To Grieving Christian Parents of a Transgender Person

Dear parents (and siblings, relatives, close ones) of transgender persons,

I’m writing this letter because I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else. If there’s a transgender person in your life whom you love, I have no doubt you want the best for them. I’m hoping we can work together for a moment to make sure the person you love experiences your care.

What I have to say isn’t a treatise or transsexual manifesto. I just want to share my personal experience so you can hear the feelings of a transgender person other than your loved one. Sometimes we’re so close to someone that we can’t see them clearly. I hope that by intruding my own voice, you can hear the voice of your transgender loved one more clearly.

If anything from my experience resonates with you, I pray that you take it to heart.  I don’t know your situation, I can’t experience your unique pain, and I can only feel my own experience and glimpse the experience of those closest to me. I want to generalize from my own life, but you should only take in what makes sense for you in light of your own situation.


My experience.

 My story is that I’ve experienced some form of gender dysphoria for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, this experience was secret. I felt different from everyone else in a way I couldn’t put into words. My parents knew nothing about this. I was a quiet child who didn’t complain much even though I was constantly sick, and I obeyed my elders (and peers) without question. When I crossdressed (starting age 4 or 5), it was almost always in secret. My parents only witnessed a few incidents which they were able to write off as “normal for a young boy,” but they weren’t around to witness the frequency of it. This wasn’t their fault. From an early age I intuited that it was “bad” not to conform, so I kept everything bottled up. My parents didn’t know because I didn’t let them know. Children can be surprisingly perceptive and astonishingly deceptive.

When I passed through a male puberty around age 13, my gender dysphoria went from quietly perplexing to all-out agonizing. It was like my brain and body were flying in opposite directions and stretching me between them like taffy. As my body became more masculine and my peer group became more demanding, I found I couldn’t just go with the flow like I did when I was a kid. Now I had to make a concerted effort to please people and hide the secret part of me. I would present myself as masculine to the outside world, but then I’d retire to my room in the evening and just lay there for hours imagining myself bridal shopping or dancing in a billowy skirt.

This double life was exhausting, and every year I spent more and more energy trying to shut down my girl identity so I could keep on pretending to be masculine. I tried everything in my power to embrace my “God-given masculinity,” all the while shutting down my heart more and more until I could barely feel anything. The only hopes and dreams I had were the ones other people dictated for me.

After 21 years of this, I finally collapsed. I’d used up an entire lifetime of energy to pretend I was a boy. Even my deepest reserves were utterly spent. I felt like I could barely lift my head in the morning. I wanted to keep on being the person my family expected me to be, but I simply couldn’t. Emotional breakdowns became more and more frequent. Whenever my fuel reached empty, the curtain I was holding up to so desperately hide myself would simply fall to the ground because my hands couldn’t hold on one more second.

So finally, not by my own choice, I confronted what I’d been running from for 21 years. I admitted I was severely gender dysphoric. And as I allowed my heart to speak for the first time in many years, I also admitted exactly why I was gender dysphoric: I feel like a girl. Not  I feel feminine, but I truly and utterly down to my very bones feel like a girl who everyone in the world mistakes as a boy.

Eventually I told my parents. It was the most terrifying experience of my entire life. After 21 years of thinking I had to present a certain image in order to find acceptance, my entire self-esteem rode on that moment of revelation. My parents were understandably shocked, confused, hurt, and afraid. They gave me their first reaction: this is a lie of Satan, and we need to pray over you to expel this transsexual demon.

I wasn’t  terribly troubled by this initial reaction. I put myself in their shoes. This was out of nowhere for them (which was my fault). They coped with their shock by turning to the simplest and most readily available explanation: that Satan had tricked me into this.

We had many discussions after that first one, most of which were very painful for both of us. We both had so much to say, but couldn’t speak through our torrent of emotions. They came to me with many theories about why the story I’ve told up to this point is inaccurate. My mom, crying, handed me a book of my drawings from when I was a kid. She showed me pictures I drew of pirates and cowboys, and said “This is the child I knew. You were a boy.”

In these conversations we always ended up talking past each other. We talked about Scripture, our Church tradition, what could have made me transgender, and all other sorts of things, but we missed each others’ grief. Neither I nor them were really present to the other’s pain because we were all hurting so much on our own. I don’t think it was anyone’s fault, but it unfolded that way because we couldn’t talk about where the real pain was coming from.

Now it’s too late to have that conversation. Our relationship has been damaged to the point where only God can heal it by a miracle. I’ve been cut off from my family. I can no longer see my younger siblings. We’re a broken household, and I’m alone in the world. My parents are hurting more than they can bear, and so am I. I wish I could rewrite history, but I can’t. Instead, I want to help you in any way I can. You’re going to hurt, but there’s some pain that can be avoided.


My parent’s grief, and maybe yours as well.

