TransParent: Harder than we thought
Please be aware that this blog contains mature content regarding adolescent mental health.
Chapter 2 – Harder than we thought
“She/Her/Hers. He/Him/His. They/Them/Theirs.” Getting used to new pronouns is more difficult than you would think! Learning to use the new name was easy peasy, but we and many of our village struggled to remember to call Keegan HIM. But he was so great and understanding about it, saying, “I don’t care if people make mistakes. It just matters that they TRY.” This child squeezes my heart!
So other than this small blip, from the story in the first chapter, you would think that everything was smooth sailing and we all sailed away into the sunset, a happy little family.
Not so much.
Coming out relieved some of Keegan’s anxieties, but far from all of them. And now he had new concerns to worry about: which washroom should he use at school? Will his teachers use his affirmed name? And if not, should he correct them? This made his attendance at school extremely difficult. And while the school was super-supportive, none of the options they gave him for when felt himself going sideways were being used. Instead, he would run away. Literally. And then get on a bus to come home. For a child with severe anxiety, he sure can use public transit without issue!
Shortly after we had him returning to school post-admission, the pandemic hit and we were spared the stress of trying to keep him in classes. One of the very few positive aspects of Covid-19! Now he could just work on himself and try to finish school online. Okay…
While all this was happening, outwardly, Keegan’s parents seemed just fine. Inwardly, we were a hot mess. Although the change of gender wasn’t an issue for us, letting go of the little girl we had for nearly 16 years was. How do we take down all the photographs of her from our walls? Off our fridge? Out of our photo albums? We wanted to 100% respect Keegan’s affirmation but were struggling to say goodbye to Baby Girl Hodson. It was like we were trying to grieve for a child who was gone but still here at the same time. We both still have moments of grief for the daughter whom we had had so many dreams for: her high school and university graduations, walking her down the aisle, our first grandchild…everything that every parent dreams about for their daughter. And before you say that we can still have all that…yes, we can. But it’s different. Baby Girl was excited about post-secondary schooling. Keegan is not. Baby Girl would have worn a wedding gown of some sort that I would likely have helped to pick out if she got married. Keegan won’t. Baby Girl talked about having children (when she was young.) Keegan has no intention of giving birth (of course…boys don’t do that) so we will not have biological grandchildren. All of this was and still is, hard to let go of.
The hardest thing for me in all of this was learning what the Trans community calls the birth name. You’d think they would just call it that…the birth name. But no. So the first time I heard my son refer to his old name as his “dead name,” I was devastated. The name was my grandmother’s…and out of her 18 grandchildren, I was the ONLY one who gave her a namesake. The name was one that I had always loved and dreamed about giving to a daughter if I ever had one. Hearing it called the dead name broke my heart. And while I understand that the name can be extremely painful for the Trans kiddos, they obviously don’t realize that could be a painful term for the parents. And I also realize that many, if not most, parents of Trans children are not supportive of their child’s change, making the child not care how the parents felt about the term. I get it all. But it still hurts my heart every time I hear it. As a family, we talked about this and asked Keegan to call it something else, around us at least. That apparently was an easy ask. He had never actually thought about how we would feel about it and once he did, the change in vocabulary was made.
John and I talk nearly every day about some aspect of Keegan’s gender change — about how to get the process moving (which is really slow with Covid,) about how we are feeling, about how to manage our feelings outwardly, what we can and cannot say to Keegan etc. We often lay in bed (our only truly private place) and talk, and cry, and laugh, and cry some more. I know I spent more than one night sobbing in my husband’s arms, begging for him or someone to make this all go away. But I always feel better after the tears are done. They sure can be emotionally cleansing.
Because neither of us are psychologists, John and I both saw/spoke with therapists to help us through this. And I finally learned something. I thought I NEEDED to grieve for Baby Girl in order to move on. I thought I NEEDED to let go of her completely in order to fully accept Keegan. I was wrong. What I really need to do is find a way to celebrate and commemorate her without negating Keegan. And my therapist gave me a suggestion that is going to happen as soon as it can: John and I are getting matching tattoos! Anyone who knows Keegan’s birth name will understand the symbolism. It will be a magpie holding a ribbon with the name KEEGAN on it. This was approved by Keegan. He asked that we not have the old name emblazoned on our bodies where he will have to see it every day, but didn’t mind the idea of the magpie. And just knowing we have a plan to celebrate and commemorate our little girl eases my heart immensely.
So, go away Covid-19. We want to go get our ink on!!
Written by Kelley Hodson