It’s Been A Rough Road
Below is a letter that I wrote for my daughter—although since I never gave it to her, really I wrote it for myself, to try to process my feelings, and to share with my daughter's non-affirming therapist. Maybe one day I will give this to my daughter.
Since I have found so much comfort in reading other parents’ posts, I wanted to share my letter, in case it can help someone else. This letter was inspired (and in fact a few areas lifted) from a post titled Dear Daughter that appeared on your site. I have that post sitting on my desktop and I have read and reread it numerous times.
I, like many other parents here, am a registered democrat and used to be a donor to both the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. I am bi-sexual and have been married for 20 years. It is an interracial marriage and our oldest daughter (not my bio daughter but who I raised) is gay and has been with her partner for over 5 years. Our family has always been open about love and being true to yourself..I'm the handy one in our family, and my husband loves a craft fair. Both my husband and I are outspoken. We fight for social justice and have always encouraged our 3 girls to speak their minds and made sure they knew that they can do anything! We know we are not alone—we believe in our heart of hearts that it will all work out for our family and our daughter, but some days are just so hard.
Thanks for helping me process and allowing me to share our story.
What do I want you to know deep in your heart? I want you to know that I love and support you completely, no matter what. You are my child and an important part of our family, now and always. That will not change. I believe I demonstrate that to you daily and hope you can see it. I have loved you from the moment I learned I was pregnant and that love only grew stronger when I held you in my arms; nothing will ever change that. You are as beautiful to me now as you were in those first moments we met. Your beauty is deep in your soul because you are such a kind, strong, talented and amazing person.
As your parent, it is my responsibility to create an environment that is loving, but that also that includes boundaries. If I could go back in time, there are things I would do differently but, I promise you—I always gave my absolute best that I had at that moment (example: you had a phone and access to the internet far too young). I did not do a good job of paying attention to your mental health and protecting you during the pandemic; I kick myself every single day about this failure. Science and research shows that we become who we are around and you were alone in your room surrounded only by other kids struggling with themselves, their own mental health and the pandemic as well. Since recognizing my error I've tried to reinstate some boundaries for your health and protection. The boundaries I create are in place because I care very deeply about your wellbeing. Amongst other boundaries, my willingness, or lack of willingness to affirm your rapid onset gender dysphoria and self proclaimed trans status should not be the only thing that you judge me on—I have supported you in so many other ways. I want to make sure you have a place to walk back to as you grow and define yourself.
I have done a great deal of soul searching this past year and that has been challenging. I am not sure you know some of the challenges I have been up against. I have had to question my liberal-leaning beliefs and remember to keep common sense and science at the forefront; and it feels as if I am swimming upstream in whitewater rapids. I realize that I am not presenting the woke thoughts about gender that many of your friends, teachers and other well meaning adults espouse. I have a curious mind and refuse to just go along with popular thinking (you’re welcome!). I am reading the science, following what is happening in countries who were and are leaders and early adopters of affirmative care (such as Norway, Finland, UK) that are now halting and reexamining care as more science and data become available. I am worried for lesbians (2 of my daughters and many of my friends) because I believe that the trans movement is trying to erase them. I also worry that women's rights are in danger, rights that were fought for and that I believe in.
I am looking at you as an individual, as someone I have intimately known since you were conceived and carried in my womb—we shared blood and my body created you— with some help from daddy of course. You have your own set of life circumstances and challenges and I want to support and guide you through those, as your mom. Yes, these are your choices to make but, at 15, you still need to borrow the life experience and life map that I have ready and waiting to share with you. I'm happy to share wisdom and question ideas with you. In fact, I’ve come to see it as my life's most important job. I also know that there has been a statistically impractical rise in female to male transitions among teenage girls over the last several years and that now, many are beginning to detransition; I hear their stories and I see you. What I most mean to convey is that there has not been enough time to research why this is happening.
