'd done wrong, and what you could do to get them back. You said you'd change. You said you'd do anything. Anything. I tried to console you but you were inconsolable.
Then COVID happened. We were in lock down. You bonded with a few friends who remained, the ones you called your best friends in the fifth grade. One had an older sister who was trans-identified and began identifying as trans herself. Another got caught up in online trans spaces and decided she was trans as well, and omnisexual.
One day you sat down on the couch next to me, very serious, and said you needed to tell me something. All of eleven-years-old and with your big, blue, naïve eyes looking up at me, you told me you were pansexual. After that, on a nightly basis, you began showing me all of the sexuality and gender flags and quizzing me and your brother, even your grandparents, about the different genders and sexualities. You wanted me to take an internet quiz to determine my gender and sexuality. And you seemed confused when I told you I didn't need take a quiz to know who I was.
I didn't take any of it seriously. I was stupid and naïve. I didn't understand the zeitgeist. I'm an older mom, after all. And a single mom by choice. So, for more than a decade I'd been working full-time and spending all of my time raising you and your brother. I didn’t have any spare time or energy to engage with the wider world.
Then the summer between sixth and seventh grade you had your first panic attack. And in seventh grade you became absolutely consumed with sex and gender. Once back to school in person, you embraced, and were embraced by, a friend group full of kids who defined themselves as somewhere along the rainbow, including several who declared they were trans or non-binary. Some of whom began using different names. You made and lost friends who temporarily joined this friend group but decided they weren't trans or non-binary after all.
Mind you, we live in a small town. Your entire class was about 120 students. It's simply not possible that such a large cohort of kids, including those you'd known for years, can all claim to be trans.
I remained stupid and naïve to what was going on in the world.
And so you also began talking about being trans. And perhaps changing your name. You demanded they/them pronouns. And you were miserable; sinking deeper and deeper into anxiety and depression. I took you to a therapist– the only one I could find who took our insurance and was willing to see you in-person. She was young – half my age -- and still in training. And I got you to a psychiatrist who put you on an anti-depressant. She questioned whether you had been sexually abused. Had I exposed my children to any boyfriends? The parent-blaming had begun.
To be clear. - I hadn't had any boyfriends. When I decided to have children on my own, I decided to give up dating altogether so I could focus on my family. But maybe that was a mistake – not exposing you and your brother to a male role model in the house. You had your grandfather and uncles and adult male cousins. But was it enough?
I started blaming myself too. And I haven't stopped. Because if I had done something wrong, then maybe I could do something right too? I could fix it and make it all better. I want that more than anything. I'd do anything, change anything. I want you to love and accept yourself and understand that you're perfect just as you are.
But you don't. The summer before eighth grade, at twelve years old, you told me you were a demi-boy. And omnisexual. You demanded to be referred to as my son and sobbed when I wouldn't, because you're my daughter. You assumed a different name and yelled at anyone who called you by your given name, even your grandmother, who is nearly eighty years old now, who was there the day you were born. She cut your umbilical cord and heard me call you by your name in the delivery room. That was the first word I ever spoke to you.
And you were miserable. Utterly miserable. Still are.
But you kept with it. You went through eighth grade constantly at war with yourself and the world. Crying and complaining any time someone called you by your name or referred to you with she/her pronouns. You adopted he/they pronouns. You ran with the boys' cross-country team. And you tried using the boys' bathroom.
I consulted with experts and educated myself about what's going on in the world of gender. So different than the second-wave feminism I grew up with in the 70s and 80s. I found you a new, more experienced therapist and a new psychiatric provider who understands the social contagion.
You've been getting better psychologically, and you're coming off the medications.
You've had a boyfriend for almost a year. You're still gorgeous after all. But he says he's gay, and you insist you're in a gay relationship.
And you're more convinced than ever that you're a boy because you feel like one, even though you can't explain what that means when I ask. You talk about how much you hate your breasts and your female body. You hate having periods (don't we all?)
You talk about having your breasts removed and taking testosterone once you turn eighteen.
At the same time, you're just a typical teenage girl. You spend your days making jewelry, gardening and pressing flowers, learning to knit, and obsessing about friendships and the people you like and those you don't.
Your brother now calls you by your chosen name, and sometimes your grandparents and other relatives do too. And each time I hear it, my heart breaks.
I still won't use that name. I associate it will all the dysfunction of the past few years. And I don't call you he, or my son. Because you're not.
You're my daughter, and you always will be. And I love you more than you can imagine, and I always will.