Sam began his transition more than eight years ago. Sam was not one of those young kids who said, “I am a boy, not a girl.” But after years of debilitating anxiety, depression, self-harm and wanting to die, we finally figured out that he was transgender. Parents often ask me if it was hard for me to accept this about my child (he was 11 at the time). My answer is always, “No, it was not.” We spent so many years not knowing why he was in such pain. Discovering that he was struggling with his gender identity helped, literally, save his life. I did all my “grieving” while he was in the “deep dark place,” house bound from anxiety and suicidal. Once we had the word “transgender,” I knew it was a game changer. He has been so happy since his transition. Sam told me, after he had top surgery at age 14, that he never saw himself living to an adult age. He could remember thinking this all the way back to age 5. Can you imagine? I was so heartbroken that he had those thoughts at such a young age. It was a shortly after his transition that he announced he was attracted to boys. Something that was evident for many years. Today he is happy, healthy, working (well, until the pandemic), attending college and looking for love.
Jacq’s (age 25) coming-out story was a little different than Sam’s. After many years of dating men exclusively, she fell in love with a girl. I was attending the annual Creating Change LGBTQ conference, and when I came home, there was a girl hanging out at our home. It didn’t take me long to see what was really going on, but it took Jacq a few days before she told me that she and Cassie were dating. I was so happy and proud to see that Jacq was herself and unconcerned about being judged for who she loves. She was so overjoyed and in love. How could I not be happy for her and this newfound identity? Cassie lived with us for a short time, but they moved out together into their own apartment (five weeks before the stay-at-home order). It is such beautiful home that represents their love.
Little did I know how my LGBTQ kids were going to change the direction of my life. I have always been a person of service, committed to helping others. At the age of 23, I got clean and sober, entering the Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous programs. I jumped into the concept of sharing my experience, strength and hope with others and was ordained at age 28. I am blessed to be able to share my experience of strength and hope with trans youth and their families. As the founder and executive director of TransFamily Support Services, myself and my team have worked with nearly 800 families with trans loved ones all over the county. Our goal is to be sure that every trans person has at least one family member that is affirming.
As parents, we all want what is best for our children. We long for our kids to be happy and healthy. As I evolved into parenting adult children, I have had to adjust my thinking. My idea of what my kids’ lives would look like is not under my control. From the time our children are born, we run stories and narratives in our minds about who they will be when they are adults. The “wedding,” being grandparents, where they live, and what career they choose. I will venture to say few parents have envisioned their child in a same-sex relationship or identifying with a different gender than they were assigned at birth. When we, as parents, can step back from the narrative of how it is “supposed to be” and see our children as they are in the present moment (regardless of their age), we can focus on their happiness. It is then much easier to move our narrative to affirming our LGBTQ kids.
Daily, I hear so many folks say they totally support their child or trans loved one. Yet in the same conversation, they refuse to use the name or the pronouns that the child is requesting. Support does not always equal affirming. Moving families from support to affirming is a process. Sometimes, after a short conversation, parents “get it” when they see the distress in their child’s eyes. Often, it takes a little more time. One of the leading gender therapists in San Diego, Darlene Tando, says, “Using your child’s correct pronouns is like giving them a gift.” Affirming our child’s (of any age) identity whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or nonbinary is the greatest gift of love.
San Diego is fortunate to have so many great LGBTQ resources to help families move to affirming. Books, support groups (check out for family support), experienced therapists, and knowledgeable doctors — all of whom work in different ways to support LGBTQ families — are resources that can enable us to move from our preconceived opinions and ideas to being kind and loving. We do not have to understand to love.
During the nearly two months of the stay-at-home order, so many LGBTQ youth and adults are struggling, especially folks who have non-supportive families. The most vulnerable are youth who have not come out to their families because they know they are not safe. These youth no longer have the safe space of school to be seen and affirmed for who they are. There are LGBTQ adults whose families have deserted them. Without their usual lifestyle (work and socializing with the community), they do not have anyone to talk with, are isolated and alone. I urge everyone, especially parents who are reading this, to reach out. If you are a supportive and affirming parent of an LGBTQ youth, reach out to your kid’s friends who need support. Be the family they need right now — be a lifeline. Everyone can find ways to connect with those who need our love and support. Call, text or email. Proactively reach out. It is in times like these that we can show our true colors — our rainbow.
TransFamily Support Services saves lives by shaping a gender affirming community. We offer family coaching, support groups for parents/caregivers as well as youth, referrals for mental health and medical professionals, as well as guidance with insurance and legal name changes. TFSS offers professional training and presentation. Please reach out today: email@example.com.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
Best Friend, Lifesaver!
