Monday, December 7, 2015

Meet Our Daughter

This is Allie (not her real name):
Thanksgiving day 2015
 
When he was in high school, our youngest wrote us a letter explaining that he felt like he was born into the wrong body, and had felt that way for a long time.

My first reaction was confusion, followed by fear.  Confusion because I honestly hadn’t seen indications of this when he was younger, and fear because hello – have you seen how awful people are to anyone who is different?  I grew up with a friend who came out as gay in junior high school, and he was picked on and bullied for years.  His life ended at 21.  And while being gay has become more of an accepted thing (FINALLY), the transgender community seems to be the next group that is dealing with being bullied, discriminated against, and even murdered.  Would any of you want your child, your precious child, to be put up against that?  Of course not.  So we did what most parents would probably do in this situation, which was to find a therapist for him, and for us.

And if I’m completely honest, I will admit that I hoped this would just fade away.

Of course, it didn’t.  Because it was real.

Up until now, I haven’t blogged about this for a couple of reasons.  One, it’s not my story to tell.  Well, I have my interpretation, as a parent, but it’s her life.  Two, privacy.  When she graduated from college, she walked the stage as a woman, and both of her diplomas (yes, while she was transitioning she managed to get two Bachelor of Science degrees, in Mathematics and Computer Science…sorry, I had to brag on that just a little) have her new name on them.  She started her first career job as a woman.  This is who she is, and I didn’t want to have any online searches linking to her former self.

 She made the entire Thanksgiving dinner herself this year!

I’m posting about this now because when we went to her place for Thanksgiving, she said something like “I suppose you’ll blog about this without mentioning me” – which is sad, because it makes it seem like she has disappeared from our lives, which is the farthest thing from the truth.  She’s just been invisible on the blog.  But she said it was OK for me to write this, so after several drafts (and her final approval), here you go.

I think every parent has the same wish for their children at birth - to be healthy.  And as they grow, we want them to be happy and content, along with having the hope that they become good people.  Even during the earliest, hardest times of the acceptance part of this, I kept thinking that she was happy, and that’s what mattered.  She was healthy, she was bright, and she was still the same person we knew – but as her outward appearance changed, her confidence grew and grew.

It became obvious that this needed to happen.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to wake up every day and not see the real you in the mirror.  It takes a lot of inner strength to do this at such a young age, and I’m impressed that she did what she needed to do in order to be her own person.

I’m not putting her real name on here, but if you are Facebook friends with me then you probably know what it is, and I trust that you will respect my wish to not post it here in the comments.  I’ll call her Allie here, because we would have named her Allison, had she been born in a girl’s body.

The reaction from our family and close friends regarding the change has been very positive, which is wonderful.  I’ve only had one instance of being surprised at the reaction from a friend, but whatever – it’s her issue to deal with, not mine.

One more thing:  this world can be vile.  I think the advent of social media, and Facebook in particular, has made being different scarier than ever before.  I don’t understand why anyone would care if someone is transgender, or gay, or wants to be married to the person they love.  How does this affect their life?  It doesn’t, plain and simple.  People who I know in person, and who I used to like, have shown themselves to be very mean human beings online; the things they shared regarding transgender people have disappointed me immensely and needless to say, I have unfriended a lot of people on Facebook, and I won't hesitate to do that in person, if necessary.  My family comes first, period.

If you have questions, I’ll probably do a follow-up post and answer them.  Thanks for reading.

53 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing a positive success story. One of my children's close high school friends has come out as transgender and interested in the same biological sex. It has lead to many discussions with my child that I never had with my parents. Our goal is to be a safe and comfortable place for this friend. I am terrible with the pronoun switch and my child is very good at correcting me. We are not sure if the parents know or accept which makes it odd when I see them. I don't want to be the one to tell them if they don't know.

