Our new se­ries on the ways we choose to live to­gether. Plus A let­ter to my trans­gen­der daugh­ter

The Guardian - Weekend - - Front Contents -

I looked at your bed yes­ter­day to see a bra and hor­mone tablets strewn across it. It was a sur­real mo­ment, but one that demon­strates how com­fort­able you are in your new phase of life.

You were my baby boy, my best buddy, my rai­son d’etre, but you went some­where as a teenager, im­mersed in a boxed-up vir­tual world, search­ing for an­swers. You showed me your arms and neck, scratched, from self-harm­ing, but still nei­ther of us knew why the tran­si­tion to adult­hood seemed so painful. I ached as much as you did when you said, “I just don’t know why I feel so sad all the time.”

Then, at 18, and overnight, you be­gan to dress flam­boy­antly and started to play with – and find – your iden­tity. I thought this was won­der­ful and showed much-needed new self- con­fi­dence. When you said you had some­thing to tell me, I didn’t see it com­ing.

You were so cer­tain that you were fe­male, and didn’t ques­tion any­thing. I des­per­ately wanted you to ques­tion, but it was clearly a big enough leap just to tell me, and you were adamant about who you are now. Of course, my first words were to tell you how much I love you, and that I would al­ways sup­port you. That was many months ago and this has been the steep­est learn­ing curve of my life – and, no doubt, the bravest but most ex­hil­a­rat­ing of yours.

At first, it was dark for me: had I done some­thing wrong? Should your dad and I have stayed to­gether? Did I let you live in a vir­tual world for too long? Should I have had other chil­dren, so you weren’t an only child? The guilt weighed so heav­ily. Then I tried to work out how I should deal with it in the best way for you. I read on­line ac­counts by other par­ents, ad­vis­ing not to give chil­dren af­fir­ma­tion. I read ac­counts by teens who seemed dam­aged by such a lack of be­lief.

I also re­alised how usual this is now within your gen­er­a­tion, and wor­ried less about harm that could come to you from your peer group.

Now, at 19, I have to let you take your own path. I look at you and don’t see my boy any more. In­stead, there are con­fi­dently dis­played long legs and a grace­ful body, with such a beau­ti­ful face and glow­ing skin.

You no longer have an ex­pres­sion of teenage sad­ness and angst. Now I catch you when you’re not look­ing and see a con­tented smile. And that is all that mat­ters

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