Gender is a huge part of who we are. I think that’s why issues of gender like this are so painful for everyone involved. We attach so much of what we know about a person to their gender. If that gender paradigm is challenged, it challenges everything we know about that person.

When I came out as transgender, my parents were overwhelmed by how different this was from what they thought of me. In fact, they simply couldn’t bring themselves to see me any differently than they always had. They love their son Anthony with every aching bone, every breath in their body. They’ve fed their little boy, carried him in their arms, and kissed him goodnight for so many meaningful years. They love that boy with all their heart. This new “girl,” Anna, is an intrusion. These feminine characteristics, these new clothes, they aren’t part of the child they remember raising. These aberrations must be something foreign – a demon, a deception, or a sinful choice.

My parents are hurting so much because they’re mourning their son. In their hearts it feels like the son they’ve cared for so tenderly is dead. Everything they say and do about me comes from that feeling. The reason I’m cut off from them now is because I’m not really me in their minds. They believe I’m someone else now, someone different than the boy they raised. They’re too hurt by their son’s death to even acknowledge me. Their love for Anthony is unconditional. They refuse to acknowledge Anna because Anna is not Anthony. It’s Anthony they love unconditionally, and no one else.

I believe there are other parents who feel similar to mine. I know some of you have said things to your transgender children like, “You are dead to me.” And I know you didn’t say this to be mean. You said this because this is how you feel. You feel like the child you knew is dead. That hurts. I’m so sorry you feel that.

It’s important for you to remember what you’re grieving about. Everything else is secondary. Scripture and theology are valuable, but chances are when you initially turn to them for support, what you’re really doing is grasping for something, anything, to keep your child from dying. Maybe you want your child to live a respectable Christian life and give you lots of grandkids. Maybe you’re terrified of what the neighbors think. Maybe you’re terrified that this makes you a bad parent. There’s a lot to sort through, but the biggest grief is the passing of your child. Nothing is more painful to even the most callous parent than losing a child. And you aren’t a callous parent. You’re a Christian parent who wants to love.

In all your interactions with your transgender child, that grief is going to come through. It’s going to propel your words and color your vision. You need to feel that grief, acknowledge it, and acknowledge how it’s affecting you.

Once you do that, you need to let yourself sympathize with your child’s grief. It’s not enough to be distressed at their pain. You need to try to glimpse their innermost sadness.


My grief, and maybe your child’s as well.

When I came out as transgender, I was also overwhelmed. I still am. Chances are your child is too.

Try for a moment, if you can, to put yourself in my shoes to see how I feel. Maybe your child feels similar, maybe not, but I know for a fact that many transgender people feel as I do.

Imagine that for as long as you can remember what you’ve really wanted more than anything else is to be loved and cared for. This was so important to you that you’d do anything to be loved, even if that meant hiding many of your feelings and desires. Sure, everyone told you true love is unconditional, but when you played with your friends or watched television you saw that weird people get made fun of and normal people get rewarded. You don’t even really understand what “normal” is, but you feel different. So you imitate others in the belief that love is conditional and you need to be like others.

But after many years of hiding, you’re still incomplete. You don’t want to be loved just for certain parts of you, but for all of you, and when people tell you “I love you,” all you can think is “well you wouldn’t love me if you knew everything about me.”

So finally, after much agonizing, you go to the people who’ve promised to love you no matter what. You put their love to the test, not because you want to find out if they really love you, but because you need their love.

So you tell them this deep dark secret. You’re afraid they won’t love that part of you too. You’re afraid love has conditions. But you tell them anyway, because you’ve reached the point where you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

When you tell them, to your dismay they confirm all your worst fears. All those secret worst-case scenarios and hidden nightmares you’ve been harboring your entire life come true right before your eyes. Love is conditional. There are parts of me that can’t be loved. I do need to perform to be accepted. And no matter how many times your loved ones assure you “we love you unconditionally,” their words seem empty to you. Everything they do and say screams something else. They tell you the transgender part of you is bad; they’re fine saying this because they don’t really think it’s part of you, but all you feel is they think I’m evil. They tell you they cannot love Anna, and they’re fine saying this because they don’t think you’re really Anna, but all you experience is they don’t love me. They forbid you from coming to family events, and they allow themselves to do this because they think the real you is gone anyway, but all you experience is I’m still here and I’m hurting like hell.

Transgender parents, this is what I’ve experienced from how my parents reacted to me being transgender. Your child might feel the same way. Please know the power you have to give them affirmation.

Whether or not you think transgender identities are a lie, whether or not you accept the gender dysphoric part of your child, whether or not you even think their gender dysphoria is a real part of who they are, what’s important is that this is how your child is experiencing your rejection. It doesn’t matter if you’re right. Your child is hurting to the core. You need to understand or at least acknowledge that grief if you’re going to preserve your child.


The reality of gender dysphoria.

