The Long Game
For parents of gender confused kids it’s a long game, full of ups and downs. A game of waiting for minds to change.
My son has changed his mind a lot throughout his short life—as all kids and teens. As a toddler he loved red, then green, then yellow and then, finally, went back to red. As a senior in high school he dreamed of going to college for music, then animation, then film, then visual effects, then illustration, then back to music, all in a span of less than six months.
Why would trans be any different?
Last summer after breaking up with his girlfriend, my son changed a lot. He had identified for some time as trans. After the break up, he told me he knew he was male and was my son. He said he no longer identified as a lesbian. He also said that, in my words, he was a straight male. (Although he held on to the girl name, which always made me suspicious).
Right before turning 18 this Spring, he told us that he was trans (again) and would be moving out after graduation to transition. He said his living space was all set. He was going to take a gap year to transition. At 18, he took us off all of his shared devices. He closed the bank account he shared with me and opened a new one.
After graduation, he changed his mind again. He did not move out and said he had no plans to leave. Instead, he now planned to take a gap year and live at home. There was no arranged place for him to go, as he had told us. He stopped talking about hormones. He fixed up his room, and set up a recording studio in our home. He was happier than I had seen him in a long time. He was excited to spend the summer going out with friends every night.
Summer did not go as he planned though, and he turned dark again. His friends were moving away and off to college, so they were not eager to spend the summer going out with him. He was paralyzed and gripped by anxiety, and couldn’t look for a job, get his college applications together, or create a portfolio. He stopped talking to us and began to avoid us when possible.
Then, suddenly, he moved out, letting us know by text. We have no idea where he is—but we’ve heard he’s safe.
I think my son’s trans identity is about power and control—about having something in his life that he can control. But life is full of uncertainty, and there is often very little you can control. That’s one of the lessons you learn as you experience life as an adult. He hasn’t had that chance. You don’t need to pick your college major before you go, although you might have some thoughts about what you’d like to try. You don’t need to commit to a favorite color and then never go back.
Life is about the choices you make and don’t make—identity is not a fixed state. Trans is not control over yourself, and parents are not enemies or prison wardens in your journey to adulthood.
I don’t know what comes next for my family, because trans identity is a long game, with many rolls of the dice, and right now, I don’t get a turn. Instead I will wait for my son to play a few more rounds and hope that he leaves his mind open to the growth and change that he needs to experience, and we will be here when he figures it out.