Dear Mom: You’ve often joked that kids don’t come with instruction manuals…
It sure would’ve been nice if they did, though, because nothing really prepared you for having a transgender kid. Let’s face it: nothing about the suburbs of Michigan screams “pride parade.”
So it doesn’t surprise me that when I came out as transgender three years ago, you were overwhelmed.
You told me you’d always wanted a daughter — that you’d imagined the sweet sixteen, the wedding dress, and even being there for me through a pregnancy. You had to grieve the future you’d imagined for me when I was born and all the experiences you pictured us sharing along the way.
Life didn’t just throw you a curveball when I came out — it threw you several. You learned that you had a gay, transgender son… and he’d just run off to San Francisco to be a writer.
But despite all that, your response to my coming out actually blew me away.
You started by reminding me of something that had happened a few years before.
You asked if I remembered that time I had to get your car towed.
How could I forget? I was backing out of a parking spot, and didn’t realize until it was too late that I’d driven right into a median, impressively burying the tires deep into the wood chips. The more I hit the gas pedal, the deeper I got stuck.
I called you, panicked. Grandpa drove you to meet me, and I’ll never forget your horrified expression when you saw that tiny blue car, tires buried in the dirt. I’d somehow managed to find the only landscaped median in the entire parking lot. It wasn’t my finest moment.
The car was a little scratched up, but all in all, it survived my disastrous driving. We drove home separately, though, because you needed time to cool off. I was sure you’d be angry at me forever.
But you weren’t. Like always, you came around.
As we recalled that day’s events, you said “Do you know why I came around?”
“Because you love me,” I replied.
“That’s right,” you said. And in that moment, I understood why you brought up my terrible parking job, of all things, when I came out as transgender. Because even if in that immediate moment, when you were overwhelmed and confused, you still loved me.
Looking back, I understand now that there wasn’t anything I could do to make you love me any less.
Like you’d told me many times before, while the initial shock of something might throw you, there wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle. All you needed was time.
“Though I really wish you’d stop raising my blood pressure,” I remember you joking. Apparently I’m responsible for a good portion of your grey hairs, and I’ll give you that — I can be a handful.
I’ll be honest, I never really expected that you’d stand by me when I began my gender transition. But I’ve been grateful every day since then that you have.
Just a couple months after coming out, you and Dad sent me a birthday card in the mail. As I tore open the envelope, there peaking out was a card with a big rainbow on it. “100% chance of happy,” it read. And there was a little cloud on it raining glittery raindrops.
I was in tears. It was the first card I’d ever gotten that didn’t call me your daughter. And it meant the world to me that on the day I was born, you chose to celebrate me exactly as I was, rainbows and all.
I still have the card saved to this day.
You never tried to change who I was — because you knew that what made me unique was also precious.
And whenever I told you that I felt like the ‘black sheep’ in our family, you’d lovingly remind me that I was still your “special child.”
You were there to help me shop for men’s attire for my brother’s wedding, you listened to me as I excitedly blabbed on and on about all the ways I was starting to look like Dad, and I could always count on you to tell me if my haircut wasn’t flattering.
What I expected least of all, though, was that you and I would be able to laugh along the way about all this, too.
When my facial hair started growing in, you didn’t skip a beat when you said to me, “Sam, you need to start manscaping.” I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped when you said that to me.
I’ll never forget when I told you about my surgery, too, and you jokingly asked if the plastic surgeon had a “two-for-one special,” because you had some work you wanted to get done, too.
So many of the transgender people that I know have been disowned by their families. Instead, I have the opposite problem — I can’t seem to get rid of you (not that I’d ever want to, of course). I feel lucky to be loved and accepted exactly as I am. It is what every kid deserves, but too few LGBT people actually get.
I know you wish you could do this whole “ally” thing perfectly. But what I want you to know is that trying your best is perfectly enough for me.
The truth is, I never wanted you to be a transgender expert or to lead a pride parade (you can leave that to me — I’ve got us covered!). I just wanted you to be there for me.
I can’t thank you enough for doing just that, even when you had your own grief to process. It takes a remarkable kind of mother to not just talk about unconditional love, but to actually love without conditions.
For someone without an instruction manual, Mom, I’d say you’re doing a pretty amazing job.
Love, your “special child,”