 If your child identifies as transgender, there are many objections you might have. Maybe you think identifying as anything other than a “child of God,” including queer or transgender, is a sin. Maybe you’re afraid that your child is adopting a liberal transgender agenda by using that label. Maybe you’re afraid that your child will transition, which you believe is a rebellion against God’s created order.

All these fears are smoke screens over the basic facts.

It doesn’t matter what you believe about transgenderism. It doesn’t matter what you believe the correct standard of care is for a person who experiences gender dysphoria. It doesn’t matter what you think causes gender dysphoria. You first need to acknowledge – really acknowledge – your child’s experience, even if you think that experience is delusional.

Gender dysphoria is very very real. It’s also very uncommon, which means you as a transgender parent are special. Count yourself blessed or cursed – you’re dealing with a unique parental hurdle and it’s going to be difficult.

Even though transgenderism is relatively rare, it’s a fairly well-documented phenomenon. Most people line up remarkably well biologically and psychologically as 100% male or female, but exceptions do occur on almost every level. Gender dysphoria is an exception on the mental and social level. Your knee-jerk reaction may be to push your child back into 100% conformity, but please first stop and consider that maybe your child really is one of these remarkable exceptions. Maybe they aren’t making this up.

I’ve experienced gender dysphoria since I was a small child. My parents cannot grasp this. They’re incapable of believing anything other than I’m making this up or rewriting my history. But the fact remains that I’ve always experienced gender dysphoria. I have nothing to gain by lying about my experience of gender. In fact, I’ve lost everything by being honest.

It’s extremely hard to empathize with a transgender person. Our experience is difficult if not impossible to grasp. Your child is going to have a very hard time communicating their feelings and experience to you. If they change the way they talk about their gender, it’s not because they’re flip-flopping. In all likelihood they’re just trying on different words to more accurately communicate an experience that we don’t have words for.

What does gender dysphoria mean to me? I was born biologically male, but I identify as a woman. You’re knee-jerk reaction may be “but you’re not a woman!” and then end the discussion there. But whether I’m correct or not, I actually experience myself and believe myself to be a girl. If you tell me I’m not a woman, it doesn’t sway me at all, it just invalidates me. It’s a conviction that’s so deep, 22 years of constant effort to change it couldn’t budge it an inch. I went to pastors, prayer ministers, even an exorcist, and that conviction remained.

No one chooses to be transgender. It’s not a fashionable social trend. There’s nothing trendy about losing your family and facing the anger of society. Who volunteers to be a leper? If our collective voice has gotten louder in recent years, it’s only because our pain has reached a boiling point. All the political correctness in the world doesn’t ease our need for genuine love and respect.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you think the proper treatment for gender dysphoria is. The first and most important step is to simply acknowledge the fact that your child is gender dysphoric. It’s difficult being gender dysphoric. If your child chooses a particular course of care like hormonal transition, they aren’t being brash or rebellious. They’re choosing how to respond to the fact of their gender dissonance. Whether you agree with their choice of treatment or not, you need to find a way to stand beside them in their predicament.


Meeting the stranger in the room.

As I’ve become more and more outwardly feminine, my parents have treated me increasingly like a stranger. Sometimes they talk about me like I’m not even in the room. They talk about the “boy” me and “girl/transgender” me as two separate entities, one of which is their son who died, and the other of which is the deception that murdered their son. This is their way of conceptualizing their grief, which is completely understandable. However, I’m afraid they’ll be stuck there for a very long time.

If you’ve believed your child to be one person their entire life, and now they come to you saying they’re someone else, how do you cope?

You need to grieve the person you think you’re losing, but that’s only the first step. After that, it’s essential that you find your child again and celebrate who they actually are. You owe it to yourself and to your child.

In doing so, you should remember four truths about your child: they are infinitely mysterious, their life is in flux, they haven’t changed as much as you think, and they’re still here.

1. Your child is infinitely mysterious.

First, you need lots of humility. I know you conceived, bore, and raised your child. You know your child more intimately than anyone else, and that’s incredibly beautiful. However, I’m sure deep down you also know how strange and mysterious this child really is. You can spend every day of your life with someone and still not have more than an inkling of what’s going on in their heart. Think of your spouse. You are joined to them, and yet how incredibly other are they to you? This is true of everyone you meet, but it’s harder to grasp when it’s your loved one.

If your child is saying something about their gender, whether they’re 3 years old or 30, they need to be taken seriously. You need to see them as the manifold, complex, deep person they are. Your ideas of who they are, whether it’s your idea of gender, emotions, or inner motivations, will always only scratch the surface. This is scary, but it’s very important to come to terms with. People are made in the image and likeness of God, and like God we’re all terrifyingly mysterious. You need to give yourself room to learn about your child. It’s a lifelong process that will never truly end.

