My friend Jodi moved out of town two years ago, but we’ve kept in touch, mostly via social media. She has two children and one stepchild, so when she recently posted a link to an interview about transgender children (featuring her family), I imagined the article was about her step child. But, I was surprised to discover that it was about Jodi’s 7-year-old — a child that I knew as a boy but who now identifies as a girl.
I read through the article and was impressed that Jodi and her family have clearly embraced their child as transgender, despite their child’s young age. I admired that they were willing to share their story with the world. I also felt protective toward my friend and her family. This couldn’t have been an easy decision, I thought to myself. I wondered if there was heartbreak, or if they knew all along that their child wasn’t living the right life.
Jodi’s story stays with me. I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t help but wonder how kids so young can possibly commit to anything. My daughter demanded she be called Pinkalicious for an entire month, but calling her a storybook character didn’t make her one. My son would only wear grey tank tops for one whole summer. Eventually he grew out of it. Kids have phases…and then one day they wake up and move on to the next thing. So, how do you know the difference between a phase and something more?
In Jodi’s case, she and her family watched their son and waited two years before realizing that their child wasn’t just acting on a whim. They sought council from experts, went to therapy as individuals and as a family, and reached out to their child’s school for help and guidance. The whole time, their son remained steadfast that he was actually meant to be a girl. And so they listened and supported their child.
I realize that my questioning their decision is more about me than anything else. As much as I’d like to think of myself as an open-minded parent, the notion of having a transgender child challenges that. In fact, my husband and I have never talked about how we would handle it if one of our children were transgender. The fact that we’ve never had that discussion makes me question just how open-minded I’d be. But the conversation has been started in my house, thanks to Jodi and her child; hopefully more parents are discussing it, too, particularly with Caitlyn Jenner’s story as national news.
No matter what, our children will all turn out differently than what we as parents had envisioned or planned. Most of us won’t experience such a dramatic change in our children as gender transformation, but many of us will see our children change in surprising ways. I’m using Jodi’s story as a reminder that our job as parents is to love, support, and guide our children no matter who they are and what they turn out to be. And kudos to parents like Jodi for reminding us all what it really means to be a parent.