    I am not a regular commenter but a loyal reader. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Thank you for a very thoughtful post. I read your blog often because of the running and weight loss motivation. Didn't expect this. Thank you for posting it. Learning more about transgender individuals and how it effects someone I feel I know, helps me to feel like this "unusual situation" is much more normal.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this, Shelley. Happy to hear that everything's panning out for Allie, and people around you are generally positive regarding the change.

    I have an online friend who's transgender, and part of her family was very vile when she came out to live as a woman and get all the surgery etc. I know how painful that has been for her. Allie surely appreciates that you are so supportive and just want her to be happy.

    I agree with you that it's baffling to see people's reactions sometimes (particularly on social media) when it comes to things that don't really affect their lives. Why would they care?

    So, all the best to your daughter (and that food looks great). Like Jamisen who commented before me, I'm a loyal reader, though a bit of a lurker when it comes to commenting. I just had to say something when I read this, though.

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  4. I'm beyond thrilled to read this! Though I've known for a while, it just made my stomach bump a little every time you had to refer to her as "our youngest" - true but not transparent. Besides, I feel like you used to share a bit more about the kids, especially during the holidays, and when Allie really began to transition, the blog went quiet as you all tried to figure things out. I'm happy that we'll get to share some of that stuff again. Allie is blessed to have you and Jeff as parents and you are blessed that she could be completely honest and true to herself!

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  5. Congratulations to Allie for having the strength and courage to be who she is. She is very lucky to have such loving and supportive parents. XO

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  6. I love this story and I think your daughter looks beautiful and very happy. Allie, I'm working everyday in middle school advisory to try to build a kinder world. A world where we accept each other, love each other, and have each other's back.

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  7. I am so happy you (and Allie) are finally sharing this. It always made me a little sad to read "my youngest and my oldest". These are your children and you should be able to call them by their name (or the name you use here).

    We have talked about this before because you knew I wouldn't judge. I live in a country that is a lot more tolerant towards people that are different than a lot of other countries. Sure there are incidents here too.

    So I wasn't shocked or whatever, all I wanted for Allie is to be happy and gets accepted for who she is and it seems it works out that way. She looks very happy.

    And as for you and Jeff: you are great parents to support her because she could have had parents that wouldn't understand or accept.

    Allie, I am sure you will be reading this post: I have so much respect for you to choose who you wanted to be and did it, even if it could have consequences. I wish you a very happy life.

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  8. PS: Does this also mean we get the "regular" gingerbread house battle back later this month?

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  9. This is so, so awesome. Allie looks so happy and so comfortable in her own skin (the latter of which takes a lot of us a LONG time, if ever), so it's obvious that this is who she was meant to be.

    I love your attitude as her mom, that as long as she's happy and healthy, that's all that matters. And truly, that is all that matters.

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  10. Such a beautiful story although I'm sure it was a journey with many ups and downs. I'm glad your daughter is happy and who she wants to be today. The support she has received from you guys is awesome. Great job as parents on helping her find her path in her own way.

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  11. Long time reader - first time commenter. Brava to you and Allie. I am once again in awe at the complexity of people's lives. Best wishes to all. Phoebe

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  12. Shelley! So well written. Who knows who you might help by sharing so honestly? And kudos to Allie for wanting you to share her life.

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  13. What a great mother you are, Shelley, really. This is such a great post and bravo to Allie for being who she is.

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  14. When I first saw that picture on Facebook I knew immediately, and as I wrote in a comment, my first reaction was "you are beautiful!" And she is. I can't imagine what a transition that would be and for her to get two degrees while going through this is beyond impressive. You only live one life - and if people don't get it, well then I guess they don't belong in your life.

    KUDOS ALLIE! You are brave, strong and I am happy you are living the live you've always wanted.

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  15. Congratulations and hugs to Allie for being her true self. And big hugs to you and Jeff for being awesome parents!!

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  16. It does take a lot of courage to be who you are meant to be. Congrats to your daughter - she's amazing and has amazing parents. You are right - their happiness comes first and anyone who can't deal with that - then the heck with them! And congrats on your degrees as well - that's an amazing accomplishment too!

