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