Will he find me, mama? Will he try to kill me?
These were the chilling words spoken to me by my young transgender child on November 9, 2016. Perhaps you are wondering who the he is that my child was referring to? Devastatingly, the newly-elected person who would hold the highest office of our country, that of the President of the United States. It was incomprehensible for me to conceive of my child being afraid that someone would try to find him and try to kill him because he identifies as a transgender person. It was terrifying, actually.
To think the person my child was referring to so frighteningly was that of a person who was just elected to hold the office of the president was unfathomable to me. What did that really mean? Did my child really think this person would storm into our home and try to actually take his life? To my young child, hearing about the hatred coming from this person’s mouth for months wove its way deep into his vulnerable soul. I immediately mourned his innocence and my culpability for not being able to shield him from the unkindness of the world. I questioned if I had actually made the right choice in being transparent with my adverse feelings for this candidate with my child. No way I had ever thought this person would actually win the election. My deep regret was not the fact I had chosen to be honest with my child and call out the hateful comments when they were made, on a regular on-going basis. My deep regret was that now my child would live within an America filled with emboldened citizens who felt justified with their hateful comments, using their newly elected president as their role model and excuse. I was sickened to my core.
What was I to do? Crumble, cry, fall apart, hid, try to escape? As a person, a bit of all these options sucked me in. As a parent, none of these options would do. I had the responsibility to my child to get up each day, stand tall, and model love and compassion daily. So, that’s just what I did.
Truth? It is a choice each day to get up, choose love, make my values actionable, and fight like hell for my beliefs. It’s a scary feeling that my life has turned into a series of fight or flight situations, where I’m on guard with every person I know, waiting for the other shoe to drop and wondering who in my core friend group is about to abandon me because it’s just gotten too hard. Losing friendships of over 15 years and losing family members I’ve counted on my whole life because it’s just gotten too hard. Losing the ability to navigate life with a sense of hope for the future and stability for the present is just plain awful.
Enter: Small triumphs. My life has begun to center on focusing on a series of small triumphs that make each day slightly better than the last. A smile on my child’s face because no one at school misgendered him today. A small win. The look on his face when a waiter says, “What does the little guy want for dinner?” Priceless glow on his face. When his best friend stands up for him and tells another child that his name is now his new name and to call him that. My heart fills with gratitude.
So, when a rather big triumph recently came our family’s way, I wasn’t prepared for it. Our child was successfully granted a legal name and gender change. A long term process that came to fruition moments before the impending new administration switch. Relief hardly captures the feeling that swept across my heart when the judge, one of the most compassionate strangers I’ve ever had the privilege of being graced by in my life, said to my child, “Let me be the first to congratulate you and call you by your new legal name.” The ear to ear smile on my child’s face said what no words would come close to saying.
Terror had turned into a small triumph on his face. A small triumph in my heart, too.
Published with permission from a parent of a trans child in our advocacy network.