2. Your child’s life is in constant flux.

Second, you need to acknowledge as a fact how your child is now, not just how you experienced them 10 years ago. We’re all constantly changing; the person we were 10 years ago is so different than the person we are now. Yes, you’re the same individual that you’ve always been, but how much have even your hobbies and interests evolved in the last few years? You experience this in yourself all the time, so the trick is letting yourself experience it in your child. Yes, your child’s revelation about their gender may seem sudden to you. It’s hard to digest change all at once since normally we experience it gradually, but the same basic principle is still at work. You can love your child across change now as much as when the changes were harder to notice.

3. Your child hasn’t changed as much as you think.

Third, don’t let the trappings fool you; your child is still the same person. Especially if your child is physically transitioning to live as their preferred gender, it’s easy to get caught up in how much they’ve changed. This will distract you from how much they’re the same. I liked boxing before I came out, and I like boxing after. I liked cooking before I came out, and I like cooking now. I was a hopeless romantic then, and I still am. I still have the same insecurities, hopes, fears, and attachments. I drew cowboys and pirates when I was a kid; well guess what? I’m more into pirates and cowboys now than I ever was before!

The only difference is there’s more of me now, not less. I don’t only express the parts of me that people expect from a guy; I also express the parts that I once kept hidden. Those parts were always there to begin with, so even the things I do that my parents see as a radical change were really already there to begin with.

Sadly, they haven’t gotten to know the “new” me enough to realize it’s really still the old me.

4. Your child is still here.

Fourth, your child is still alive. It may feel like they’re dead, but the same heart that started beating in their mother’s womb is still beating now. My parents may think that there’s an old true “me” and a new false “other person,” but really I’m just one person. Whether you call me Anthony or Anna, or consider me a boy or a girl, I’m just me. Even if you think Anna isn’t really who I am, I still feel hurt when you reject Anna. I’m here, alive, feeling the full weight of rejection. And this same me is the person who was conceived by my parents, who was masculine to them for a long time, and who came out to them as transgender. It’s all one person: me. And your child is one person who’s still there and feeling everything. You may think their personality has been so swallowed up by this “other” gender-switched “alter ego” that they aren’t really there anymore. I can tell you: they are fully there, fully alive, and fully feeling. They may have evolved, but they haven’t changed. If you cut them, they still bleed.


Holding your child’s hand.

When I told my parents that I was physically transitioning, they told me they cannot walk down this path with me. That was when I was officially cut off from my family.

I understand their decision to some extent. After all, they disagree with my transition. How can they walk down a road that they believe is wrong?

As Christians we’re called to walk with each other, and we need to make a distinction between agreeing with someone and walking with them. I think my parents have bought a lie that Christian culture tells us: that you need to agree with how people live their lives to be present to them, lest you “enable” their “lifestyle.” Whether you agree or disagree with someone is entirely beside the point. The call is to walk with people, whatever their situation is.

For one thing, if it turns out that I’m wrong, how would I ever find the truth if everyone who supposedly loves me abandons me? Isn’t our model supposed to be Jesus Christ? Jesus spent most of his time with all the “wrong” sorts of people: tax collectors, prostitutes, zealots, Romans, lepers, and a ragtag bunch of fishermen with anger management issues. Scripture doesn’t say he went into the slums to tell people why they were wrong; it tells us that he sat with them and ate and drank in their presence. He didn’t love them after they changed their life; he loved them, and as a result their lives were changed.

I think it’s significant how much we talk about Jesus’ love, and yet not once did he go up to someone and say “I love you.” Instead he showed them his love. No matter how many times you tell your child that you love them, your words will mean nothing if they don’t experience your unconditional affection.

I think it’s also important how everyone has their own idea about how to respond to transgender people. There are so many theories, speculations, opinions… Just consider how different your idea of transgenderism might be from your child’s. With all these clashing voices in the air, can’t we all have the humility to admit that at the end of the day transgenderism is a mystery to us? Maybe then we can move forward with fear and trembling, but also with hope that God will sort things out.

Yes, HOPE. Hope and trust are key here. Too often we get so caught up in culture wars that we lose sight of the bigger picture. If we really believe in an all-powerful loving God, then we must believe that the Holy Spirit will lead this ship safely to port.

So how can you apply radical faith, hope, and love to your transgender loved one? I think it’s really simple, and once again Jesus provides the answer.

Just think about how Jesus treated outcasts. The Pharisees and disciples were busy making theories about why some people are born different. They thought that if you were blind, it was punishment for your wickedness, or maybe your parent’s sins. How much does this sound like how Christianity responds to transgender people? But what was Jesus’ response? All Jesus heard was the cry from the side of the road. All he saw was the person in need of love. All he cared about was the person in front of him.

I think that’s a pretty simple model to follow. I don’t think you need to overthink it much. I’ll let you figure out in the quiet of your heart what that kind of love means for you and your transgender child, but again: I think it’s very simple.