By Sam Moehlig
My name is Sam Moehlig and my pronouns are he/him/his. I am a 19-year-old gay, transgender man. For as long as I can possibly remember, I have always been a boy, even though I was born female. When I was 9, I fell into a severe depression. I said things a typical 9-year-old wouldn’t say — things like “I want to die” and “If I can’t be a boy, I don’t want to live at all.” I wished for years for my body to become a boy’s body. In my mind, if I couldn’t wake up as a boy, there was no point in living at all. I started my transition when I was 11 after a long period where I had lost the desire to live. I would never have heard of the word “transgender” without my mom.
My mom spent months reading books, making calls, and speaking to people who had knowledge about being transgender. When she came to me and said, “Hey, there is this word I found, it’s ‘transgender,’ and this is what it means,” I felt something in my heart I hadn’t felt in years — that feeling was hope.
Mom covered every base possible from day one. She made my adolescent years manageable, helping guide me through the LGBTQ world. Without my mom, I wouldn’t have found the support groups I could go to so I could meet other trans youth my age. Those friends were people that I could talk to when I was having rough dysphoria days. She also helped me find adult role models in the trans community. As I began my transition, I had a firsthand look at how hard my mom had to fight our insurance to get my hormone injections covered as well as my top surgery. She was on the phone for hours upon hours each day fighting for me, trying to find affirming doctors here in San Diego that would treat a trans youth.
One of the biggest things my mom helped me find was my voice. When I was younger, I didn’t have the confidence or the personality to stand up for myself about my trans identity. She helped me learn how to stand my ground whether it be with my friends, extended family, or even my own doctors about the importance of respecting my name and pronouns.
Having an advocate on your side is one of the best things you can have as a youth, especially one that is transitioning. When that advocate is also your parent as well as your best friend, it makes this journey all the easier. There was nothing that was going to stop my mom from following me on my path to becoming my authentic self. Having a supportive adult, especially a parent in a queer person’s life can be a huge help, and for some it can even be lifesaving. Your ally or parent, your biggest support system, is your lighthouse guiding you through the storm. Being a LGBTQ teenager is hard enough but navigating it on your own is excruciatingly difficult.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
Sometimes a Mother Just Knows!
By Jacq Moehlig
I grew up with a very loving, open, and inclusive family that raised me to be nothing but accepting and loving of the LGBTQ+ community. I have always been close with my mom. Growing up, I was homeschooled (by her) all my life and always considered her to be my best friend (and still do). I have gone through some hard times with health issues and she was always my No. 1 advocate and ally.
My coming-out story is a little bit different: I always dated guys but when my brother came out, I thought about my personal sexuality. I was supportive of the LGBTQ+ community but was never a part of it myself. I have been open to love, however that would come, but always thought I would marry a man someday. However, Cassie came into my life and completely changed my picture of my future.
How I met her: My best friend and I were at Urban MO’s for an event and then we went down to Rich’s, not knowing it was ladies night (because we went looking for him to find a guy). He saw a friend who knew another person at the bar, both groups started talking to each other and I thought she was just going to be that random person you met at a bar. It became clear to me though, as the night went on, that she was going to be way more. I don’t drink so when we kept talking all night (and while we were both flirting with each other), I knew I was starting to feel something for her. We started talking and slowly standing closer and closer together when I thought she might kiss me. I thought to myself, “You know what? I’m OK with that” and I kissed her first. From that moment I knew, she is my person and the love of my life. Here we are three years later. That one night at Rich’s changed our lives forever. So yes, of course we go back on those Thursday night ladies nights and celebrate our anniversary with our favorite bartenders every year.
Telling mom: When my mom came home from her trip, I avoided her because I didn’t know what to say about Cassie. My mom and I are so close that if I have something to say, she can tell because it will be written all over my face. I finally got up the courage to go in and tell my mom that the woman who was the “friend that was always over” was more than that. I walked into her room and said, “Hey, so I’m dating someone and I’m really happy — and it’s Cassie.” Her response was, “Oh, I know!” I was speechless. I said, “Well, then why did you make me say it!?” She replied, “because it is something you needed to say and do for yourself, but of course I knew. I mean, it is me for goodness sake!” My mom and I are so close that, of course, she could tell that I was already falling in love with this woman. The fact that I could go in and just tell her about this new relationship and it didn’t really feel like I was “coming out” was something I will never stop being grateful for.
Now here we are three years later. We just got our first place together (we certainly didn’t do the lesbian U-Hauling) and we couldn’t be happier. My mom is a big part of that because without her support, I wouldn’t be where I am today. She always supports me, and my girlfriend as well in our relationship, by including Cassie in any family outing, events, or gatherings. My mom also tries to plan things on Cassie’s day off so she can be included and even let her live with us for a few months before we got our apartment.
To parents who aren’t supportive: I see friends and people who don’t have supportive parents and see how hard that is for them. Maybe reconsider and know that supporting and loving your child is the greatest gift you can give them. To those who do not have a supportive family, I would say: make your own. Even with a very affirming family, we still have created our own extended family — friends who are close enough that you consider them family. We have friends that we consider our aunts and uncles. Find your own family.