Today we talk with Terin, a long-time friend who is one of the most inspirational people we know for lots and lots of reasons. She joins us to discuss being the parent of a transgender daughter, and how having Vivian come out was a “non-issue” for their family. International Transgender Day of Visibility is right around the corner (March 31) and we can’t think of a better way to participate.
Unfortunately, as we see every day on the news, on the internet, and on the streets, this loving acceptance of one’s child becoming authentically themselves and empowered is much rarer than it should be. We’re hoping discussions like ours can help add to the awareness about the struggles and accomplishments of men and women (and in some cases, young adults, teens and pre-teens – see below) who have taken the steps to finally be the people they were born to be in the face of hatred, ridicule, violence, and often rejection by the people who are supposed to love them the most: their families and friends.
According to www.healthychildren.org, the development of gender identity in kids naturally occurs when children are very young. Kids label themselves as boy or girl by the age of three and have a strong sense of their gender identity by four, usually showing their gender preference through the type of clothes they want to wear, hair styles, etc. As gender stereotypes dissolve, the colors, clothing, styles, and even toys that are typically assigned “boy” or “girl” are changing. For parents who simply want a healthy, happy child, it’s important to know kids naturally are curious and might express themselves in different ways at different times. It’s important to allow them to navigate through the stages of this development.
As for us, we have never had an issue with our bodies (save for the usual suspects, “my butt’s too big!” “I hate my stomach!” and “I wish I was taller!”) and have always loved being women, never had any thought of being anything else. The concept of being a woman trapped in the body of a man (or a man trapped in a woman’s body) is so far removed from our psyche, it’s almost impossible to wrap our heads around how utterly miserable it must be – every single day and night – to struggle with knowing you are definitely a specific person but looking like someone you aren’t. It’s hard enough to feel comfortable in your own skin, let alone your own structure. This is the crux of our awkwardness with the topic. It has nothing to do with acceptance, that’s not the problem. It’s that we are so rooted in our own natural acceptance of our birth body that it never dawned on us there could be any other way to feel.
We want to learn and understand better. So we asked…what IS cis-gender (we are, turns out), binary/non-binary, gender-fluid? How do you refer to a transgender person if you aren’t sure (hint: even though it might be awkward, asking outright is usually the easiest way to set things on the right track). How did the rest of the family take the transition? What’s politically correct to say or talk about? What are the biggest struggles? What was the hormone therapy process like? What was it like to come up with a new name? What happens if you have to go to the bathroom? (Vivian’s reality regarding this basic need that most of us take for granted was unjust and awful.) And if you need help, where do you turn to for support and answers? (Another hint: GLAAD.org is a great starting point). We also learn the best answer a parent can give to the question, “will your child have gender reassignment surgery?”
We know it’s really difficult for some people to understand. We get it. Whether the discomfort is based on religious beliefs, politics, or personal fear of what isn’t one’s norm, it is difficult to face any level of change. Either in others or ourselves, let alone a change as radical as gender transition. But the truth is, this world desperately needs happy, authentic humans. The more we cut down what we don’t understand…either through violence or cruelty…the more base and inhumane we become. If a person – a fundamentally good and civil soul – is of a religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or identity that doesn’t match someone’s expectations of what is “right” or “normal” who exactly is anyone to determine that? Why? The fact is, for every one person who stands firm and resolute in their belief system, there is another person standing equally firm and resolute in their opposing beliefs. As long as people keep focused on only one possible outcome, only one possible reality, we will all only be just standing angrily, shouting, pointing and name calling, in the name of a so-called “truth” and nothing changes. Nothing resolves. Nothing heals. Any man, woman or child who dares to stand in their own power in the face of hatred is a hero in our book. Any man, woman or child who dares face their own failings to show acceptance, tolerance or respect toward someone they once viewed as “too different”…is also a hero. Someday hopefully it will just be normal instead of heroic.
It is our hope to talk to Vivian, get her story first hand. We’ve heard her mom’s story, so hopefully we can do justice to Viv’s. Terin is an amazing mom, a woman who has struggled through some tough times, like many. Her cellular makeup is one of non-bias, peace, and acceptance. She admits her own learning curves when it comes to the transgender community while embracing the “normalness” of her child becoming happy and healthy through the transition process. As for Vivian, she is a delightful person who has a story to tell and we are honored to record it. Hopefully that episode will be coming in the next few weeks.
Until then, here are some people we’d like you to know more about:
- Janae Marie Kroczaleski, ex marine, cancer survivor, 2006 Arnold Classic WPO Powerlifting Middle Weight Champion, 2009 All-Time World Record setter in the 220lb class (surpassed in 2010), parent to three amazing boys, advocate for transgender athletes, author, and current subject of the Netflix documentary “TransFormer.” The show chronicles Janae’s biggest journey in reconciling her passion for power lifting with the body it gave her…a body she did not envision for herself as a woman. She discusses the documentary in this YouTube video. You can also follow her on Instagram to keep up with her inspirational story.
- Jazz Jennings, one of the youngest people to publicly come out as transgender, and interviewed by Barbra Walters on 20/20 in 2007. Jazz is a YouTube sensation and at only 17 is an internationally recognized advocate for LGBTQ rights. She is the star of TLC’s, reality series “I am Jazz” which documents the life of the teenager and her family.
- Amber Briggle of Denton, Texas, USA. Mom to two amazing kids, Amber documents the daily life of her family, including her son Max who made it very clear at a young age that the female anatomy he was born with was not who he truly was. Amber shares candidly about the struggles her son faces going to school, and growing up in a notoriously conservative region of the United States. Get onboard with this mamabear at her website https://love-to-the-max.com/ .
- If you haven’t watched Schitt’s Creek yet, you’re missing out. All the Canadian comedy royalty (Catherine O’Hara, you are our queen) aside, Dan Levy – Yep, Eugene Levy’s drop-dead gorgeous, wickedly funny son – has created some of the most hilarious, romantic, and memorable scenes between his character, David Rose, and David’s boyfriend Patrick (played by Noah Reid).
If you want to know about more amazing people who, against major societal pushback, became who they truly were born to be, there are some pretty cool stories that span almost 100 years in this time.com article, and in this Pri.org article.
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