The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.
I spent the entire day shampooing carpets. Area rugs, really, which my elderly chihuahua confuses with piddle patches, so I shampooed one side, then flipped them over and shampooed them from behind, then dragged them outside to dry in the sun. I had also done laundry and mopped the tile under the area rugs. I was exhausted and sore and irritable, and when I finally showered and fell into bed that evening, I looked forward to a mindless Valentines movie to veg out with.
Enter Ally, my sweet and challenging 12 year old. She’d been clingy for a few weeks, but I enjoyed the snuggles. Poor kid had been so awkward for so long, I figured puberty hit her harder than most. My third and last of 3 girls, growing up despite my effort to keep her little, she marched to her own beat and I had tried for years to understand her. I had spent hours and hours in meetings with her schools over the years, who had tested and evaluated her, and still scratched their heads. I had homeschooled her, adjusted her education philosophy, and had moved her to her fourth school the previous fall, all in an effort to find someone who could crack her special code. Her IQ said genius, her grades said slacker, her room said mad scientist, her journal said creative master, her body language said lost.
So I tried not to be annoyed when she needed my attention yet again that night, and we cuddled under the ceiling fan and watched some silly chick flick in silence. I smelled her still-damp hair and started to zone out while she rubbed her kitty’s ears.
“Mom? I’m trans.”
“What’s that, honey? Trans-what? Trans….??”
“Gender. I’m transgender. I’m a boy.”
<Inappropriate, nervous giggle>
She studied me intently, sheepishly, boldly.
I sat up and blinked.
Think, Whitney. This is important. Don’t laugh. Don’t cry. Don’t change the subject. You can do this. This is a crucial moment. Pivotal. Don’t choke. You got this.
“Okay. Wait. Hold on. We’re okay. You’re okay.”
“I’ve known for a long time. Three years since I realized what was wrong with me. I wasn’t going to say anything. I was going to keep it to myself but I just can’t any more. I’m Gabriel. I’m a boy.”
“Okay, wait. Back up. Slow down. I’m…. I can’t…. Just hold on. When I was a kid, we had a term called tomboy. Girls who climb trees and hate dresses and do boy stuff are tomboys. Maybe you’re actually a tomboy?”
“I know what a tomboy is. A tomboy is still a girl. I’m a boy. I’m not a tomboy. I’m transgender.”
<deep, ragged sigh>
<Big, deep, hard hug>
“You’re pretty sure about this, huh? You seem pretty serious. I’m going to have to wrap my poor old brain around this because I don’t understand. Listen, I love you. I’m crazy about you. We will figure this out. We get someone to help us with this.”
What’s church going to do to help us here? Who can help me grasp this? Not my mother. Not my husband. I know precisely one transgender person, whom I’ve never met in real life, who lives far away….
“Oh, I’ve figured it out. I understand……” And then she goes off into detailed explanation of hormones and chromosomes and gender presentation…
What’s happening right now? Am I being punked?
….sexuality vs gender vs genitalia, pronouns, deadnames….
My mind swirled and swirled. I saw spots.
I need a drink.
She opened my laptop and brought up websites with videos; she showed me bible verses and explained the original text in relation to the cultural context; she mentioned a doctor on the other coast who performs “top surgery;” and she explained hormone blockers vs testosterone.
I was nauseated. My face flushed. My chin quivered.
Is this really happening? Where’s Ashton Kutcher right now?
She told me she needed a WPATH certified therapist, because she needed to prove that she’d been in counseling for at least six months before ….something about injections…..binders….non-binary…..
“Okay. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Please. I can’t. I can’t right now.”
I held my head and ran my hands through my hair and rubbed my eyes hard.
“Come here and hug me and stop talking for tonight. I can’t take one more idea in.” Please, make it stop.Stop it. Stop it. This can’t be happening. This isn’t real. This can’t be real. No. No. No. No.
“I’m sorry. It’s just…. I don’t want to hurt myself.”
I pull her back and look her in the face. “What?!? What does that mean?” My eyes filled with tears. So did hers.
“I wanted to wait. The plan was to leave home and go to college, come out, and figure it out from there. But I realized that I couldn’t do that. My choice was either to tell you or die, and then I figured if telling you didn’t go well, I could re-evaluate. And I’m just so relieved…,” and then she sobbed.
And I went directly into what I can only describe as a fog.
“It’s Gabe,” she said softly.
Shit. My breath caught in my lungs.
“Okay, well, I have known for 30 seconds and you have known for years, so you’ll have to give me some time. And now I need to be alone. You go to bed and sleep. Tomorrow, I’ll make some calls and I’ll find you a counselor, and I’ll start researching, and we’ll figure this out. Please just chill with the surgery talk right now. This will take time. I’ll think about how we’ll tell Daddy…”
“You can’t tell Daddy. What if he kicks me out?”
“He’s not going to kick you out. He loves you. But he will struggle with this and he has that important exam this week, so let’s just sit on this for a bit. I cannot make another decision right now. I can’t think.”
“I love you, Mom. Thank you.”
“I love you fiercely. We will figure this out, I promise.”
And she went to bed.
HE went to bed. Shit.
And, just like that, my little Ally was gone.
I dissolved into hopeless tears as I listened to my husband cough relentlessly, fighting a virus while studying for a professional exam. It was the loneliest and the most helpless I have ever felt in my life.
What the ____ just happened?
Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. Our official motto is “We Are Better Together” and our nickname is “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 1,800 members. For more info email email@example.com