Where do I start?
“She’s a ‘he.’ Or rather…he’s a he. He’s a boy. The daughter I gave birth to is now my son. He is a transgender male.”
Queue the stupefied expression—and then the questions start.
“Did you know, I mean, like when she was little?”
“He,” I correct.
“Right, he…I mean, were there any signs?”
“No, not really…” I muse.
“So, is it hard?”
“Is what hard?” I ask.
“I dunno…accepting it?”
I laugh. “No. It’s not hard. It’s not at all hard. What was hard was almost losing him after he swallowed 160 pills because the pain of living in a body that felt foreign to him became too great to bear and he thought killing himself was the only way out. What is hard is knowing that he is misunderstood at best and ridiculed at worst because he made the brave and heroic choice to live as the gender he feels fits him best. What’s hard is reading the insensitive comments and memes on social media that mock and trivialize gender dysphoria.”
Yah, wow—the wowest of wow. Most people don’t realize how astronomically high the incidence of suicide attempts and completions are among the transgender population, especially among teens: as high as 50.8 percent among female to male transgenders, compared to 14 percent of cisgender teens, which is also tragically high.
I don’t know why, in my son’s case, he thought that ending his life was the only way out. We (his father and I) have always made sure our children knew we would love them no matter what. That we accepted them just as they are and as they would be. That their happiness was the only measure of success we would ever hold them to. So, even in the best of circumstances—with a loving and supportive family—they are at risk.
So no, it’s not hard to accept. Frankly, having almost lost my son to suicide, I couldn’t have cared less if he wanted to identify as a purple and green-striped dinosaur! I was just grateful he was alive.
What I do know is this:
This struggle, this gut-wrenching, soul-twisting, grappling with one’s identity is not a choice. No one chooses to be transgender. Nobody chooses the path of greatest resistance just for the fun of it. And no, transgender people are not “perverts” pretending to be someone they’re not.
If I can convince you of these few simple things, then continuing to live with horrifying flashbacks of my son seizing on a hospital gurney with his heart rate and blood pressure dangerously high will be worth it.
And out of respect for my amazingly brave and inspiring son and his journey, I have a few simple requests:
Stop spreading hate.
Start seeing people for who they are, not what they are.
Foster love, tolerance, and acceptance.
Challenge every rigid belief you hold—about how the world should be, how people should live, and about what is “normal.”
My son is perfectly “normal.” He is one of the most genuinely generous, loving, compassionate people I know. He is incredibly talented and has so much to contribute to this world.
Let’s give him the chance to be successful. Let’s bring back the golden rule. We can be the change we want to see in the world.
Just ask yourself one thing: what would you want for your child?