My three teenagers can variously be found watching Netflix, pretending to study, disputing when the cat was last fed and never voluntarily putting dirty clothes in the washing basket.
They’re my pride and joy, and they make my heart sing.
But when my youngest was on the brink of puberty he started to become incredibly sad, distressingly often. He went from being a sunny child, generous and full of mischief, to bursting into tears, slamming doors and refusing to answer if ever I asked what was wrong.
I Googled depression in children and worried that there were issues at school, but nothing I read matched up with what we were experiencing.
After months of this, through sobs, one day he explained – ‘you all think I’m a girl, but actually I’m a boy’.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I could have comprehended him being gay in an instant – I would have known what that meant and how to make it easier for him.
But trans? Fully understanding that this meant he’s a gender other than the one that matches his body took a bit of work to understand.
He had a female biology and so we’d spoken of him as a girl – a daughter, a little sister, a niece – but we were wrong. He was, always has been and is now, a boy.
I say this with strident unapologetic confidence now.
It took me longer than it should have done to do so – and to my lovely boy, for that ill-considered delay, I am so sorry.
It took me time to understand that it was not just a phase and to overcome my fears that he’d be bullied if he told everyone at school.
But, with his help, and with guidance from teachers who have supported another older trans child in his school, we got there.
My boy, happily, now lives his truth.
I always thought of myself as having a progressive outlook on life; I believe gay marriage is right, the gender pay gap is wrong and sex education (including classes about LGBTQI+ issues) is essential in all schools.
But I knew very little about transgender identity before it crossed our path and started living in our house.
Since then, it has been a privilege to get to know trans adults and children, to learn from them and to rectify my ignorance.
Crucially, I have come to understand that trans people do not choose to be trans any more than gay people choose to be gay or left-handed people choose to be left-handed.
You can fight it, try to ignore it or give in to your parents’ pleas that you wait a bit longer before you tell anyone – because ‘you might grow out of it’ – but you will still be trans.
My boy, happily, now lives his truth.
His friends don’t bat an eyelid, he wears the boys’ uniform to school, is referred to as ‘he’ and plays in a boys rugby team.
When his club announced to his old (girls) team that England Rugby had given him official approval to play with the boys – something they all knew meant the world to him – they cheered him on.
He also goes to a trans youth club, has inspiring trans role models in his life and is looking forward to the launch of London’s LGBTQ+ community centre so that there will be another place he can go and be sure of a warm welcome.
Most importantly, he is content.
My son is 13 years old now and ambitious for the future – he hopes to be an actor, doctor or barrister – or maybe all three. I’ll be proud of him whatever path he chooses to take, because I know he will stay true to himself.
I asked him what advice he’d have for his younger self and he said to ‘come out sooner’.
The relief at being able to live as his true self has been literally life-changing for him and for our family. Our house is a happier place because everyone in it can be themselves.
It hasn’t been plain sailing every day of course – some people are inexplicably hateful to trans people, but the vast majority have kind instincts, and that goes a very long way.
So, to my fellow humans who have been good to my boy and his family: thank you – our journey so far has shown us that you, the good guys, are the majority in this great city.
Please, let’s keep it that way.
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