 

I hope you found something helpful in this letter. I pray for you and your loved one, that you may enjoy God’s love together even in this life.

With deepest affection,

Anna


“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
(Isaiah 49:15)

37 thoughts on “To Grieving Christian Parents of a Transgender Person

  1. Anna your post is absolutely beautiful, kind, caring, just soo lovely. i hope that there will be many parents out thete who read your post and take it to heart. i wish that i was as brave as you are but soo glad that you are a brave girl. i share so much of your story in my own life but sadly even at 56 have only just begun to transition. You write soo well, keep reaching out, keep writing please.

    • Dear, beautiful Anna,
      Our daughter Madeline is 14 and came out to us yesterday as transgender. I hate labels. I hate them. My daughter is not transgender. She is a wonderful, beautiful, witty, wise and amazing person who I am blessed to be given the incredible task of being chosen by God to raise her. Yes, I am hurting like hell. Yes I am in shock. Yes, I hope this is “confusion ” and temporary “caused” by adolescent female hormones that will eventually stabilize and that because transgenderism is rare, this will pass. My baby is still here but she is also gone. Those things called expectations really can betray us in this life. Damn it!!
      I thank you for your raw and beautiful heart and your depth and clarity in making sense of what I’m feeling. I hope I will continue to rise above my grief, trust in the Lord and truly and sincerely love my child in how she needs me to. Your words may very well save my family when we need them to. But until then, I choose to secretly call her my daughter, my baby girl and pray for God’s grace, mercy and love to see us through.
      I will pray for you and that the Lorf leads your parents into the light and back to you. Would you please do the same for our family?
      Thank you XO
      Andrea

      • How could I not think of you and pray for you and for your whole family. Your child is fortunate to have such a loving parents and no matter how your daughter develops the Spirit will guide your continuing love for her.
        Geraldine

      • Dear Miss McAteer: Since your beautiful post my heart has been going out to you, your daughter and your family. My sincerest hope is that your days have been and will be forever more filled with precious memories. May you be aware at least a little bit of the lives your lives touch, encourage and in spire. ((((((hug)))))))))))))

  2. I identify tremendously with your pain, and your story mirrors mine in every respect but religion. I was lucky. My parents were Lutheran and I grew up without the benefit of Satan as an author of my transsexuality.
    I didn’t have to tell my parents who I really was: One day after I had moved out of home and into an apartment, my father stopped by early in the morning…perhaps for coffee or something I’ll never know, because he tapped on my bedroom window and I sat up in bed…half asleep in my cute little frilly Teddy babydoll nightgown, and he just turned away and we never spoke of it. But apparently he talked to everyone else about it, because within a year I had become the pariah…the leper in my own circle of family and acquaintances.
    People started looking at me funny…threatened to beat me up.or just stopped talking to me altogether.

    Now they are all gone and I have my life without my roots. But I have one thing those people could not give me. I have love I hope you find some too. If no one else loves you, know that I love you for being a strong Trans Sister.

  3. Hi, It is Sunday. I have no church to go to. Last week on a Roman Catholic issue, the Anglicans decided that I am probably led by the Devil. I feel their concern. It is Sunday. I live a hermitage with an at home Mass for those who cannot be in church for some reason. The Roman Catholics have not taken my case before the Pope. So, I can no longer go there. I have nothing, and I am feeling like one of those feelings we are given being transgendered. The feeling is being evil. And that is what I am going to talk about. One day, just before I am going to be treated to the ESSENCE OF GOD right in front of me, the priest hesitated and would not touch me. I panicked and figured he knew how evil I was inside. In my silence and maybe anxiety and fear I looked and just said over and over: He knows. He knows. He knows how evil I am. I wonder if that feeling of being evil came from others treating me as evil, because I am late term transgender. Late term, for me, means I have been able by being too involved and busy to have run into no more ways to cope. I have another issue, in it all people like me, are convinced that they are lazy, crazy and mentally of low intelligence. (stupid) Again, being too busy, I did not find out that till I was 55 or so. Others proved to me, none of those are true. Yet, on evil never have I understood that. Maybe I am evil. Maybe I am not. When though I read your article, I wondered if evil were felt as a genuine emotion because others made me feel that way. LOVE, …Mary., …. .

    Sent from my iPad

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  4. I admire your reaching out to parents of transgender individuals by sharing your story and helping them to understand that their child needs and deserves their love. You are a blessed should who truly understands what Christ came to teach us. May God bless you as you continue your walk in faith.

  5. What a beautiful and important essay. I trust that these words will be guided to those who need them. Out of the pain of your story, another family will know love, hope and wholeness.

    It’s a tragedy to lose your family. It happens to so many of us. We must be a real community to one another. In my time of need I have been given help, generosity beyond words, by trans people I barely knew. It’s a pay-it-forward system. If I can ever be of help to you in any way, please ask. I am dead serious about that. You have a brother in New Mexico.

