Transgender Issues: An Open Letter to Parents on Our Family's Experience

This piece was submitted by a parent whose identity and experiences have been verified. To protect the child and the family from recrimination, their names were not used. | 

Depending on who you talk to, LGTBQ+ rights should not exist and the transgender movement is unAmerican, unpatriotic, and goes against God’s teachings. Some will say that LGTBQ+ rights are under attack, both literally and figuratively, and as long as hatred persists towards this small group of human beings, the transgender movement should and must endure. What is more patriotic than individual identity and freedom to pursue one’s happiness? 

Those that would seek to oppress and persecute the LGTBQ+ community do so only out of fear, hatred, and pure ignorance. They are unAmerican and would adopt authoritarian principles as long as those principles align with their beliefs. But this corrosive mindset comes at a terrible cost to the most vulnerable population.

One of the costs is endangering our children by insisting on knowing whether they are transgender. At a minimum, this blind, ignorant demand on “knowing” whether our kids have gender dysphoria will severely damage the parent-child dynamic. It boils down to a violation of trust and privacy. Believe it or not, even children are entitled to privacy. Parents should be the ones to respect and protect their privacy, not the ones to violate it.

I speak from a painful, personal experience. My child is transgender. Never in a million years would I have thought this to be remotely possible. The manner in which I discovered this truth almost cost me my relationship with them. No, the school district did not notify me. I took it upon myself to read their diary. I rationalized it by telling myself that the only way I could help my son is if I knew.

In those pages, I read the words of someone in pain, depressed, confused, and hurt. In black and white, I read that my “son” had gender dysphoria and wanted to seek gender affirming care. I realized that I had violated their trust and privacy. I could not even speak to them about what I learned, which only made things worse. It wasn’t on a whim that I decided to break this trust. There were clues that led me up to the point where I convinced myself that I had to know. Long finger nails, certain behaviors, mannerisms, etc. 

Honestly, I thought they were gay, not trans, and one day I decided to ask them straight up if they were gay. The response was no. My suspicions only grew when I was told that one day they would tell me something they weren’t ready yet to tell me. Still I had no inkling.

I confided my suspicions and feelings with my brother, who has two boys of his own. I really couldn’t tell any other family member. He mainly listened but couldn’t offer any advice. This was uncharted territory for both of us. He put me in touch with a close friend of his who had a transgender child and was in a better position to offer advice. We spoke on the phone and exchanged text messages. It was helpful but only to a certain degree. 

The biggest takeaway I got from her was this: I had violated the love, trust, and privacy they had placed in me by reading their diary. I took something of monumental significance away from them. I took away their right, not mine, but their right to choose who to tell and when to tell their deepest, darkest secret. My pride, my stubborness, my ignorance; the fact that I felt I had the right to know as a parent everything that was occurring in their life, was not only all wrong, but almost led to the destruction of our relationship. Because this shouldn’t be about us as parents. This should be about our children and the right for them to pursue their own happiness.

I picked them up at the airport and immediately saw that their fingernails were painted purple. I couldn’t ignore this. I said to them, “you know that I know, don’t you?” Their reply was, “you mean that I am trans?” I said yes. They said they weren’t sure that I knew for certain. But when I told them I had read their diary and deepest thoughts, this immediately created a chasm and palpable tension. I was told that I could no longer be trusted. 

That I took something deeply personal away that I had no right to take and did not belong to me. I had betrayed my child in the worst possible way. This betrayal hung in the air between us like a thick, dark cloud. I could only hope and pray that one day, I could earn their trust and confidence back. 

What did I gain by this knowledge? I had succeeded in alienating myself from my child. I risked losing them to suicide and depression to satisfy my own selfish desire to know something they weren’t ready to tell me yet.

The California Attorney General’s office has sued the Chino Valley School District for adopting a mandatory gender identity disclosure policy that requires schools to tell parents if a student asks to use a name or pronoun that's different from what is listed on their birth certificate or other official records. The policy also requires parental notification if a student asks to use facilities or enter programs that don't align with their sex as it is on official records. Other school districts have enacted similar policies.

Policies such as the one adopted by Chino Valley and others are horribly short sighted, narrow minded, intentionally obtuse, and places parent’s rights above the rights of their own children and students. Isn’t this supposed to be about the welfare of our children? Then why are we making parent’s rights the center of the issue? As a society, we’ve got much bigger problems if our kids do not trust their own parents enough to confide in them the most serious of topics, but feel more comfortable discussing personal issues with their teachers.

Perhaps that is the real reason why parents demand schools notify them about their children’s gender identity. They can’t accept the fact that their own kids would discuss such personal matters with anyone but them. Moreover, they struggle with reconciling, as I have also struggled, how their child could possibly be trans? Did they fail as parents? Perhaps they could consult with a doctor, therapist, or a church leader that could counsel their child? 

The fact is, parents have difficulty accepting their children as LGBTQ+ because it does not align with their own personal, religious, political and world views. It is an affront to them. It was not how they were raised and it isn’t how they raised their children. The health, well-being and safety of their children hinges on whether these parents can be open-minded, flexible, and accepting of who their kids are and want to be.

All parents must learn to love and accept their children no matter what. Especially if they want to give their kids a fighting chance against a callous, cruel and unmerciful world determined to take everything that is sacred - their very identities. 

We must educate ourselves on transgender issues so we can better understand and support our children. () Sadly, many relationships will be irreparably damaged, and some children will be put in harm's way because of their parent’s inability to accept, cope, grow, learn, and love. 

Don’t let this happen. Be in their corner.

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Juan Trippe said...

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Renegade said...

I want to thank the author for their honesty and transparency of what they're dealing with. It's certainly a delicate subject and one that many of us do not understand. I've watched this topic from afar and wondered what would I do as a parent of a transgender child or as a teacher, administrator, or school board member. It's a daunting dilemma. Pros and cons are obvious on both sides of this issue. After reading this parent's observations, it has become clear to me that in the context of school, teachers and administrators are there to primarily care for the best interests of their students. These students should have a right to privacy, they are Americans. They are so young with so much of the world unknown to them and trying to understand who they are. What happens in their homes and between them and their parents also deserves the right of privacy unless the child is being abused, mentally, emotionally or physically. Schools should not "out" their students, it is nothing but harmful to all parties. Teachers teach, regardless of who the student is. Thanks to this parent for clarifying and printing your take on such a delicate situation. - My best to you and your entire family! Stay strong!

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