Friday, June 7, 2019

I Guess You Could Say I Crawled Out

Is there a "coming out" for parents of LGBTQ+ children? I certainly believe so.

As a mother to a lesbian daughter and a transgender son, I thought I'd write a "coming out" post for Pride Month. I read Chris' "coming out" post on his blog today and realized how differently we remember some of his and his twin sister's (Courtney) history where I am concerned.

Most of how Chris recalls the events of his coming(s) out are as I similarly recall them, while his perception may be and logically is sometimes different than my own perception. Maybe my recollection is distorted some, because I have come so very far from those days of their teens and early college years, their years in New York, when they first came out as lesbians, and then, later, Chris came out as transgender. I haven't forgotten the way I felt or even reacted, I haven't forgotten the months I struggled to come to terms, I haven't forgotten how difficult some of it seemed at the time. I haven't forgotten the sadness I inflicted on myself, but I have forgotten the pain.  And there was pain.

You can't be a mother and not make a thousand mistakes with regard to your children. You can not be a mother and not have thousands of regrets. I watched my youngest daughter graduate from high school last night and as she walked the stage, graduating Cum Laude and achieving so very much academically and personally, my thoughts were, "I should have pushed her harder. All of this she has mostly done on her own. What would she have achieved if I had pushed her harder?" Ironically, she sat in my room with me today and made this same point ... "I wish you had pushed me harder," she said out of the blue. I regret that I did not. I told her that I felt we had pushed her siblings too hard and, therefore, subconsciously, I think that is why we didn't push her. I told her it was also probably because she is our fourth child and we have become lazy, to some degree. I told her that I thought this same thing when I watched her walk the stage and that if I had to do it over again, I would have pushed her harder, because she did not feel the need to strive toward some defined level of "expectations" her father and I should have clearly defined for her - to not just succeed, but demand excellence by meeting her fullest potential. If we had pushed her, if she had felt "expectations" beyond "incredible", likely she would have exceeded her own expectations, as well as any more we might have set for her. I believe she has done wonderfully without extraordinary help from her parents, and for that she should be so proud and we are very proud of her.

When Chloe told me she was a lesbian at age 18. Chris' recollection is that I cried, and I remember crying. I remember we were talking on the deck outside of my bedroom. I remember saying things about my beliefs at the time with regard to God. I remember not really being all that surprised, as I had always suspected she was gay, but he says it took me a while to adjust, that I said hurtful things, that I was resistant to telling people. I don't recall, honestly, some of this, but I don't deny it. I wanted to control my children's lives, as most parents do, until they realize that is impossible and unfair, until their children no longer allow it. I had no one, no friends that had daughters who were lesbian or sons who were gay. I had no family that were gay. I had no experience with how to deal with having a gay child. And then, a few weeks later when Courtney came out as lesbian, too, I guess that made things easier, and harder, in some ways. I had no experience with how to know how to be the mother to twins who were gay. It's easy to say, "I did the best I knew how to do." Sometimes that is just true.

We were in Vegas for Courtney and Chris' 21st Birthday when Chris first said to me he was having thoughts of transitioning. I don't know if he remembers me saying it or not, but after a brief discussion in our hotel room about this, I said to him, "No matter what, I will always love you." He says we didn't discuss this anymore for a couple of years, and that's true, but when he was in New York living, and going through a lot of stuff, I talked often to Courtney, as she was the closest to him and would tell me how he was doing, where he was at with thoughts of transitioning. He says that I suggested he should begin therapy before making any decisions, that I would "support a move toward physical transition" if he went to therapy. I remember him calling me and telling me he thought therapy would help and I offered to help find a therapist. I spent days on the internet researching therapists in New York City, compiled a list, made calls and gave him options that he eventually visited, interviewed and ultimately chose one he was comfortable with. In my search for a therapist, I specifically tried to find one that had experience with LGBTQ+. I had only hopes that any therapist Chris chose would help him with any issues he was experiencing - NOT a therapist that would or could in any way "change his mind". I was never involved in his therapy past the point of helping him find a therapist he could talk to about whatever he wanted - and from what he told me at the time, he did go to her for several months and he always indicated she was very helpful. I often wondered how much I, his mother, came up in his discussions with her - maybe never. Maybe a lot. I specifically remember, during this time, being worried, but not so much worried that Chris would transition, as much as I was simply worried if he was happy.