Right now, there is no proof one way or the other about a “male” brain vs “female” brain—research needs to continue. We do know there are differences biologically between males and females and you and I have watched plenty of myth busters to know this. Based on all I have read, I do not believe that someone can be born in the wrong body. The lack of time and research in the area of gender ideology also means that the medical professionals do not know the long term effects of social or medical transition. There are many people for whom gender dysphoria is not diminished or alleviated by social and/or medical transition. And for many, the euphoria of the transition fades as their brain reaches maturity and they gain more life experience. That is why it is so important for us to continue searching for ways to make you more comfortable with the body that you have; to help you figure out your mind and ensure that the decisions you make help you grow, rather than hindering your growth or making you afraid to become the adult you were meant to be.
How you choose to wear your hair, dress yourself or whether or not you shave your legs is completely up to you—but no amount of presentation can change your sex/gender—you are a female, with xx chromosomes and a producer of large gametes. Every cell of your body shows this truth. It makes me really scared and sad that you don't feel your strength in being female; that you can't celebrate the amazing woman you are becoming.
When I am at the end of my abilities to cope, like I am right now, I think to myself, just keep swimming. Because of who I am, I have to stand up for myself and my family (again, you're welcome!). I must follow my intuition and do the right thing. No matter how hard the journey, I am going to continue to walk the path with you; even when you'd rather I let you be. Giving up isn’t an option, not for me.
There is no one in this world who loves you, every fiber of you, more than me. I will never give up on you. That includes searching for answers with you about your rapid onset gender dysphoria. You are almost fifteen and that means that my role in your life is changing, as it does for all parents during the teen years. But remember: Your emotional challenges began when you were younger and during the pandemic when the entire world was struggling. You began searching then for a way to feel better, to feel complete, to feel at ease with who you are. I know that you're having all sorts of feelings; the vast majority of which happen to everyone at puberty. Social media and a generation of anxious and depressed youth make the normal rigors of the teenage years far more complicated than they were for my generation or even for your sisters. I don’t blame you for searching for answers and I want to walk alongside you. I can't make choices for you but I can help you look at options to make your choices as wise as possible. However, you seem unwilling to look at any information that doesn't match your internet/peer group narrative. When you say you hate all “cis people” I literally feel my heart breaking and my eyes well up with tears that my daughter could hate me so much.
You searched online for friends, even those you had known in person were only available through social media and online, and for answers to your discomfort, for the pending state of doom you were sure was coming. The more you talked to people on the internet and the group you were solely spending your time with, the more affirmation and confirmation you got that, yes, this must be why I am uncomfortable, I am transgender. As a 12, 13 or 14 year old, it is nearly impossible not to believe a group of people who are unequivocally supporting your new identity. There is nothing better than having people tell you you're right. Your doubts started fading and you became focused on transition. If I just get a haircut, if I just get new clothes, if I just get a new name, if I just bind my breasts, if I just use different pronouns… if I do all of these things, then, THEN, I will feel better. But we never should have lost focus on helping you to accept yourself and find the root of your discomfort.
As you must know deep down, chasing a perceived feeling is impossible. There will always be a higher bar to reach, a proverbial greener pasture on the other side. I hope you also know that you become who you spend your time with. Your group of close friends, and even the groups of kids you spend time with at school, have their own struggles and I see you imitating and/or taking on and wanting to label yourself with those. That scares and worries me a lot.
While I was there trying to ask questions and giving you an alternative viewpoint, you heard many other people telling you that your parents just didn’t understand, that they will never understand and that they are transphobic. I was told I was doing irreparable damage by not instantly changing your name and pronouns and considering puberty blockers. I am not transphobic, whatever that means. I am against children, teens and young adults transitioning. I am against young people feeling they must put as many labels on themselves as possible before they've even had a chance to experience the joys and sorrows of adulthood, of loves found and lost, of a variety of sexual experiences and truly just so many more emotions that it is just impossible for you to have experienced at the age of 15.
I am against not believing that who you are is enough. I feel deep sympathy for people with gender dysphoria or any kind of mental health struggle; I suspect it is hell. I know because I see it’s happened to you, my daughter. But to help, to be part of your solution, I won’t wade into the unstudied minefield of transition, not without understanding exactly what the outcomes are and not until your brain is developed. I love you too much to do that to you.
I love you with all of my heart and soul. You are a part of me. Nothing will change that love.