    Wishing you love and peace.

    • Thanks Anna for your story. I am the Mom of an incredible transgender son. My heart is breaking for your loss of the loved ones in your life and I just want to hug you so badly. To all the transgender parents out there, please know that it is okay to grieve the loss of your son/daughter because there are parts of that person that have died, but in that pain, don’t forget that there are many parts of your son/daughter that are still the same. My son has the same incredible smile, same memories we’ve shared over the years, same closeness if not better. I’m not saying this is easy on the parents, but it is a time where we can’t be selfish. Your son/daughter has suffered enough and it is time for us to be selfless. I have been by my son’s side for all of his journey and he has recently transitioned. I was there for the procedure and have provided the unconditional love that a parent has for their child. Think of it this way. We raise our children to have values, be strong and to love one another. We want what’s best for them. Isn’t part of that to allow them to be their true genuine self. You have to love yourself because you can love others, so please, while this is difficult at times, allow them to love themselves, and keep loving them. There is no greater gift that you can give your child. Imagine how it feels to be able to be your true self for the first time and still have the love of the people you care most about. My son is more confident and happy that he has ever been, and I know that my support has played a role in that. He has opened my eyes to what unconditional love really is and I’ve grown as a person because of it. To all the transgender people out there, please have patience with your parents as they sort through their feelings and remember that while you have had years to adjust to who you are, we are just learning it for the first time so we’re just starting down the path with you and it may take a little time to catch up to where you are. And for those parents that don’t start down the path, I feel sorry for what you are losing. It is your time to show what unconditional love really is, and strengthen your bond with your child. Don’t run from the unknown, but embrace it and learn from it and keep loving your child. You will love the confident genuine person that you will discover as a result of this journey.

      • God Bless you for being there for your child when they needed you most! I wish *all* parents had enough strength to do that.

        I’m not the Anna who wrote this piece, but sadly her story is far from unusual – I know some trans people who have brilliant families, but so many who’ve lost them entirely.

        Unfortunately I’m one of the latter, and the worst thing is I could see it coming – week by week they got more distant as my transition approached (way back in 2002). it was like a slow-motion family disaster movie, or a black comedy without the comedy.

        It’s heartbreaking, but what can you do? Only be yourself, try not to let it get to you and get on with life. In the 12 years since then I’ve not seen my parents once, and my mum has since passed away.

        It’s hard at times, but it all happened so long ago now that I’ve got used to it. In many ways what hurts more is knowing that my parents missed out on not only knowing me, but also on my new family. But no matter how painful that it I can’t do anything about it – that was the choice they made.

        On the positive side my experiences since transition have been overwhelmingly positive, and I’ve been blessed to find myself in a church who not only welcomed me, but encouraged me to be active in ministry. The latter has helped more than I could ever put into words, and I’ll always be grateful to them for that.

        • Well said Anna M and Anna who had the strength to write this article! As a friend (who doesn’t keep in touch enough!) I didn’t know that your mum had passed away {hug}. Still no movement with my family and as expected, things have only continued to slide. So I feel your pain.
          Keep well sister and keep in touch. Susanna.

  6. Pingback: To Grieving Christian Parents of a Transgender Person | TogetherStyle

  7. Pingback: To Grieving Christian Parents of a Transgender Person | TogetherStyle

  8. This is legit one of the most revealing, thoughtful, and charitable things I’ve ever read–and overwhelmingly brave, too. I’m horrified by this tragedy–and in spite of it, Anna, you know more of love at twenty-two(?) than I did at thirty-five. I’m blown away. Thank you so much for sharing your heart.

    Speaking of hearts, I have room in mine for another sister. ❤ I'm in Washington State. I think this gives you my email; use it if you need me or want someone to talk to. If you don't see my email address, DM me on Twitter. I follow you.

  9. Anna,
    You will always have a trans-sister in me. My door is always open to you and there’s always a place for you at my table. I love you. (I live in Oklahoma, so if you’re ever in the neighborhood, drop by anytime. You have my email and know how to contact me if you need/want to). This was a very beautiful reflection and was so very spot on. May I have permission to share it? I am in seminary for my M.Div. and in my pastoral counseling classes, the issue of transgender comes up from time to time… usually when I bring it up, and always careful not to reveal that I’m transgender myself. (And for that I apologize. You’re courage puts cowards like me to shame!) Anyway, the subject of transgender people gets brought up and the instructor is always careful to say that we must truly listen to the other person’s stories. This is your story, but also a in a way our story too. I think it would help if others heard it. May I share it with them for you?

    sisterly hugs,
    ~Shadow

    • Absolutely, you can share it!
      And there’s no reason for you to feel like a coward by not outing yourself as transgender. You’re a person first, a woman second, and a trans woman (I’m assuming that’s how you identify) third. Being trans* doesn’t need to define you, and I’m very jealous that you’re at a point where you don’t need to disclose being trans*.

