When I was still married and raising two boys and one girl, I thought one of my sons was possibly gay. From the moment he could walk, he had on heels and was carrying a ballerina doll. Once when my parents were having some excavating done in their yard, the operator of the excavator let my children climb up and sit in the driver’s seat. He looked at my 4 year old son and said, “What the boy needs to do is put down the doll and pick up a truck.” I wanted to tell him what he needed to do but since my folks needed the yard pieced back together, I refrained. {Another spoiler alert: wearing high heels and carrying a doll does not mean your child is gay.}

We didn’t care if he was gay or straight, just that he was happy. Over the years, we created a safe environment where he could express himself however he wanted. If that meant princess dresses and Barbie houses, that’s what he got. Of course we worried about how the rest of the world treats LGBTQ people but figured if we were affirming, he would grow up knowing he was loved unconditionally.

Approximately 8 years ago, Anderson Cooper had a daytime talk show for a hot minute and was interviewing families with transgender children and I instinctively hit “record”. Later that night, when I took my daughter to basketball practice, my then 11 year old son watched the show and texted me, “Don’t be mad. I think that’s me. I’m sorry.” I sat there in the bleachers equally thrilled to have a name for what he was going through and terrified as to what that meant. “Gay” I know. I have gay friends and family members. But “Transgender”? Nope. I knew nothing. “What does this mean?” “What do we have to do?” “Will he ever feel complete?” So many questions with no real answers.

All I want in life is for my children to be happy and fulfilled. As a “Quick Start” (my Kolbe profile says so), I just wanted to get him there as quickly as possible. But it wasn’t an easy process without massive challenges. Especially in the South, where we live. After a couple of weeks of research, I learned that when parents deny their child’s gender identity, the suicide rate skyrocketed for the child. That was not an option for us so we blazed ahead.

{Me and my girls in Italy!}

Fast forward through a complete wardrobe overhaul, hair extensions, a bajillion doctor appointments and medical interventions ($$$) to today, my daughter is now a thriving 18 year old college student. Senior year of high school she was crowned Homecoming Queen…the first transgender girl to win the title in our state. This is not to say our journey has been without bumps. I fought for her rights and will continue to do so every day I am alive.

We crack a lot of jokes about even the most serious of subjects in our family and one day I made some joke about how her transition had been very difficult for me. She said, “Well without me transitioning, your life would not be as interesting.” And she is so right.

Here are three ways I’ve benefited from my daughter being transgender:

  1. By association, I get to be a part of the LGBTQ community! What an absolutely loving, accepting and wonderful world my daughter’s transition opened for me.
  2. We got to be on a tv show! We met and became friends with the Jennings family from TLC’s “I Am Jazz” and have made appearances on an episode or two for the last several years. Super fun and I adore the Jennings family!
  3. We now have a “chosen family” that spreads throughout the country. At the TransWellness Conference each year, we meet up with friends we never would have met otherwise. The shared experience of having a trans or gender non-conforming child has bonded us all for life.

I went from being a “mom” to a “mom of a transgender child”. A role I never even considered would be part of my future but one that I’m so thankful to have stepped into as my “new normal”. And this opened a new world to me that has fulfilled me in a way that I never expected. For that I am forever grateful.