What it’s like to be mother to a transgender child

Have you ever imagined how it might feel to be the parent of a transgender child? How you’d feel if your child felt they belonged to the opposite sex? In an honest, revealing interview, Cheryl B. Evans discusses her son’s transition from female to male…

Cheryl B. Evans is in her forties and lives with her husband Jim and their son Jordan, who is transgender and who has recently turned 18. Our daughter Mariah is 21 and lives on her own.

“My husband and I were at home when we got a call from Jordan’s school, he was in grade 8 at the time. We were asked to come into the school right away. Jordan had confided in a friend that he had begun cutting himself and had already tried to commit suicide. That friend went to the school principal with that information who in turn shared it with us.

When we brought Jordan home from school that afternoon he poured everything out to us in tears. That was the day we learned Jordan was having gender struggles and the day our journey began.  My initial thought was that this was just a typical teenage girl adjusting to the extra hormones rushing through her body. My reaction soon changed to – we need to do whatever is necessary to help Jordan through this. As Jordan continued to enlighten Jim and me, we began to realise this was so much deeper than a teenage girl going through puberty.

I started creating a personal journal. The documenting of our story helped me to heal and come to terms with what was happening. So what eventually became I Promised Not to Tell: Raising a Transgender Child didn’t actually start out as a book. This is why it has such a personal feel. In fact, it never would have been published without my son’s permission. Names had to be changed in order to protect his privacy.

I didn’t know anything about transgender people and therefore just assumed Jordan was a tomboy

The motivation behind sharing our story is only to help other parents, families and society as a whole. Without stories like this being shared, we can’t expect others to understand. I know our story can help educate others. I know readers will come away with an understanding of transgender people that you just can’t get from a textbook. There is something about a personal story told by a mother that resonates with the reader.

There is no doubt parts are hard to read, especially if you are a parent. I didn’t hold back. I told our story the way we experienced it, raw and honest. I wish there was a book like this I could have read when our journey first began.   There are stories about transgender children out there but I haven’t found one that covers the journey in this detail.

 

The entire process of my child’s transition from female to male is shared including hormone replacement therapy, sex reassignment surgeries, dating, and so much more. It’s like a road map now for other parents who may be experiencing the same things with their child. Or, a fantastic resource to help individuals or loved ones going through gender struggles or gender transitions.

During his childhood, there weren’t any moments when I thought Jordan might identify with the opposite gender. Well, not that I was able to recognise at the time, aynway. Honestly, I didn’t know anything about transgender people and therefore just assumed Jordan was a tomboy. I wish as a parent I was educated about transgenderism because if I was, I may have been able to recognise the signs Jordan was showing us.

For the most part, with a couple exceptions, everyone was very supportive.   His sister did struggle to come to terms with it, which was largely due to the interactions and influences of others. Namely, religious folks who told my daughter that what she was describing was “not of God”. The misunderstanding or resistance we experienced was the result of ignorance more than anything else. By ignorance I don’t necessarily mean people with negative attitudes, I only mean not thoroughly understanding something. People just aren’t educated on transgenderism. I hope interviews like this can help to change that.

On raising a transgender child

It’s been an interesting journey with many ups and downs. It’s scary raising a transgender child. You worry about their wellbeing all the time. You fear others will bully them, harm them in some way because they don’t understand or even believe transgenderism is real. It’s hard to imagine your child being trapped in the wrong body. It seems impossible. Usually the first words you hear when you deliver a baby is “it’s a girl” or “it’s a boy”. I have come to understand those three words don’t always ring true.

As parents, our child’s health and happiness is what matters most to me and my husband. We vowed to do whatever we needed to do to ensure our child was whole, mentally and physically and able to live an authentic life even if it was not one we expected he would live. Our experiences taught me that as parents, we need to be open and realise that we don’t always get what we expect. My mind has definitely been opened through our parenting experiences with Jordan and it’s my sincere hope that through my book we can help others. Parents need to know there is far more to gender than most people realise.

I Promised Not to Tell: Raising a transgender child - theearlyhour.com

When Jordan decided to transition, we did a ton of research; we got our child professional help, the right doctors, and a good therapist to talk to. We fought for his rights to change his gender on his identification and even got a law changed that will help pave the way for other transgender children in our province.

The difference in Jordan’s attitude and life pre-transition to today is unbelievable. He is confident, healthy, happy and truly alive today. These are things I could not have said about him in the years leading up to his transition. He was a very happy confident tomboy as a child. It was only when puberty hit that everything went very dark.

You loved your child when they were born and you have loved them up to this point. Please continue to love them now and after they transition

The stigma around being transgender can be changed when people admit there may be things they don’t fully understand. For the most part, it is a lack of knowledge. Just like me, people are generally not well versed on the topic of transgenderism. With a willingness to learn and to listen to the experiences of others, the stigma can be replaced with acceptance, understanding and even compassion.

Reading my book I Promised Not to Tell would be a great start. It is such a detailed and personal story that it would be impossible for a reader to finish the book and not feel they have gained a better understanding about transgenderism.

To other parents with a transgender child, I would say get professional help; someone you and your child can talk to. To quote a paragraph from chapter 7 in my book I would go on to say:

“If you are a parent of a transgender child, especially if you are struggling with that reality, know that you are not alone. Whether you believe in God or not, believe in yourself. Believe that there is no one that knows your child the way you do. Believe that you are well equipped to love your child. At the root of it all, there must be love. You loved your child when they were born and you have loved them up to this point. Please continue to love them now and after they transition. Ignore the criticisms of others, they will criticize you regardless. We should be grateful our children are alive to love. We should be thankful we can continue to share our lives with them regardless of whether they are male or female. It is a heart wrenching time, for some more so than for others, but if you make it about love and not gender, you will get through this journey; that I can promise you.”

If you would like to learn more about my book I Promised Not to Tell – Raising a transgender child please check it out on Amazon – order a copy. I know you will not be disappointed. You just never know, once you read it for yourself, you may be able to recommend it to someone who really needs it. Together, we may even begin to change minds about transgenderism one reader at time.”