Lost in Translation

Life has been more than a little chaotic for us lately. We have been rushing around, traveling, and doing all these things but life has been emotionally chaotic in our house for a while, too. Some reasons are kind obvious, such as the divorce, and some have not been obvious to anyone because we’ve hidden some things from people.

Yesterday we reached a turning point in our lives, and we can’t really hide certain things about our life anymore. None of us were really ready for this point to come, but it’s here now and I feel the need to explain some things and answer some questions I’ve gotten in the last 24 hours.

In case you didn’t know, yesterday I had to hospitalize Emily for issues related to her depression. She was planning to commit suicide, but thankfully I got to her before she did anything to hurt herself. Currently she is in inpatient treatment at a facility that specializes in helping children and teens with mental health and related issues. We don’t know yet how long she will be there, so I’m not sure when she’ll be getting to come home. But she is getting help for the problems she has, and that’s a good thing.

One of the biggest things that’s been upsetting Emily lately is the divorce. I knew divorcing their dad was going to affect the kids, and I was prepared for the tears and sadness it would bring. however, the other issue that’s been eating away at Emily is something a lot different, and I’m not entirely sure how to say this, so here goes…

Emily is transgender. 

trans·gen·der

transˈjendər,tranzˈjendər
adjective
adjective: transgender; adjective: transgendered
  1. denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.
    “a transgender activist and author”

A while ago, way before we ever left Fort Campbell, Emily told me that she wanted to become a boy. She explained to me how she never felt fully comfortable in her own body, and how she wanted to live as Elliot instead of Emily, and have us call her a “he” instead of a “she” and say “him” instead of “her”.

I have to admit, I was totally shocked. I knew she was bisexual; she had confided that to me when she was just 10 years old. But to hear her tell me that she wanted to actually have surgery and take hormones to become a boy was a shock. I mean… I was totally fine with her dating boys and girls, and even asked her “Why do you want to become a boy? Would you be happy to just live as a butch lesbian?” Even being a bisexual woman, myself, I didn’t understand her reasons for wanting to transition. I thought if she could cut her hair and wear more masculine clothes, she could just be happy with that. I mentioned when she was little, how she would dress up in dresses and makeup and how much she loved anything with sequins. She quietly replied “I did those things because I thought that’s what girls were supposed to do. I didn’t love it, though, not really.” She explained to me how all her life she did things that she was told girls were supposed to do, all the while feeling inside that it was wrong.

Last summer, we had to hospitalize Emily for her depression and self-harm. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, but I knew that keeping her alive was more important than keeping her home. She was cutting, and I later learned that one reason that she cut was because of the pain she felt at having to live as a girl when she felt like a boy inside. So we put her in a facility close to our home, and she spent a week there. It did a world of good for her, and she learned a lot of great coping strategies for her emotions. However, she was still living a lie in her mind.

I started reading. I searched all over the Internet for articles about why people choose to transition, so I could better understand Emily’s feelings. As I read, I was hit hard by one quote from a mom featured in a Buzzfeed article:

“My choice was a live son or a dead daughter.”

That one little quote took my breath away. And last night, as I sat in a room in a nearby ER and watched my daughter sleep in a hospital bed, it kept running through my mind over and over again. I just kept thinking about all the statistics I’ve read about the suicide rates in LGBT youth who don’t have the support the need in their lives, and how I cannot fathom a parent who would rather their child be miserable than alive. I thought about Leelah Alcorn, and how she killed herself over her parents’ refusal to accept her, and knew in my heart I would never be able to live with myself if Emily ever felt one bit like I didn’t love and accept her.

Yesterday, after Emily went to the hospital, I posted on Facebook asking for prayers for our family. The questions began rolling in from those closest to us, and last night after her grandmother accidentally outed her in a group chat message on Facebook messenger, Emily and I felt it was time to tell people. Emily is transgender and is going to start living as Elliot.

To answer some questions/concerns I’ve already gotten:

Do you support Emily transitioning to Elliot?
Yes. Even though I don’t fully understand how it’s all going to work and what we have to do to make it happen, I love my child and I want her to be happy. If being Elliot is what it takes to ensure she lives a happy life, I support that. Like that mother from the Buzzfeed article, I’d much rather have a live son than a dead daughter.

Is she going to have to have surgery?
Yes, eventually, she will have to have some surgeries to change her outside appearance to match how she feels inside. However, that’s a long way down the road. I do think she’s way too young to even consider having any surgeries or anything like that now. She’s not done growing yet, so I don’t know how that would affect her transition. Besides, she’d have to start hormone treatment first.

How does her dad feel about this?
He feels like me… He wants to support her, but he is concerned about starting any kind of hormones or surgical talk right now. Both of us are just kind of lost in translation right now, no pun intended, and we need to educate ourselves and Emily on what needs to happen and when it can happen.

