Mother’s Day lands on the second Sunday in May. It is a time to recognize and celebrate Mothers who have been the foundation of our lives. Mothers teach us how to navigate the world, build our self-esteem, and to love unconditionally. For this Mother’s Day edition I will tell the story of a determined and compassionate Mother who, like many others, had to lay a foundation to support her child through his struggle and transformation.
Mary is the Mom of an amazing Transgender man I know. I first met her when her son was only 12 years old. He was assigned female at birth, which made him extremely unhappy. She came to me for help because she knew her child was not fitting in as female and after a lot of research, she was convinced he was Transgender.
She sat down with me and told me all about her child. She was extremely concerned about him because he cried a lot, was performing poorly in school, had few friends, and seemed depressed. She tried to talk to him about what she had found in her research, and she made it clear that no matter who he was, she would love him. She loved him so much she would move mountains to make him happy. I listened to her story, and it filled me with memories of my own childhood. I knew that pain, I knew that uncertainty he must be going through. I asked her if she could bring him to see me and I would do whatever I could to help.
Mary brought her child in, and he and I had a private session to talk. He remained silent the entire visit and I could sense his fear and distrust. I wasn’t a therapist and I made sure he knew that I was a safe person to talk to. Finally, after letting him know that I was just a Transgender man trying to help him, I felt a small amount of tension slip away. I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I just told him my story of how I was forced to live my life as a girl and how it made me feel. Ultimately my anguish led to me finding others who were like me, and it was an amazing gift to know I was not alone, that there were many others just like me; maybe, just maybe, he was one of us too.
A few weeks later he asked to see me again and was ready to talk. He thought he too was Transgender but was afraid to say it to his mom. Even when Moms are the most supportive, it doesn’t make it easier to tell them. Together we decided I would talk to Mary and ask her to allow him time to make this decision when he was ready.
It was 2007 and there were not many resources for Trans folks, especially not for Trans kids. In San Diego there was absolutely no help at that time, not even a qualified therapist for Trans kids. A few weeks later he was ready to tell his mom and family. Yes, he was a boy and he needed help. So, with no resources locally, what now?
With the help of a co-worker we found our angels in Los Angeles, at the Children’s Hospital LA. Dr. Jo was the life saver for so many Trans kids in Southern California. She arranged for a qualified therapist and hormone blockers. Later she would prescribe testosterone for him. The incredible effects of testosterone for Trans masculine folks are remarkable as the body transforms into a masculine being but the psychological effects of the hormone are the most magical part. When the brain sees you as male, but your body betrays you, it’s a difficult often traumatic awareness. Having the correct hormone treatments causes massive shifts physically and psychologically to become whole. The same is true for our Trans feminine youth.
As time went on and treatments were started, I could see the change in this young man. He was happier, more outgoing, his grades came up, and he was much more social. The one big barrier remained though; his breasts still betrayed him. Again Dr. Jo came to the rescue and recommended a surgeon in L.A. who would remove the breasts and create a masculine chest. Once this was done this boy truly started to shine. All of this was done for him because his Mom would not rest until her child was happy and whole. She fought insurance companies and naysayers. She spent endless nights researching to make sure all the recommendations were truly the best options. She fought with teachers and school administrators to have her son recognized as his true self.
This work would become the cornerstone of what was to follow here in San Diego. Groups were started for parents of Trans kids and those parents would benefit from the amazing courage and passion a mom had for her child. This story really is not about just one particular Mother, but a myriad of Moms who sacrificed so much of their own lives to make sure their kids were treated with the care they deserved, the respect and dignity that all humans should always get. Because ladies like Mary in our community future generations of Trans kids will continue to benefit greatly from their work. They inspired a whole new generation of therapists who specialize in care of Trans youth. Rady Children’s Hospital now has a gender clinic and therapists. Pediatricians around the county have now been educated in the care of our youth. School administrators, from superintendents on down, have more knowledge and empathy for all our LGBTQ+ youth. It’s not perfect, there is still work to do, but thanks to these Mothers from the last two decades, it is a world filled with concrete services for Trans youth, not just possibilities.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there. Thank you for your work.
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