Yes, My Child 'Transitioned' -- But I'm the One Who Changed

Adrienne Anzelmo

transgender daughter
Adrienne Anzelmo

Raising my transgender daughter has not been easy. It has required me to stretch myself in ways I did not know were possible. It has forced me to find strength I did not know I had. It has brought a sense of depth to my soul and made me see the world and my life in a new way. My daughter taught me things I would likely have never learned without her.

  • When a child “transitions” it is a transition for the entire family. 

    transgender daughter
    Adrienne Anzelmo

    My son, two years older than her, had to navigate the social terrain of school. All of his friends were constantly asking questions. Some kids were sharing their parents’ views and opinions on the topic of transgender youth. While some were just inquisitive kids asking out of curiosity and for clarification. He had to process the emotional transition at home, losing a brother and learning how to navigate, love, and respect a sister. 

    My husband and I had to work hard to not allow our emotions to take a seat between us. To not take our frustration and confusion and lack of understanding out on one another. We had to consciously remind ourselves we are on the same team with the same goal, for our child to be happy and well adjusted. We had to validate each other’s feelings even if we didn’t always feel the same. And through it all, continue to put our family first during this process.

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  • We lived in this gender gray area for many months, wedged between what my daughter was declaring as the truth & the gender she was assigned at birth.

    It was a constant game of mental ping pong. I saw how making her appear as a boy was hurting her. The older she got, the angrier and sadder she was. When my husband and I finally did decide to allow her to live her truth I felt more alone than I ever have in my entire life. 

    I laid awake many nights googling things a million different ways. I cried and prayed and wondered if I was doing the right thing. I knew my decision was going put me in the line of judgment by people. Some I would expect it from and some I would not. I knew I would need to drown out a lot of white noise and criticism by those who would not take the time to educate themselves. That I would be accused of being a progressive liberal that was brain washing my child. I knew I would be accused of not being a strict enough parent. That people would use the fact that I didn’t give birth to a female against me and accuse me of taking advantage of the situation to get a chance at raising a daughter. 

    I knew people that did not see the anguish in the daily living before her transition would say I was harming her. I knew that I had to choose my child’s well-being over the opinions and judgments of others, but it was hard. I consider myself a strong person with a loud voice but some days this was extremely difficult. It was a lot to carry.

  • It has been a year and a half since my son fully transitioned to my daughter. I am still doing a good deal of emotional work daily. 

    Working hard to understand and support her. To be the advocate that allows her to live as her true self. To be her strength when she has none and provide a safe place where she will always be loved and accepted with open arms.

    I am also still grieving my son. Letting go of the dreams I had for my boy. Letting go of the name I so carefully selected for him. Letting go of all the ways I expected life would be with him. Packing away pictures that hold such special memories for me but that cause so much pain for my child.
  • I still worry about her future. Sleepovers she has not been asked on yet. Gender-specific sports teams that she has yet to play for. 

    Proms and dating and all the things that will be difficult territory for her. I worry about her future body dysphoria and puberty and the world that can be so cruel. I worry about the use of restrooms in school when she enters the upper grades. I worry about what her life will be like as a teenager. I pray for social acceptance as she gets older. That she finds a place among friends where she is accepted and loved and celebrated for exactly who she is. I am so tired of worrying all the time and I realize the worry has just begun...

    I am different now. Since my daughters transition, my overall social anxiety has increased. Stumbling often when we see friends who ask how “the boys” are doing. I am constantly nervous that someone is going to approach me or one of my children in public with questions or hateful opinions. I have become a more thoughtful person, every step of the way I am carefully evaluating all of my decisions, I am also a more aware individual. I work harder to empathize with people and the journeys they may be on. I now try to lead with compassion for others rather than judgment of them.
  • In the past year and a half I have re-learned unconditional love in its most primal form. 

    transgender daughter
    Adrienne Anzelmo

    I have developed perseverance and learned to trust my intuition. I have been taught to live in a new way because of my daughter. My daughter has transformed me. Her outlook and views and life changed me. I am better because of her. My child is transgender. But in all this time, she is not the one who changed, I am.

    This story was written by Adrienne Anzelmo of Massachusetts and was republished with permission. Her book about her family’s journey is called No Matter What. A version of this story first appeared on Love What Matters

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