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  17. I believe everyone deserves privacy during such an intimate and personal transition. However those who are supported and able to come forward make the path a bit easier for others. Thank you Allie.

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  18. Delurking to say how courageous your daughter is and how wonderful that you are being so supportive. Thank you for sharing this.

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  19. Hey Shelley popping out of lurkdom to say what a beautiful daughter you have :-), congratulations Allie on your double degrees and more importantly being totally true to yourself. Congratulations Shelley and Jeff for being there, supportive and on this very new path together with your family.

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  20. So cool!! And how exciting for Allie to be embarking on this new life! Most people spend their whole lives being afraid to be who they really are - I think it's super brave to live so authentically. :)

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  21. Thank you for sharing this story. Your daughter looks a lot like you, and you must be very proud of all her accomplishments!

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  22. Allie, congratulations on having the courage to make the choices that were right for you. What a relief to both of you that going forward you won't have to censor your blog. I will also say that reading the other comments here makes me happy to be part of such a supportive group; it is a tribute to your character that you attract these kinds of friends and followers.

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  23. First time commenter, long time reader! I started reading your blog because I was on my own weight loss journey. I've continued reading your blog because you have a wonderful soul and I've come to love learning about your life and your family. Beyond that, your care and love for your friends and family comes through in every post.

    And of course, that care and love comes through so much in this post. Kudos to you and Jeff for being supportive and understanding parents. If you want to share more about Allie, even as part of your family's day to day life, I think we would love that.

    And to Allie, you are beautiful, brilliant, and brave, and I wish you nothing but success and happiness. And bravo on the Thanksgiving dinner! It looks amazing!

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  24. Beautiful job with this difficult personal piece to write. I was wondering how it would appear here and you did it with honesty, poise and beauty. Great job mama- I am sure Ms. Allie reflects you in all of your beautiful ways.

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  25. Wow, I admire Allie and you and your family so much! Such a beautiful and accomplished daughter and a brave journey for you all. Because yeah, it's natural to want to protect your kids from narrow-mindedness and bigotry, and yet know when to allow them to grow and flourish just as they are.

    Thanks so much for sharing this, I suspect that many who read it may not have experience with transgendered folks, and stories like these go a long way to helping people realize there is nothing to be scared or freaked out about.

    And also, you did such a great job telling a beautiful story with sensitivity and respect, it was quite touching and uplifting to read.

    --Crabby

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  26. What a beautiful and heartfelt post Shelley! Thanks for trusting us enough to share a part of your family!

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  27. Your daughter is beautiful. Her inner courage, strength and happiness are definitely obvious in her gorgeous smile. As a mother I can't imagine anything except loving your child completely. Thanks for sharing!

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  28. Bravo to you and Allie and all of you!! Much love and respect from Chicsgo, my friend.

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  29. You are a great mom with a beautiful daughter. As long as you are both happy that is all that matters. Hugs to you both.

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  30. Thank you for sharing! Congrats to Allie and cooking her first Thanksgiving meal!

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  31. Thanks for sharing! Allie looks so beautiful and happy. As the mom of 14 year old boy/girl twins in middle school, I worry about how the kids that age are treating each other and their differences. I think it is getting better for kids who know they are homosexual or transgender to be open about it, but there is still a long way to go. I hope if one of my kids came to me with this, I would be as supportive as you and your husband have been of Allie.

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  32. You & Jeff are the best! I just read a quote, "It takes courage to grow up & become who you really are." I do believe Allie has this perfected...she's beautiful, smart and looks so happy. I feel my life is richer knowing you & your family. Peace & Love to you guys!

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  33. She's beautiful, Shelley! Yes, the world can be harsh, especially with social media, but she has a wonderful set of parents who are a strong foundation. I got chills reading this...and kind of choked up, because ANYTIME someone is brave enough to be authentic and true to themselves, it's a beautiful thing!