  10. Oh my, not sure how or where to begin. I will simply say I tearfully read this and found myself substituting words like “wife”, “spouse”, “soulmate” for “parents” throughout. The experience for them of a transgender loved one must be the same I suspect. I am sharing this with our local transgender support group and will read it with my wife tonight.

    Your shared experience will touch many souls I am confident.
    God’s continued, abundant blessing on you Anna.

  11. Anna, thank you for this. I am not trans* myself — and (as far as I know) I only have one friend who is — but it is something I’ve been thinking about more and more lately. I have a baby boy, and I realised that if he came to me one day and told me that he was gay, I would have a mental matrix for that — but that if he came to me one day and told me that he was trans*, I would have absolutely no idea how to deal with or understand it. Your post was extremely helpful in that respect. I thank you for so bravely and graciously sharing your experience, and I will pray that you and your parents will one day be reconciled — knowing that God can soften even the hardest of hearts.

  12. This is very thought provoking and interesting. You have a great talent of putting into words what I have thought. The fact that many parents will struggle with this because they see their child as dead and the new transgendered person as the the one who allowed the death, I think is probably an apt description. Sad but true.

  13. Anna, thank you for an absolutely wonderful description of what life is like for most transgender people. I, like you, knew very early that something was “off” but did not find your courage until I was 63 years old. I have been on hormones for 9 months and underwent FFS 40 days ago. When I came out to my sole surviving parent, I lost that parent. Just as you lost yours. But mine is 92 and I am 64. Amazingly, age does not make some love less conditional. It may even make it more conditional.
    So please know that you are loved, even if by others you have never met. I am proud of your courage and your willingness to describe your pain in the hopes of helping others. You are an awesome woman.

  14. Reblogged this on transatlantictransadvocates and commented:
    You never outgrow the need for family acceptance. By coming out I lost what I thought at the time was the last of my family. Last year a lady from Sweden contacted me, said she was my cousin, and her mother was Grandpa Westerberg’s daughter! We emailed each other for awhile, and in September I flew to Sweden and lived with my Swedish family for three weeks. My heart, hardened for so long by rejection, is still thawing out from their unconditional love and acceptance of me for who I am. That is what the Swedish is about that pops up on this blog from time to time. I may be living in Oregon, med mitt hjärta är i Sverige med min svensk familj. (my heart is in Sweden with my Swedish family.). Parents! Love your kids as Christ loved the Church, with true love and acceptance. They are God’s gift to you, warts and all. Många kramar och kärlek från Gud.

  15. I am the mom of a transgender daughter. I have loved her from the moment I was aware that she was conceived and I still do. I accept and love her unconditionally as my ‘daughter’. I am so sorry for your pain, please know that this momma loves and accepts YOU Anna…if you ever need a shoulder, I am here. Hugs and love to you, you are very special and very precious. ❤

  16. Anna,

    I am so sorry for your loss. I do pray that a miracle will happen and your relationship with your family will be reconciled … for the sake of all of you.

    Your post is beautiful. It is informative and thoughtful. I’ll be sharing it with others.

    I have a son who is gay and I have a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of lgbt kids. Many of the moms have trans kids.

    The group presently has more than 550 members and continues to grow. Unfortunately we don’t usually find that our churches or faith communities are very helpful or supportive to us or our families. And many of us have been rejected by family and friends as we love and accept our kids.

    Our group is focused on developing and maintaining healthy, loving, authentic relationships with our kids and making the world a kinder, safer, more loving place for them to live. The group is a place where we share information, tell our stories to one another, and encourage and support each other.

    Only members of the group can find the group or see what is posted there but if anyone reading this wants to join the private facebook group please email me at lizdyer55@gmail.com and put “Mom’s Facebook Group” as the subject. Only mom’s who have LGBT kids can be members.

    Here is a link that has a little more info about the group:

    http://serendipitydodah.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/serendipitydodah-for-moms/

  17. Thank you so much, Anna, for your message. It is tender and tough and insightful and sweet. You are very generous with your empathy and that’s wonderful. I am so sorry for the reaction that you received.

    Yet our experiences have been a little different, and I hope we can talk about that.

    I am a parent of a person who is transgender. I never grieved the loss of our son, because I do not think we lost our child. I understood quickly that the person born male has emerged as female—still the same person, still my child that I love because … how could I possibly do otherwise? My daughter is a wonderful person and I am proud of her and love her.

