I’m coming out! I want my kids to know!

Being a parent is not an easy thing. You often have to put your own wants and desires second to the miniature humans that have entered into your life. You sacrifice time, energy and a lot of money making sure that they are fed, clothed, have a roof over their head and get a proper education and make sure that they don’t murder their siblings. It can be enough to make you think at times that no sane person would ever want to have any offspring, and just to be fair, I believe most of us parents sacrifice a degree of our sanity for the sake of our children. Part of a parents job is teaching kids the proper way to go about living once they are not so miniature anymore. This can be even more complicated and confusing for kids when a parent is transgender and in transition during the developmental years of their children’s lives. Many of the stereotypical roles that people have in society can get turned on their heads, for example if Mom is now he or Dad is now she or perhaps even one parent is non-binary and transitioning towards a genderqueer identity it can be a very confusing thing for some children to accept and try to process. I confess I can only really go off of what I have experienced myself with my five children and they are all still very young. My knowledge of how older kids, teens and adult children react is mostly second-hand knowledge from reading and watching videos over the years, which consequentially also added to my anxiety over coming out to my kids.  Do not worry this story does have a happy ending. First of all, I will say that from everything I have read, watched and discussed with other parents the younger the child the better. Little kids adapt easily to changes because their experiences have not thought them to adhere to one idea over another. My children at the time that I came out to them were between the ages of three and five. My daughter, who is also my youngest, was the fastest to begin adjusting to my change. If Daddy says she is a girl then it was true and that just meant that Daddy is a girl. She honestly was a bit of a cheerleader for me early on and also, would get very indignant when my boys would call me he accidentally.

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I’d say the hardest thing for me early on was figuring out what to have the kids refer to me as. I knew Mommy was off limits, partly because of my ex, and partly because I was not the one to bear them, I felt I didn’t have the right to be called Mommy at the time. Obviously, this notion is a bit silly being as how many same gender couples will both go by mommy or daddy, but having been socialized as a man most of my life and probably also fighting off a bit of internalized transphobia, I had them refer to me by my first name. Luckily the kids adapted to this but l felt weird having my kids refer to me by my first name. I would not suggest doing this. It made me feel as though I was losing my position as a parent in my kids life, a feeling exacerbated by the still-pending divorce and frequent separation from my children physically. After a few weeks, I told the kids they could start calling me Daddy again. This was a huge sacrifice in my transition process to go by a name specifically attributed to being a male. I would say that this is one part of my transition process in relation to my kids where I really slipped up. I should have given myself more time to think over how I felt. If I could do it again I would probably go my Mama or something along those lines. Like I said before though my kids are really young still and adapt to the changes a bit better than, say, a teenager.

My experience with teenagers and pre-teens is fairly limited but I do know enough to at least give some info on this topic. Teens by their own nature are rebellious. They have their own opinions on the world even if they have not experienced enough to understand those opinions. I believe this may be why coming out to an adolescent child can be the most challenging. They have already begun to formulate their opinions of the way the world works. Things that are consistent in their lives they think will be that way forever. When that isn’t the case their entire world comes crashing down on them. With teens, I believe that patience as a parent would be doubly vital. The teen will potentially buck, miss-gender you on purpose, not accept it and also focus on all the things that having a transgender parent could mean negatively in their own little bubble. There will potentially be many educational discussions with a lot of questions and a lot of mixed emotions. In the end, whether it is a little kid or an adolescent child
it is important to point out the things about yourself that are the same while reassuring your child that you love them and most importantly letting them know that you are still you.

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Melody Lewis