We’re almost to the end of our annual Guest Writer Series, yet today will take a different tack. It’s a serious topic. So instead of having today’s author share her story behind the strokes of the keyboard, we sat down and had a conversation. This is the heartfelt story of the mother of a transgender child.
Before we share her account, let me encourage you to listen closely. Please don’t hear this as any fodder or fuel; it’s not. This is not meant to weaponize any side of any political argument; it’s not a political argument nor societal debate. If there’s one thing I learned from my dear friend, Dee, it’s that this isn’t easy. For those who simplify the response and whittle down proposed parental wisdom to a mere “accept it” or “put your foot down,” they don’t really understand what it’s like; they don’t understand Dee’s story. Allow me to share more…
Oh, how I enjoy Dee. I asked her to begin by describing herself to our readers. She led with being an empath, compassionate, funny and an optimist. I love when a person knows they’re funny! Such is indeed true. I would add engaging, discerning, and genuine. Dee is a highly intelligent woman who cares deeply. It is an absolute joy to spend time with her.
She’s been married for near 25 years and had 2 daughters, 2 years apart. The whole family was close. They had a solid upbringing, active in school, sports and the community. Dee was especially close to her youngest, Jaymie.
Dee raved about her relationship with Jaymie. “We were kindred spirits!” And the glee and pride was immediately obvious. When asked to describe Jaymie, there was no shortage of words… Jaymie was also an empath — very sensitive. “She would cry over an ant getting hurt!… Teachers always said she was delightful — so happy… She loved Webkinz, playing house, and all sorts of animals. She was incredibly nurturing. Cuddly. Just a very sweet soul.”
Notice how the description is entirely in past tense. Such is key to Dee’s story.
At age 15, there was no announcement nor bold proclamation. No big social media reveal. In less than a matter of 3 months, Jaymie went from proudly donning bikinis and a more stereotypical feminine attire to a vividly more masculine appearance, dramatically cutting off her long locks of hair, and shifting demonstrably, dramatically emotionally. Detecting something was off with their kid as she was obviously rattled, Dee and her husband lovingly prodded their daughter in hopes of discerning what was wrong. In the midst of the moment, Jaymie shyly uttered that “I feel like I want to be a boy.”
To say Dee and her hub were shocked is an understatement. They didn’t even know what the word “transgender” meant.
They stayed present with their daughter — meaning they vowed to help her be healthy — whatever that looks like. They love their kid! But what happened immediately next is the foundation of the hard. This empathetic, sensitive, delightful, happy, cuddly kid immediately became not empathetic, not sensitive, not delightful nor happy nor cuddly in any kind of way. As Dee soberly articulates, “It’s as if she felt if she was going to be a man, she couldn’t be all those other things any more.” She couldn’t be who she actually had always been.
It’s a weird feeling. Here’s your kid. You love her so. You want what’s best for her. But all of a sudden this being that came out of your body years ago decides to change everything about themself. Note: it’s not just the physical; that they could deal with. For Jaymie, it’s the emotional, spiritual and relational, too. The one-time kindred spirits were extinguished in an instant. Simply existent no more.
“I don’t trust her any more.” We stayed on that angle for a while. The grief felt heavy. “We were so close…”
For 5 years now, Dee has been grieving the death of the relationship with her daughter. She has been mourning the loss of a child… a child who is still in front of her daily. Let me be very clear. The heart of Dee’s grief isn’t contained solely in her daughter’s desire for a change in gender. The heart of the grief is that the daughter no longer believes in the unique sweetness of the mother/daughter/offspring relationship. Jaymie — now Jay — felt that must change. Men don’t do that. Men don’t show emotion. They don’t have close relationships with their parents. Hence, Jay is distant. Jay is no longer emotionally invested in the family, even though Jay chooses to live at home.
It’s hard to hear Dee speak of doing life this way. Jay will always be welcome. But there is little to no relationship.
“I’m embarrassed… what do I say to those who ask, ‘How’s the family? How are your daughters? Or even how many kids do you have?” The simple questions aren’t so simple anymore. It makes a person think what we routinely ask of others, having no idea what their daily hard is like.
Not one for comparison, Dee does acknowledge she routinely wonders what those who know think of her. “I think people think I’m a bad parent. That we did something to cause this… I don’t want people’s pity either. You never want to be the parent in which people quietly say inside, ‘I’m glad I’m not her.’ You don’t know where people are coming from. You have no idea.” Such has prompted Dee to become notably more private, although thankfully, she has a small circle of friends with whom she can escape and be real with. “Don’t do this alone,” she says. “Don’t make it your whole life either.”
It’s notable that Dee has multiple picture frames up in her home, but the store-bought stock photo often remains inserted. She can’t put a photo of her family in it, as noting what she’s lost, she’s not sure she’ll ever feel good about this. She doesn’t recognize her family any more. “You have this constant internal monologue that your whole life has been a lie. It never goes away.” And then she thinks about the future. Will they ever be ok? Quietly, soberly, Dee adds, “How can you make sense of the future, when you don’t even know how you got here?”
Sitting with Dee was indeed insightful. My heart hurt for her. She deeply loves her family. Her life is sadder now. It’s hard.
For her, every day.
AR for Dee