  18. Thank you for posting this. My new daughter is just beginning her transition. I’ve only known about her gender issues for a little over a year. Totally didn’t see it coming. I’ve always told both my children that there is nothing they could say or do that would make me love them less and I mean it. My love has not changed at all.
    It has been hard, though. Is still hard. I do grieve what I thought I had. I grieve having a sweet boy and sometimes have pled with God to give me my boy back. The grief is real. But I love this kid. The kid is the same kid. I’m nervous, but also looking forward to seeing what new things are revealed about this child I love so much.
    I grew up in a very conservative home and held those conservative beliefs for a long time. I’m grateful that God has helped me see that love is the thing. Just love.
    I’m so sorry you’ve been rejected. My mother heart goes out to you and all who commented about losing your families. I want to gather all the family-less trans folk to me and love on them!
    Thank you for your courage and wisdom. I couldn’t understand how parents could disown their children. You are very insightful and and now understand at least what the thought processes are behind that. I’m sorry for them. Sorry for the loss of their son, but even more so that they lost you. That didn’t have to happen.

  19. Anna,
    The beginning of your article could be written from my son! He just came to us last month as suffering from gender dysphoria. He is 21 years old and we never had any idea he had been going through this. He was quiet, never complained, and was a “pleaser”. We always felt so blessed by him in our family. When he had an emotional break down last month, he admitted to me what has been happening. He was afraid to tell my husband, his father, because he is so staunchly conservative. I called my husband into the room. This is where the differences between what you went through and my son is going through differ. My husband immediately told him that he loved him and was proud of him. That the love and pride we feel has nothing to do with his sexual identity, it has everything to do with the person he is. I am not going to say that the past month has been easy. We have mourned the loss of a “son”, but we mourn more for the pain he must have been feeling for so many years. We are in therapy and I believe he will likely transition (he is still struggling with how society will accept him if he does). Everyone in the family that has learned about it, even my 92 year old grandmother, has been extremely supportive. We are all on this journey with him (or her). Your article breaks my heart, that you had to travel the path without family. My son went to a support group for transgenders in our area. He said every person in there said their family turned their back on them. He was the only one in there that had the support of parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and even a great-grandma. I told him that he can invite any of them over for Sunday dinner, they can belong to our family. I am a devout Catholic, so is my entire family, which is why I cannot understand how people call themselves Christians, but do not practice the teachings of Jesus.

  20. Hi, I have an interesting question for those folks who are transgender. I am a totally blind person who obviously listens to people’s voices. Is it wrong or hurtful to call a gender dysphoric person by the sex they were born with? by that I mean Anna, I might call you a man because I can’t see? I know this question is crazy but I just had to ask.

    • Hi Kerri,

      Well luckily I’m blessed with a pretty high range so people over the phone usually gender me correctly as a woman. But in general: if you misgender a trans woman because she has a deeper voice, she very well may be offended. That doesn’t mean you are wrong or bad for using the cues you have to identify people. Most women statistically have higher voices. It’s just that some women ( both trans and cis) are the exceptions and have deeper voices. So if you make a mistake, my suggestion would be to simply apologize. Mistakes happen.

      That’s my opinion anyway.

  21. I know this was written several years ago, but I am a mother of a 26 yr old son who just told us he is transgender and transitioning to become female. I am so confused, hurt, and lost but I know I don’t want to loose my relationship with my child. My husband is experiencing the same and anger – I don’t know how to help him. Your story has touched me and shown me some aspects that I needed to hear. As a Christian there are so many mixed messages out there – but if I follow Jesus’s example – and just love my child, pray for him, and hopefully come to learn to accept what is, maybe everything will be alright in the end. If there are any other parents out there who would like to talk, I am open to that. I don’t want to hurt my child – I love him so much. Thank you.

  22. There is another side. My son in law who I have known as a male for 53 years, is transitioning. I told him my feelings haven’t changed, still love him, but I see it as a la disorder – mental, emotional and spiritual – I’m fine being around him at home, in public, but feel like going along with the name change is accepting something I can’t agree with, so will still refer to him by the name I always have. Found out my daughter and their four daughters, but no one else in the family, have held this secret tightly for years. Now suddenly I’m srrn as a heartless hypocrite if I don’t 100% go along with it, get to know their many trans friends, etc. … My other 4 kids had no idea either. We got together 2 times … Once at their house, once in a park. I thought we did ok. But … Before this came out my daughter and I went out to lunch a lot, she brought the 4 great grandkids over a lot … I felt we were close. Since the two family get togethers she shows no interest in going to lunch, has never brought the great grandkids over, I feel like I have been totally cut off from my daughter, my grand daughters, and great grand children. I was even willing to meet some trans friends but it seems if I can’t totally embrace his new lifestyle I am suppose to ne punished by losing not one but 10 people I love deeply. My daughter was the one person I felt closest to in life since my husband died 2 years ago. I have been deeply depressed for months now. I feel so alone. I’m 67 years old. I did pray for him. I can’t any more. I am so angry at him for taking my family away. I tried the best I could. I knew nothing about this til less than 6 months ago. I don’t deserve this. I didn’t change anything! This really, really hurts!

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