Raising a child who is transgender means fearing the storm. Fearing that society will judge her or make her feel lesser than. But all I can do as her mother is love her and help her feel joy even if it rains.
Parenting Politics/Community

Raising a Transgender Child: Anticipating the Storm Clouds

Raising a child who is transgender means fearing the storm. Fearing that society will judge her or make her feel lesser than. But all I can do as her mother is love her and help her feel joy even if it rains.

By Amber Leventry 

One of my daily intentions is to be present, to be in the moment, to plop myself down in whatever the current situation is. I don’t know the name of the person who originally said these words, so I don’t know who to credit; instead, I will thank the universe for giving me the reminder I often need:

“The secret to happiness is letting every situation be what it is instead of what you think it should be, and then making the best of it.”

I don’t use this reminder to live a blissfully optimistic, head in the clouds so I can better see the rainbows kind of life. I use it to help me take away the anxiety of anticipation. The “be here now” idea is filled with too many possibilities. I have no control over right now, but sometimes I can trick my mind to think I can control situations if I am always planning for them. This stems from my struggles with OCD and PTSD and is a direct result of parenting and the fight or flight reflex of always wanting to protect my children.

It’s not that I am living a life filled with angst and fear. My life is far from the struggles many people know as their daily reality. Not all moments are worth cherishing, but I experience more pleasant moments than uncomfortable ones. It’s hard for me to stay in the good moments, too, though. I wonder when it will no longer be good; I worry the good will be gone before I can truly savor it. Anticipation, of both the good and bad, is a funny working thing in my brain.

And the anticipation of seeing my children’s happiness taken away by someone’s actions or words sits like a visitor who doesn’t understand the social cues of knowing when it’s time to leave.

This is particularly true with my daughter Ryan. She has always been my child, but Ryan has not always been my daughter. The moment the obstetrician announced the presence of a penis on both Twin A and Twin B, Ben and Ryan were twin boys, brothers, and sons. At 18 months Ryan started to tell us we were wrong. He was a girl. After a year of Ryan telling and showing us who she really is and two months into socially transitioning, our three-year-old twins are now a boy/girl set; our three kids have become two daughters and a son, our oldest daughter now has the sister she wanted, and our son is the only boy in the family.

At home or with family and friends, this information is just that. Ryan is still Ryan and the pronoun switch is informing everyone around us to make the switch, too. We have all immersed ourselves in the process of seeing Ryan through a new set of gender revealing lenses. It’s getting easier, but when we are in public I am reminded of how hard it can be. Seeing Ryan as a girl is not hard; sometimes I am surprised we didn’t see her for who she is sooner. The hard part is dealing with the anticipation of a stranger also seeing her as a girl, then somehow learning she is transgender; the hard part is waiting for someone to voice an opinion that will damage Ryan’s spirit.

It’s nobody’s business, nor should anyone be looking, but I am hyper focused on the very real possibility Ryan could be outed by the one thing that separates her from other little girls. My kids are comfortable with their bodies, and I think nudity is a universal language of toddlers, so it is not out of the realm of possibility for Ryan to drop her skirt in the park, push her hips out and pee on a tree with all of the freedom of a boy with a penis. Nor is it unlikely she will want to strip off her wet bathing suit at the pool or beach when she gets cold. I wait for a swim instructor, a soccer coach, or an old acquaintance to look at her, then second-guess the M next to her name on the registration form or next to their memory of me having twin boys.

I am comfortable with quiet and respectful conversations, and Ryan is becoming confident enough to declare her femininity, even when questioned. But I worry that my happy little girl will have that confidence broken when someone apologizes for calling her the girl she desperately wants to be because the body she was born with indicates a male label. I worry that someone will look at me or her with a clouded expression; I worry that expression will turn into a storm.

In those moments of worry I think about what society should be. I think about how much easier it would be if everyone approached new or confusing situations with compassion and open-mindedness. I think about how much easier it would be if Ryan’s body didn’t tell her and the rest of the world that she is different from the other little girls on the playground or in the pool. And while I am busy wishing for a happier, kinder world, I miss the fact that Ryan is happy. I miss the fact that her happiness makes me happy. I miss the overwhelming number of strangers smiling at the little girl with the two pigtails on top of her head, zooming around the playground embodying the spirit of Wonder Woman as she wears a purple cape.

As I buckled Ryan and her twin brother into their stroller to leave the park recently, the clouds rolled in. I rushed to get home before the rain started. Home was a 25 minute walk away, so I started to run. I had worked myself into an anxious, sweaty mess when it started to rain. My fear had come true.

I stopped worrying. I stopped running. I stopped. The cool rain felt good on my skin. The giggles coming from the stroller felt good on my heart. The worst had happened and all we got was wet.

We are made of resilient material. We may have softened, but we did not crumble or break. We can’t stop the rain clouds, but we can make the best of them.

This post was originally published on The Next Family


About the Author

Amber Leventry is a writer and SAHM. She tries to be good at both each day, but never the twain shall meet. She lives in Vermont with her partner, the kids, and their attention deprived dog. Her writing appears on The Next Family, Parent.co, Scary Mommy, Sammiches & Psych Meds, BLUNTmoms, Huffington Post, and The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram