“Okay, now what?!”

Well, that’s what I thought when, on May 28th, 2015 my son said to his father and me that he had something really important to tell us. “Okay, now what…” It seemed that he was always trying something else, or going in a different direction–sometimes so much that I had a hard time keeping up with the new thing. But this time, things were different;  he was married to a wonderful woman, had a beautiful baby boy, a career in the United States Air Force, and had just made Staff Sargeant. Smooth sailing, right?

Yeah, right.

The problem this time wasn’t that he was unhappy; it was more than that. He was not a “he.” He was she. And she needed to become the woman she always knew she was.  I am very proud to tell you that I am a “transmom.” I’m not sure if that is a real thing, but it’s what I call myself, anyhow. It has been two and a half years since Emma came out to us as transgender. I have learned so much and have met so many amazing people during this time–including my daughter.

We have gone through so much: from the “Okay, what does this mean?” to hormones, and now surgery.

So, as a transmom, and in light of all that we have gone through, I have compiled a top ten list of things to know when your child comes out to you. 

10. Take a breath. It may seem like you can’t breathe, but you can.

9. Research! There are lots of resources out there, and the internet can be your friend. You will need to educate yourself, because people will ask you a ton of questions.

8. Ask questions; don’t be shy. This is a big deal for everyone involved, and asking questions will help you and your child be more at ease. Chances are, they already have a lot of answers.

7. Don’t think you need to deal with it “all” right now. Even if it feels like it happened overnight, it didn’t. Your child has been coming to terms with their identity for a while, and you need time, too.

6. Being transgender was not a choice. They did not choose to “do this to you.” It is who they are, and they cannot help that fact.

5. Meet other transparents. It really helps to talk with other parents who have gone through–or are going through–the same thing.

4. Join a transgender support group. I was very surprised to learn that there were actually transgender people in my community, but there are, and having a community who understands is so important.

3. Be open; you never know where information will come from. 

2. Start using correct pronouns right away. It’s really hard to remember at first, but it’s so important to your child to be acknowledged as who they are. That goes for their name, also. Call them by their chosen name and stop using their dead name as soon as you can.

1. Love your baby with all your heart. This person is still your baby, and they are going through a lot, also. Coming out is probably one of the hardest things they will have to do. They need you.

The night that Emma came out to us is honestly kind of a blur. I don’t even remember going to bed, or maybe I didn’t. She was home on leave and had been for about three weeks. Emma waited until the night before they were going back to Alaska to tell us. I remember asking her why she didn’t tell us sooner so we could talk in person. I had about a million questions and thought it would be better to ask in face-to-face. But looking back now, it was probably best this way. It gave us time to ask questions to ourselves and for me and Steve (Emma’s dad) to talk to each other. We found a great counselor and went to a few PFLAG meetings.

And guess what? We found out that she was not the only transgender person ever, and we were not alone as parents. 

We have had a wild couple of years, but all is going well. We really have not had anything but great support from friends and family.

Hold on, dear parents; I promise it does get easier. 

Pinky Horner

Pinky Horner is a Program Coordinator for the South Dakota Lions Foundation. She has two amazing daughters, three beautiful grandchildren, and has been married to the love of her life for 37 years. Currently living in Rapid City, SD, she loves hiking in the hills, cooking, and spending time with friends and family.

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