The first time my child came out to me was in the car on the way to school in 6th grade. We had just moved, and the kids were headed to a new school. Nerves were high for all of us. I brushed off the statement.
My dismissal left my child to journey on their own. While my child grew into their truth, our relationship remained stunted for two years. I was blind to every sign; even when I found a binder, they lied and said they were ordering it for a friend with a non-accepting mom. (That was me. I was the unaccepting mom.)
We find a therapist. They teach me about the gender unicorn. I learn that gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, sexual expression, physical attraction, and emotional attraction are all on a spectrum. My head spins. But I am here, and I am trying. I ask questions, lots and lots of questions. I tell my child I love them. I ask my child to share this with their dad. By the end of the session, I am registered for my first PFLAG peer support meeting. My kid is preparing to tell their dad they are a transgender man who was assigned female at birth.
Monday arrives. I tell my husband I need to go to a support group meeting for all the stuff going on with our kid. He asks if he needs to go. Not yet, I want to scope it out first. I see the relief wash over him.
I arrive a few minutes early to TimeOutYouth. I have heard of this place and the fantastic work they do for the LGBTQ+ kids in the Charlotte area. I never thought I would be going in there. I am not a peer support parent, but here I am.
I am dressed in jeans, a sweater, and my favorite puffy vest that covers up all the angst. I get out of the car, fling my rainbow bag across my body. I am an ally. My hands are crammed into my pockets. I take a deep breath and walk toward the door. I am overwhelmed with a fear of puking or bursting into tears; I’m not sure which.
I am greeted by the sweetest people, two smiling women about my age. They look normal, and make this all seem normal – this is NOT normal. They handed me a sharpie and a name tag and ask me to write my name and pronouns. No one has EVER asked for my pronouns. I was surprised, but also felt like a cool mom.
I found a spot on a crazy corner bench with a lime green background and sat down to take in the attendees. A familiar face walked in. We looked at each other awkwardly – memories of playdates flood my mind. We hugged. My mind raced – why is she here? Did I see a post on Facebook? Does she have a trans child? Could she be one of my people?
The meeting started, pulling me back from my racing mind. Our facilitator welcomed us and reminded us that we are all here for different reasons. We are at different places in our journeys. This place is safe no matter what you feel or say.
Another parent found out their 21 year old child is a transgender woman.
My friend says her youngest came out as transgender in middle school.
Another parent was happy that the school was supporting their non-binary 9-year-old child.
Then it was my turn. I tried to talk without crying. Through tears I shared that my youngest child – assigned female at birth – had recently come out as transgender. That they had chosen a new name that I didn’t like. I told them I ran eight states away upon hearing this. All eyes were on me. The facilitator asked, “How are you now?”
I didn’t know. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to do this. I replied, “My husband doesn’t even know yet.”
Not one person in that room judged me. They didn’t say, “I can’t believe you ran away.” They didn’t say, “You’re a bad mom,” or “how could you keep this from your husband?”
They asked, “How are you now?”
They did not push me to tell them more. They did not need me to explain my child. No wide eyes or heads shaking in disbelief.
Instead there were soft smiles, words of encouragement, and a hug.
PFLAG Charlotte became my safe place. The place where I found my people. I met a trans parent who lets me ask ALL THE QUESTIONS. I met more long-lost friends living the same journey, looking for the courage to come out of hiding. I got connected to legal support to change my child’s name. I learned about affirming doctors and non-affirming ones. I found friends that never pushed but continue to ask, “How are you now?”
I will be forever grateful to my child’s therapist for encouraging me to go to PFLAG Charlotte for peer support. She said they would meet me where I was at – and they did. I continue to lean on PFLAG, and as we journey together, I find myself strong enough to offer others support. I find myself asking others, “How are you now?”