If one word ever summed up the journey of a transgender human being, fraught has to be it.
With a transgender child of my own, my eyes are opened daily to the challenges, frustrations, impatience, and dreams of one in transition. Toby is weathering his journey with grace, humility, humor, and stoicism. For me, these are great gifts. Not only because I see a building steadiness in him, but because I am living the evidence of what love and support mean in this process.
Frankly, they mean everything.
More than HRT, more than potential surgeries, more than binders, new clothing, haircuts - love and support provide the scaffold upon which to build his life.
Part of being supportive is continually learning. Asking questions, reading, ever widening my own understanding. It is no different than trying to research and absorb as much as possible for my dearest friend who is in a dicey and prolonged recovery following not one, but two brain surgeries currently. Information is power. Power to understand. Power to better provide support. Power to commiserate on a truer level. Power to stand in awe of this person because I better grasp the process, the road, the potholes, the speedbumps.
And the pain.
When I use the word fraught, pain is at the fore. Yes, physical pain is part and parcel of a transition - growing pains from HRT, injection site pain, surgical pain, and the biggest - emotional pain.
Part of my effort to expand what I know, how I grow through our journey is to have joined groups on Facebook geared to transgender people and those who are traveling this road with them. In these groups there is raw, candid sharing of fears, hurts, disappointments. There is also cheering of those who have achieved another milestone on their road - perhaps a legal name change, their first round of HRT, an approval for surgery.
Daily I find myself drawn to these people - I want to celebrate their steps with them, validate their inner truths, but more often I find myself wanting to reach through the internet and simply hold them close.
So many transgender people do not have what Toby has. They do not have support, they do not have continuing love from family. They have lost friends, they cannot find jobs, they cannot afford HRT, let alone surgeries to help them finally align the outside with the inside. Something as simple as a binder is out of reach financially for so many.
A good binder runs about $35. And that is just not feasible for them as they struggle to simply feed themselves.
Not many a day passes without someone openly crying for help as they contemplate suicide, in their minds the better option to feeling trapped, helpless, hopeless. Their dysphoria raging, their aloneness heartbreaking. They hate their appearance, their emotions, their voices.
As a mother it is heartbreaking. Scratch that, as a human being it is heartbreaking. When ensconced within the love and support and humor and progress Toby is receiving and making in our lives, the contrast is stark. With each day he becomes stronger, more confident, more HIM, back to the person he has always been. The person who had begun to disappear from us in the midst of the uncertainty, fear, and upheaval that enveloped him in the early stages when we had no answers, no road map, no plan.
I have watched this transformation as his new name has taken hold and easily comes from our mouths. As male pronouns simply exist now in our conversations, whether he is in the room or not. As HRT is helping to align the person within with the person the world sees. As his voice deepens and he passes regularly.
And then I read cries for help from people who literally wish to slit their throats so they may never utter another sound - their voices not aligned with who they are. I read the pain of people whose families intentionally misgender them, deadname them - intentionally hurt them daily.
I have told Toby so many times that I would love to win the lottery. Years past when I made that wishful declaration I dreamt of a house on the beach, endless travel, indulgence. Now, I simply want to win so we could set up a foundation that funds those in transition. Binders, therapy, clothing, housing, application fees, safety, surgery - all the things that are financially out of reach for so many - finances consigning them to a hell most of us cannot begin to imagine.
But in the absence of 100 million dollars, I will do what I can. I have reached out and bought binders for strangers on Facebook. I have had extended private "talks" with people who are struggling. I try to give as much support as possible, to show them there is still light out there, even when so much seems dark and hopeless.
My child does not want to molest you, demean you, hurt you. Why then are so many intent on hurting him, hurting all transgender people? If you are a parent, your child does not want to disappoint you. Why then do so many parents disappoint their child in their most vulnerable moment? Is it that hard to love? To show compassion? To learn?
What I can tell you is this - and I can never repeat it enough - yes, having a transgender child is big. It is nothing that we saw coming, had a way to prepare for. But it is not cancer, it is not the end of the world. He is still my child. That I have more information about him does not frighten me, I embrace the new information, and I walk proudly at his side. Accepting him, loving him, supporting him is the most natural, pure, human instinct I have.
Anyone who falls outside the societal binary understands that struggle to simply be accepted, viewed as human. Which is why I implore people, even allies, to learn, ask questions, truly see the humanity in other people. Their struggle, their journey may not be yours, but it is human. And as humans, we ALL struggle at some point, and when we do, what we want most, what we NEED most is our fellow human beings stepping towards us, not away.
Your own journey will at some point be described as "fraught." Would that you have shown so much love and support to others that the universe brings it back around to you when you need it.