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’m Vanessa, a 41 year old single mom of one amazing transgender son, age 9.
My Dylan, was assigned female at birth, but it wasn’t long before we noticed a rejection of everything female. Around age 2, he gravitated towards boy toys, clothes, TV shows, willfully demanding to remove his dress or hair bows.
As we followed his lead for the next few years, we assumed this to be a phase, or maybe that “she” was the proverbial tomboy. It was definitely on my radar, the possibility that he was transgender, but something I also pushed away, far out of my mind, denying that a child could know themselves well enough to realize such a thing. I was supportive of the gender fluidity of his person, yet consciously avoided researching if young children needed something more when they presented such an obvious rejection of their assigned gender.
I was scared. I was fully aware of the discrimination and difficult path this would mean for my child. And no parent wants their child’s life to be more difficult than it is a straight, cis-gender (non trans) person. So, denial suited me.
By age 5, he had consistently and persistently imaginary played as the male role, drew himself in art as male, and insisted on boy’s clothing from head to toe.
By 6, he was verbalizing that he “felt like a boy” in his “heart and mind”, even had tried on several boy’s names.
I kept an open dialogue with him, voicing my support if he was ready to make that kind of change, but he would tell me, “No, mama. I’m fine being a girl. It’s ok”.
Until it wasn’t.
By age 8, he was self-harming and isolating himself at school. He was unsure of where he fit in and was carrying around so much shame because of how he was feeling, which ultimately, and quickly, led us to his social transition.
He began using his preferred name and male pronouns at home, then with family and friends, and eventually came out at school.
A new child emerged. One I didn’t know existed. One with confidence, spark, and poise. I didn’t know how much hurt he had until he really lived his whole truth. This transformation can only be described metaphorically as a caterpillar to a beautiful, amazing butterfly. It was the most gorgeous, freeing, experience to watch my child bloom into who he really was.
As a mom, an advocate, an ally, and a recent activist, I’ve learned so much. But above all, I have realized what a true gift it is to parent this child. Yes, every child is a gift, but a raising a transgender child has brought so much clarity to my life. The amount of education that my son has provided me, the bravery he has shown, his self-advocacy and the incredible self worth that has emerged, it has truly changed me as a human. Children are brilliant and they understand so much more about themselves than we do. We simply don’t give them enough credit.
And this journey has taught me about unconditional love- not only the love that I have for him but the love that others have shown us. And it’s all been enlightening and rare and gorgeous.
Having a transgender child would have never made my top 100 list of parenting challenges, had someone asked me before having a child. But I am so glad I was chosen for the task.
It is my honor and my privilege to parent this gorgeous soul.
Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members call themselves “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 2,900 members. For more info email firstname.lastname@example.org