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  34. What a beautiful post to honor your family. You are fortunate to have such a strong, amazing daughter (and she is fortunate to have you!).

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  35. Thank you so much for sharing this, Shelley! Your daughter looks so happy in the photos, I can't imagine what a relief it must be to be able to show the world one's true self. We had opportunity over Thanksgiving to host a friend of my daughter's who is was born female but identifies as male. His family is having great difficulty accepting this, and I was so happy to be able to provide a safe place for him for the holidays. Listening to my daughter talk about it, it is heart-warming to hear how more and more people are becoming comfortable with gender fluidity; to them, it's just the way people are and I love the growing understanding and acceptance I see in my kids and their friends. You and Jeff are great parents and both your kids are lucky to have you!

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  36. Brava to you and Allie. What a brave woman she is and what great parents she has.

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  37. I think this is just great! Congrats to Allie for living her true life. Awesome parenting for her to be comfortable expressing her true self to you both!

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  38. How brave of Allie to accept who she is, and how brave of you to share this with all of us!

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  39. I have been waiting for you to write this Shelley. What an amazing daughter you have and what a beautiful family you are. Hopefully we'll get to hear more of Allie's life now (have missed hearing about her) and fingers crossed.....a gingerbread house competiiton again????? Wishing you all nothing but wonderful things in this complex, conveluted, wonderful, glorious life we are all finding our way through in the best way we can.

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  40. You are an amazing mother.
    From the unflagging support to the fact you knew intuitively this wasnt your story to tell until she was ready and READY for you to tell.

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  41. Thank you for sharing this and introducing us to Allie! It makes me feel very happy that she's been able to become who she really is!!!! (and to get two degrees, dayum, nice work!!!) I hope you continue to meet mostly people who are accepting, because like you said, who gives an eff how anyone else lives their life? Let's wish happiness and health for everyone!

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  42. What a beautiful, thoughtful post, Shelley. Thank you for sharing it. I have a family member who has, over the past few years, come out as gay. As you know, this doesn't happen overnight. It is a process of revelation as they - and you - come to terms with living a life different from the one originally envisioned. I'm proud of them for their courage to go against very strong social norms to live fully as themselves. As I read your post, you used some of the very same words and phrases I have. Like you, I don't write about this because it isn't my story to tell, and as they are younger than your daughter, coming out occurs in layers and stages, and they cherish their privacy. (Don't get me started on the levels of ignorance, fear, bigotry, prejudice and worse paraded around for all to see in this world. Some people missed out on the empathy gene, and display it daily; sadly this sometimes includes a relative and 'friend' or two, but for the most part I find those around us understanding.) When our family member wrote about how our acceptance and support saved them in their darkest hours, it meant the world to me. Best wishes to you, your family and especially to your beautiful daughter.

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  43. Congratulations on your daughter! I'm so glad that we live in the 21st century.

    Rose in SV

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  44. What a lovely post! Nice to meet your beautiful daughter! <3!!

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  45. I'm another reader who has never commented. We learn to accept by getting to know people. If all we have is what is in the media, we are unlikely to see the commonalities. We are all just folks trying to do our best in this world. God loves us all. Your sharing will open some hearts. Hugs to your family.

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  46. Thank you so much for sharing this. We need to see more stories of love and acceptance amidst all of the crazy that is out there. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

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  47. I am so late in reading my blogs this week and was so happy to read about your beautiful and accomplished daughter. Thank you for sharing her story with us and Thank you Allie for allowing us to meet you :) You are both lucky to have each other!!

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  48. Wonderful post! What a fine child you raised.

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  49. Shelley, I am catching up on my blogs today. I read about your trip to North Carolina and was a bit confused so I'm glad I really went back and caught up. Your post is inspirational as a new generation of children will not be afraid to face the reality of their feelings. As a social worker learning about transgender children as little kids has been enlightening. Thank you for sharing your story!

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