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.
Allow me to introduce our family. My name is Dawn and I am 46 years old. My husband, Elias, is 43. Our children (ages as of 2017) are Tobias (10), Eliana (8), Isaiah (6), and Buddy (4).
Elias and I wished for healthy babies, gender did not matter, yet when our first born was assigned male, my husband sat up a little straighter with his chest puffed out a little more, as we grinned at the sonogram screen. Tobias was perfect, inquisitive, active, empathic, and once his sister was born, bothersome as he raided her closet. My darling Elly, often lamented that Tobias was wearing her dresses, fancy hats, long gloves, and jewelry. My husband and I grinned at each other. We did not mind this as much as Eliana did, and we encouraged Tobias to be himself without limits.
Eventually I asked Tobias if he wanted a dress of his own. He did not. He was happy to raid his sister’s closet. At age 8 he went to a birthday party of his sister’s friend. The entire family attended, and I arrived late. I searched for Tobias and could not find him; my husband lovingly laughed at my confusion as he pointed out our boy. It still took me a while to spot him. Tobias had on a feminine wig, frilly shirt, leggings, a full face of make-up, and was swishing around the house in such a feminine manner that I had mistaken him for one of the girls! He was having the time of his life, and was the hit of the party with all the other attendees. His joy filled my heart.
I wondered if Tobias might be transgender, so I researched. I watched too many documentaries, read too many articles and books, and watched too many transgender You-Tubers. I told my husband that we would be excellent parents of a transgender child. These words would return to me years later. I also learned a lot about the sexuality spectrum that I did not know. Something new I learned is that not all drag queens are gay. One day I cuddled with Tobias on the couch and talked with him about Pride Parades, since it was that time of year, and although we had not attended any, I wondered if kids at school would talk about them. I described the people we may see in a parade, and when I described drag queens, Tobias absolutely lit up and said, “Oh, like me!” I was a bit shocked, although I don’t know why. I explained that these men are not trying to look like women; their goal is to show off femininity in a spectacular way. My boy smiled up at me with jubilance and a look of inner knowing.
I asked Tobias if he wanted to be a girl. He told me no, he is 100% boy and he really likes girl things. He described himself to me as a tom-girl. I admire that description. He grew his hair long for 2 years with the intention of donating it, which he did. Towards the end he was often mistaken for a girl, and said he didn’t mind this at all. Some mornings he uses a bit of my makeup as he gets ready for school (5th grade). As I am writing this very paragraph, he just walked up and asked if I could buy him earrings. We recently discovered that the last weekend of every month, a drag show in the cities puts on a family friendly event. We plan to attend the next one scheduled. His father and I have never felt nervous, confused or scared about Tobias expressing his tom-girl self. This is not true of the way we felt with the youngest of our family. The youngest was born, and Tobias immediately called the new baby his book end! It turns out he was quite insightful.
We named our child Lucia Genevieve, she was born into the world with lots of thick hair, and we let it grow long and curly. She was darling and grumpy. She would not tolerate wearing her long hair up, even on the hottest of days. She hated any sort of up-do. At age two she raided Isaiah’s toy chest to get at cars, action figures, and to play super hero. January of 2017, she was three years old and informed me that she was a boy. She repeated this 6-8 times a day, every day (no exaggeration), week after week, and month after month, consistently in a matter of fact fashion. She never cried or got angry. She was a boy and that was a fact, just letting us know, again and again and again.
As I noted her consistency, persistency and insistency, I sobbed weekly. I wasn’t upset that she may be transgender. I was upset because I was all Mama Bear in my head, making up stories of my fists forward, fighting fundamentalist family, school bathroom rules, doctors, insurance companies, and protecting my child from bullies and discrimination. I quickly dove back into research and shared with friends that I thought my girl may be a transgender boy. These friends were kind, yet none of them knew anything about the gender spectrum. I shared with my husband, Elias. He literally informed me that he was diving into denial, and did not wish me to share anything I was learning with him. I felt very lonely.
Early March I was introduced to a married, transgender man. He encouraged me not to label my kid as transgender, and instead focus on looking deeply into my child’s eyes, and clearly seeing my child rather than a description of my child, and fiercely loving my kid in the present moment. His advice was a game changer and dissolved my anxieties. I stopped looking at my kid as a walking problem to solve, and I got back to observing my youngest as one of the great loves of my life. March was the first time I dared to call Lucia, my boy. I remember being slightly surprised when the earth did not explode. What happened instead was that my darling, beamed at me and melted in my arms in a silly pool of pure happiness. The number of times, daily, I was informed she was a boy, dropped dramatically after that. Mama finally got it!
April came and the reverend who married me, posted an article on Facebook (FB) about a 3 year old child, assigned male at birth, who transitioned to being a girl at age 4. The author mentioned a secret support group on FB of Christian mothers of LGBTQIA+ children, and I got a hunting until I found it, and then discovered there were multiple groups! I finally found people I could talk to, and this was the greatest gift! Around that time my husband slowly began calling our kiddo a boy, having listened to me do it here and there. I quietly smiled all over our house!
The month of May arrived and 3 year old Lucia announced to the family we were to call her Buddy from now on, and that we were to drop all female pronouns and use male pronouns only. A three year old who knew the significance of pronouns, impressed me! Getting our brains to switch names and pronouns was very difficult, and I got set right away teaching Buddy the skill of offering others patience, forgiveness, and understanding. His three older siblings all had different processes towards becoming affirming. It took lots of time for everybody. The month of May also brought Buddy his first package of requested, Lightning McQueen, male underwear. He was thrilled! I felt stretched giving it to him, yet having read an article about another mother facing this same challenge, helped me greatly. June brought him male swim wear, and buying clothing from the boys section. He wore his new swim shirt and trunks every day for a week, even to church!
July had me contacting the school to enroll him in pre-K as a boy, and to my relief he finally requested a very short hair cut. I shared the news of our new son with some extended family I thought would be affirming, and they were. This was the second greatest gift I received. My heart swelled as they championed him. The third best gift was Elias. Cuddling with Buddy one day, he looked me in the eye and told me that Buddy was a perfect son, and that our parental arms and laps would forever be open to him. I cried tears of love, and then had to get jokingly mad at Elias. Are you kidding me? I spent a great amount of time researching and networking and sobbing to finally move from accepting to affirming, while my darling husband transitioned from denial to affirming with a snap of the fingers. It just wasn’t fair!
Elias and I attended two sessions with a gender counselor to make sure we were parenting correctly. The counselor told us that the best way to parent was to muddle through, and we were doing this perfectly well. I loved the description of muddling through. It made me laugh and feel more confident. Our counselor, our clergy, friends, school educators, and our medical teams all supported Buddy in being himself. There is some family on both my and Elias’ sides that are opposed to Buddy’s transition, and do not believe in the reality of a gender and sexuality spectrum. This, in an odd way, is a gift too because it began my heart searching for a way to love them as they are, rather than build up barriers against them. If love is love is love is love, as my t-shirt says, I want love to win in every direction.
Buddy came home from preschool one day in August, and told me he has a best friend named Axel whom he is going to marry. Our darling boy is gay. Buddy told me theirs was to be a prince and prince wedding with absolutely no princesses! I told him I look forward to the day I can walk him down the aisle. Buddy turned 4 years old this past September, and getting ready to blow out all of his birthday candles, he enthusiastically shouted, “Now I am a real, true boy and will be forever!” Big brother Tobias was the first to respond with, “Hooray!”
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 2,400 members. For more info email firstname.lastname@example.org