What if it’s just a phase?
Well, that’s another reason why her dad and I are worried about her starting hormones now and why we think she should wait. We know some things are irreversible. But even if we went to a doctor tomorrow to ask to start hormone treatments, there’s a whole long process we’d have to go through in order to be approved for that; she would have to diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and then probably have to undergo counseling first before any doctor would approve hormone treatments or surgeries.

Well the Bible says….
I know what the Bible says about homosexuality and I know a lot of people out there won’t agree with this. My answer to all of those people is to adhere to the old rule of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. I believe in God, and I consider myself a Christian (even if I don’t go to church regularly), but I am also a member of the LGBT community myself and I believe God is love, bar none. If you truly love Emily and/or me, you will only speak up to offer encouragement or support. I’m not asking anyone’s permission and I’m not asking anyone to change their beliefs or views and all I ask is the same in return. We don’t have to agree, but if you care about us at all, you won’t come at us with hate and negativity.

Aren’t you scared for her?
Absolutely. I am absolutely terrified of what could happen to my child as she goes through transition. This world is cruel place, and even before this came up, I worried about what my children would have to face out there in the world without me by their side to be Mama Bear. The reality as a parent is that we can’t fight all our children’s battles for them. All we can do is teach them to be strong and hold their head high when people try to bring them down. I strive to raise my children to be the good they want to see in the world and to treat others as they would want to be treated. Does that mean I don’t still fear for what could happen? Absolutely not. I am terrified that Emily may get bullied and/or physically attacked, and I’m not completely ready to deal with the fallout when people start talking. That’s why I’ve started reaching out to online support groups, websites, and forums to try to find people who’ve been there to lean on or ask for advice when shit hits the fan.

Do the other kids know? How do they feel about it all?
Well, Caitlyn and I had a long talk today and I was honestly floored at how “normal” it seemed to her. I guess kids growing up today have seen enough transgender people, whether it be celebrities or reality TV stars or even YouTubers, that they understand it all a lot better than we would think. She admitted that it’s going to be “weird” getting used to it all, and I know it definitely will be, but I was really proud of how mature she was when we talked about it, and how much she understood. Sawyer is too young to understand, so I really don’t know how to handle it with him. I know it will be difficult getting him to call Emily “Elliot”, though, which will be the biggest challenge with him right now.

There’ve been a lot of other things asked and discussed as well, with the few people who already know, but these are the main things that people seem to be asking. One thing I want to be very clear about is that I know I can’t control how people will treat Emily when she’s out in the world or at school, but as far as when she’s with me, I will not stand for rude or hateful treatment. I will be damned if I allow anyone to purposely mistreat my children, regardless of who they may be. And I understand that a lot of people will need a lot of time to adjust to this. Hell, I know it’s going to take me a long time to get used to calling Elliot by his new name, and saying he instead of she, etc. But I’m willing to try, for his sake. Because I love my child, no matter what.

Tomorrow I will be going to visit Emily  Elliot at the hospital she’s he’s currently staying in. I hope to be able to ease her his mind that when she he comes home, he will still have many people in his life that love him unconditionally. We’ve already had several people voice their support, so I know that will help ease his mind. I know we’ve got a very long road ahead, and I’m not completely ready for this journey, but here we go.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Lost in Translation

  1. Omg Britt, I am in tears. I love how open and honest you’re being about such a difficult situation. You’re level of support is truly amazing and Elliot is blessed to have you all for his family. I have a nephew who is gay and we knew since he was a toddler. He used to wear long tshirts as dresses and put on heels and jewellery at 3.. As a young man he used to do drag in a Queen show, he made a gorgeous woman. I think he was confused about how to be gay, was he supposed to want to be a woman or was he ok being a gay man. He experimented with being bi, but now in his mid 20s, he’s a gay man and completely comfortable with who he is, and we could care less what anyone thinks. I’m praying for your family and especially for Elliot.. These are very difficult times for you all, but there is peace. Once Elliot learns to let go and just let the process happen and know that it takes time, and with all your support, he will get through this. Prayers and Love.

    1. Thank you so much for your sweet words of encouragement, Heather. It means a lot to me to have the support we’ve gotten from so many of our friends. All I’ve ever wanted as a parent was for my children to feel loved, appreciated, and taken care of, so that’s all I’m trying to do. This is going to be hard for all of us, I’m sure, but as long as Elliot has the love and support from friends like you, that’s all we need. ♥

  2. Reading this made me respect you so much as a mother and a person. The support you are giving Elliot is absolutely incredible. I know that all he wants to be understood and have supportive parents who love him and that is exactly what you are doing. He is going to get through this transition and know that he had your support and that will mean the world to him. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Thank you so much, Jen!! I appreciate your words of support more than you know. It’s such an emotional, crazy time for our family but as long as Elliot knows we love and support him, that’s all I want. ♥

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