The transition from having a beloved daughter to having a beloved son.
Melanie’s son Kyle, now 16, is a transgender male who made the change public when he was 13.
How did you learn that Kyle was transgender?
It was summer vacation after seventh grade. And I got a text from his friend’s mother, who said, “I just want you to know, your daughter is telling my daughter that he thinks he’s male. That he thinks he’s transgender.”
What was your reaction?
I was like, “Wait, what?” And I went to go talk to him, and he was very upset that I had been told that. And felt very, kind of attacked. My reaction wasn’t angry, but he definitely felt the energy coming off of me, which was like, “I’m not comfortable with this.” I wasn’t embracing where he was at all. I was really, really struggling, and I did that for a year. Just, “I’m not going to ask him about it, because I just want to see if it’ll go away on its own.”
How did he go public as a trans male?
The summer after eighth grade, he went to sleepaway camp, and the second day that he was at camp, in a girl’s cabin, he announced to his cabin that he’s transgender, and he wants them all to call him Kyle. And that he’s a he.
How did you handle that?
I figured, okay, he decided to stop waiting for me. He decided, “I’m just gonna do what I want to do.” And I’m really, really proud of him for that. I thought, this will be a test run. It’s a way to try this out, without being in school, and among all his friends and family and everything.
What helped you when you were struggling with this?
Before Kyle was starting freshman year of high school, in a new school, I asked him, “Do you want to go to school as a guy?” And he said yes. And that was really scary. And I went to a support group, for parents of LGBT kids, and I remember saying to them, “I’m really terrified, ’cause once I call the school and tell them, I feel like it’s a train that I cannot get off of.”
And they said to me, “You’re already on the train.” And that gave me a lot of clarity. I think acknowledging that made things a lot easier.
What has been the most challenging thing for you?
At first, just dealing with it altogether was challenging. But now the thing I worry about is his relationships. It’s harder for him to find friends, because he’s like an oddity to most kids. He doesn’t completely fit in with girls, he doesn’t completely fit in with guys. And I also worry about, long term, his having a loving relationship, someone who is really special and wonderful and good to him. That said, he’s in a relationship with a lovely girlfriend. He is an incredibly thoughtful and caring boyfriend, and I am so proud of him for that.
And what was the most surprising thing?
I think the most surprising thing for me is how much better we’re all doing after we stopped fighting it. It’s so much easier than it was. And I think, if I had known that, it would have been a little easier. You know, to kind of go with the flow.
How did you stop fighting it?
It was a moment by moment thing for me. I would think, “What does my child need right now at this particular moment?” And I’d do that thing. And then the next moment, my child may need something else, and it may be hard for me, but it’s what my child needs. It’s just getting through those moments, you know? And just trying to be there for your kid. And as much as I could, not bringing my own grief, and my own pain, into his world.
Was Kyle impatient with your progress?
My husband took him to Radio Shack, and they got materials to make this little box, so Kyle could build a buzzer. When you pushed a button, it would go, “Riiing.” Every time anyone in the family misgendered him he would hit the button. He was like, “People, get in line.”
What advice would you give to other parents?
I would say a couple of things. One, it’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to be really, really sad, and still love and support your kid. And another thing I would say is be informed about the medical treatment, the hormones and all those things, because you may want to start certain things at certain times in their lives, to minimize the physical stress and the emotional pain that they have just being in a body that’s matured in a certain way.
What do you say if someone tells you being transgender is wrong?
It depends on how invested a person is in this viewpoint. Sometimes that means just not engaging with that person. More often I find people who err on the side of thinking it is “weird” or a “phase.” They lack understanding, and have never known a transgender person. A few times, relative strangers have brought up transgender people in the military, or in church. So far, I have always taken the opportunity to let them know that my beloved son is transgender. My intentions are always to educate, and to remove obstacles for my son’s future. So, I communicate with kindness in my voice, not anger.
How’s Kyle doing now?
Overall, compared to where he used to be, before any of us knew he was transgender, he’s light years better. Before, he had no way of knowing what it was. He had no words for it. And then he learned about it, and said, “Oh my god, that’s me.”
Now, he’s much more at peace. He’s an awesome kid. And I couldn’t be more proud of him.