Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit with a friend of mine whose daughter was wresting with her gender identity and actively looking at living life as though she were a man. The daughter was about to go to college and was beginning to self-identify as a male. The mother was torn as to how best to love and support her daughter but at the same time she didn’t believe that changing gender identity was the right option. She needed someone to talk with about what she should do.
I had the privilege to visit with this mother several times and listen as she shared her heart with me and gave me a glimpse of the journey that she and her daughter have been on together. I shared got the opportunity to share a bit of my own journey with her and I hope encouraged her. I even had the chance to visit with her daughter and to share with her about what I’ve learned regarding transsexuality and gender identity.
What was the most powerful thing to me was to witness from a distance several things that this mother did that I found to be incredible. The example and testimony that she showed were striking to me and different from much of what I had experienced. There are five things in particular that I witnessed from this mom. They are each a credit to her as she strove to love her daughter genuinely where she was at and pointing her to the truth.
1) MOM WAS A SAFE PERSON.
Telling your parents that you struggle with your gender identity can be incredibly scary for just about anyone. There can be a lot of unknowns as to how the parent will respond.
I saw that this mom was someone who the daughter felt very safe to talk to. The mom had worked very hard to take away a lot of the unknowns and to be a person the daughter could trust. The mom didn’t blow up and go on the attack or freak out and make a mess of it. The daughter was open and willing to share with the mom some of the difficult elements of this issue.
While the mom was confused initially as to how to respond and what the next steps should be, she listened. I want to repeat that again…she listened. Internally, there may have been some freaking out. Yet, as far as her daughter was concerned, there were always two ears to hear and two arm to love. The daughter felt that she could share with her mom on this incredibly personal issue knowing that she would be heard and loved.
I thought that it was so amazing that the daughter knew that she could share with her mom on this issue and speak honestly with her. That showed some beautiful soil that had been developed already. This girl knew her mom loved her. While I’m sure there was nervousness, that didn’t scare her away from her mom because she knew her mom was someone who cared about her and she could trust. Trust is a BIG DEAL!
2) MOM KEPT THE CONVERSATION GOING
The temptation for the mom in this situation is to freak out and then never talk about it again. Because of fear or discomfort, she didn’t just shut down and pretend that this will eventually go away. This issue can be incredibly difficult and uncomfortable for both the parent and the child. But it is dangerous to just assume that this issue will deal with itself and vanish over time.
One theory that parents can have is that “If we never talk about this again…maybe it will just go away.” I have heard it said several times that if you don’t feed the problem, it will starve and die. While that may be wishful (aka: lazy) thinking, that’s not been the reality that I’ve seen and lived. Far too many times, it doesn’t just go away. If a thought process and habit isn’t dealt with, it doesn’t die. It festers and grows to the point that it rots and destroys.
If the parent, though awkward and uncomfortable, isn’t willing to bring it up any more and explore this with the child, the child will continue to feed the issue and look for help elsewhere. The parent then appears to care little for this child and comes across as too scared by this difficult issue that is becoming central to the child. The child is then left to feel even more isolated as they grope for help alone.
This mom didn’t do that!
She didn’t let rot and decay happen on her watch. She kept the conversation going. The mom was honest with her daughter and there were times that she would let her daughter know that she needed time to think and process some things. But this mom always came back and initiated the conversation again.
There were several times that this friend would share with me about the conversations that she had with her daughter about gender. This issue was one that they could talk about freely and with openness. The daughter could be vulnerable and the mom would not betray her.
3) MOM LEARNED ABOUT THE ISSUE
Another thing that I greatly admired about this mom was that she learned about this issue of transgenderism and dug deeper into why her daughter is struggling with this. She didn’t seek to address this issue out of ignorance and fear. She didn’t get disgusted by it and deal with it from a place of anger or prejudice. She explored it on her own and with her daughter.
She also saw this as a symptom of a deeper issue. She talked with me several times about the struggles and difficulties that her daughter experienced growing up and how that may have played a role in her identity confusion and this need for an escape. This didn’t discount the struggle but provided more context to help her daughter. This mom saw gender identity and her daughter’s struggle as a real issue that has a real root and has real options for healing and restoration. The more she learned the more she was able to help.
The mom also learned to know where she stood on this issue. She didn’t continue in ignorance but she sought truth and communicated that lovingly to her daughter.
4) SHE DIDN’T CARRY THE BURDEN ALONE
A big thing for this mother was that she sought support from others who could be her friend and walk with her through this journey. While a person’s gender identity confusion is an incredibly difficult thing for a person to deal with, it is also incredibly hard for the parent or spouse. Each person needs a positive support base around them that will love them and point them to truth. This mother actively sought this out. She brought trusted individuals into her story, shared with them, and sought their input.
She also recognized her own needs. She attended groups like Celebrate Recovery and admitted her own shortcomings and weaknesses. She was seeking healing and restoration in her own life and the things that were contributing. It was a beautiful balance of investing in her daughter and investing in her own healing for baggage and a need for personal restoration. She had a community around her holding her up on several fronts.
5) SHE PUT UP BOUNDARIES AND KNEW WHERE SHE STOOD
Lastly, as this mother invested in and loved her daughter well, learned more of this issue, developed a support system for herself, she established her own footing on the issue of transgenderism. She loved her daughter deeply but she also knew where she stood on the issue and what restoration and wholeness looked like.
Through their conversations together, the daughter sought encouragement and acceptance as a male. This was an area that presented an understandable need for clarity and wisdom. The mom had shown her love over and over and proven that she supported her daughter but that there was truth that she had to remain in. The truth did not allow for certain un-truths to remain and she lovingly set boundaries up that would not be breached.
I remember the mom sharing with me that daughter told her one time, “Mom, I know that you don’t agree with me but I know that you love me.” Just that statement showed a beautiful balance. The mom held to truth and pointed her daughter to that truth, but it was done in a way that the daughter knew she was loved, cared for, and never alone. That kept so many doors open and that went a long way!
WAY TO GO, MOM!