It would be by way of a letter at Christmas time that same year (2014), that Chris wrote to me and his father that he was transgender, would soon begin testosterone and requested that we begin calling him by Chris (not Chloe) and use male pronouns.

Maybe it was because he wrote a letter, left it behind (on my desk) after his Christmas visit (he flew back to NY), maybe it's because I had ALL the information in writing, words I could read over and over again, maybe that is why I did not respond quickly. I don't remember how long it was, exactly, before I responded, but it was a while. I know why he wrote a letter, as opposed to talking -- it was because it was Christmas, and even Courtney had suggested not saying anything, but maybe just write a letter and leave it. I think Chris was afraid, too. I think I must have made Chris afraid to just talk to me - to our family. But ... I've often thought that if we had talked, things for me might have been different. Because I didn't see his face, his eyes, or hear the words from his mouth and his heart, I only had the words on a page and a child that got on a plane, left and lived so far away, to tell me how his life was about to change. It took me nearly 8 months to crawl out from beneath all those words to accept that he was making the only choice he could make for his life (read my blog posts on this blog from the beginning to get an idea of where I was emotionally). It took me so many months to lay down my life for his. It would take many more months, years to reach the days I'm at now where all the reservations and fears I had in the beginning have faded and been replaced with peaceful thoughts and happiness for Chris.

As for Courtney being a lesbian, well, that was really the least of my worries after finding out (first) that Chloe was a lesbian and then Chris came out as transgender. Courtney's lucky, I guess, as she was sort of able to just be. When they were both "just" lesbians and both dating girls, I believe I adjusted quickly and accepted their girlfriends into our family and into our lives. I have done that with all of their relationships, and have immensely enjoyed including and getting to know their partners. When Chris began transitioning, it was Courtney (and Caitlyn Jenner, honestly) that pushed me to move on, get on board with Chris and his life, or I was going to lose him, and Courtney, as well. It was not the true fear or threat of losing both of them that finally pushed me to become more supportive and less resistant, while that was certainly a driving factor (thanks to many forceful discussions with Courtney). It was also an interview I saw Caitlyn Jenner give, wherein she said something about how she had lived her whole life hiding Caitlyn away and she finally reached the point where it was time to free her. I began to see Chloe and Chris exactly that way. I began to see Chloe as the person that brought Chris through so much, toward the person he was meant to be and it was her presence in my life, her memories and her strength that helped me, also, to set Chris free.

I regret anything I did that ever harmed Chris or Courtney (or any of my children). Honestly, I do. There are many things in your life you look back on and think you would do over if you had the chance, and I have many things. It's hard to know what one discussion or what one day you might have done or said something that negatively impacted someone else's life in a way you never were aware. I think my children have always depended on me for guidance and support and I have not always been there as I should have been and maybe done or said things that hurt them to the core. I need them all to know that if I could take those words, days, harmful moments away, I would in a second, as it was never my intention.

This blog was started as a way to sort of document my journey with Chris, his journey transitioning, some of my journey as a mother of a transgender child. There's been times over the years when Chris and my other children have felt I wasn't there for them, and it is true, unfortunately. However, every word, all the thousands of words I have written on this blog are primarily for Chris, about him, about me and him. I have lived 58 years with only a few love letters given to me, only a few notes written to me by my parents. I suggest and know that the posts I have written here on this blog are so many love letters to Chloe, so many love letters to Chris. Few children will know so many words written for and about them. My other 3 children have some love letters I wrote for and about them on another blog I used to have for several years called "On The Upside", and fortunately I printed all of those posts and have them saved in 4 large binders, but ... this blog is Chris'. All of these thousands of words I give to him.

Ultimately, my hope is that Chris will be able to crawl out from beneath all of my words I've put to paper, erase hurtful things I've said or done and truly know I've tried my hardest to do my best by him, and know how much I've truly loved him. I hope all of my children know how much I've loved them. Maybe Chris knows. Maybe they all know. It has not always been easy being the mother to my children. It's not easy being a mother, period. I'm just grateful mine are all flourishing and extremely proud that they are all mine.

It took Chris and Courtney many years to fully come out as lesbian and transgender. Me, maybe I took too long, maybe I crawled out. I'm not proud of that, but I'm out now with them. Completely and proudly out with them now.

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