The role I wish she wouldn't accept
My daughter was an actress before she even knew it.
I like to say she came out of the womb talking. She was reciting her ABCs at 13 or 14 months of age, reading at age 3, devouring chapter books by 5—always with the flair and flourish of a budding performer.
She lived for dress-up clothes and makeup and princesses. She delighted in the world of fantasy and fairy tale and fearless girls. She didn’t just WANT to be the center of attention, she BECAME the center of attention through her sheer charisma, whip-smart humor, mastery of words, and natural leadership.
Having no interest whatsoever in sports, I suggested that maybe she try children’s theater. At age 8, she was cast in the ensemble in her first play. By age 9, she was consistently being cast as either the adventurous, fearless girls she read about in stories, or the comedic parts that came so naturally to her due to her sharp wit and impeccable timing.
The next three years were amazing years of growth, with her being busy and happy and our family discussing the possibility of performing arts high schools. We spent a lot of time together, driving to rehearsals or Broadway touring productions, singing musical theater songs in the car. I celebrated each new role she was awarded and delighted in her performances.
She loved every aspect of theater: the ability to take on new clothes, hair, makeup, an accent, a posture, and mannerisms allowed her to become part of the stories she loved so much.
I never imagined that she would decide that the world of story is better than the real world. That playing characters would transcend the stage and overtake her real life. Because now, she wants to permanently live in her own made-up story.
At age 13, depression and anxiety hit our house like a hurricane. Her grades plummeted; she stopped hanging out with her wonderful group of friends and picked up a new group that was into anime and cosplay. She cut her hair off and began dressing like a homeless person. She wouldn’t talk to me about her period, which had recently started. She rarely auditioned for plays and lived mostly online, culminating in an announcement at age 14 that she was non-binary. You all know the litany of asks that came thereafter (which we refused), the challenges of navigating therapists and medications, fighting the school’s love-bombing and affirmation, etc—but suffice it to say that it was like the tectonic plates of our relationship had shifted—maybe forever.
We’re coming up on four years of this now. She’s only grown more entrenched, more angry, more masculine. Our once dynamic, hilarious, confident, brilliant girl, raised by two parents in a stable marriage and home, is a dour, self-hating shadow of her former self.
Our culture told her that the real world, and the role she plays in it, is painful and hard sometimes, but not to worry, because she can escape that. She can live in a make believe story and be the central character.
Only this time, she’s not that fearless, adventurous girl or the wildly funny comedic sidekick. Her new role is a character who doesn’t need to think about puberty or porn or where she doesn’t fit in. In this new part, she does not need to learn how to deal with pain or challenges. She can be a victim, part of a special group that is celebrated while claiming it’s marginalized. She can have no accountability. She can do or say whatever she wants. This role requires a new name, appearance, costume, way of speaking, mannerisms—and a body to match. And it could be forever.
We are emotionally preparing ourselves for when she turns 18 in a few months—we expect her to come out as full trans, separate herself from us and begin transitioning. Because everyone in her life—except for us and the true friends she left behind—tells her that this story she’s written—and the character she can play in it—is real, valid, and worthy. It’s celebrated and way better than anything than the role she was born into.
This is the one role I wish she wouldn’t accept.