As told to Nicole Pajer
Jane has always been loving, sweet, funny and creative with a huge heart. In her prepubescent years, before she came out as transgender, she became very shy, closed off and withdrawn. Her father and I became concerned because she was spending a lot of time alone in her room. We maintained an open dialogue with her, but she didn’t quite understand what she was experiencing and couldn’t articulate her emotions. I knew my child was struggling emotionally and socially, and it was devastating to my husband and me that we couldn’t help her find her traction. As her depression deepened, we worried whether she was harboring thoughts of self-harm or worse, suicide.
Jane was always interested in film in all of its forms — movies, social media videos and storytelling in general. So it came as no surprise to us when she began watching YouTube videos and came across a popular YouTuber named Gigi Gorgeous. Jane became enthralled with Gigi’s content, not knowing Gigi herself was transgender. When Gigi came out to the world about her transition, Jane experienced her aha moment. This moment was pivotal for Jane, as she felt a genuine surge of realization of who she was inside.
At first, I thought Jane was being influenced by social media and admittedly, I did not understand the transgender experience. As Jane shared Gigi’s videos, I wasn’t sure what to make of them, but her sharing the videos was the first indication that my child may fall somewhere under the rainbow spectrum. Uneducated in that arena, my husband and I set out to gain an understanding by educating ourselves, and we were careful not to dismiss our child’s profound revelation. We sought professional guidance knowing that the world can be ruthless and cruel.
Once we identified a family therapy group to attend, we began the sessions with open minds and open hearts, trying to navigate new vocabulary. Unfortunately, other parents in the group were unaccepting. Many of them saw their child’s transgender identity as a poor reflection of themselves, and that attitude was off-putting to us. Old memories began to resurface during these sessions. I remembered when my child was 3 years old and I found her wearing her sister’s velvet Christmas dress. She seemed so incredibly happy. At such a young age, I didn’t think much of the incident. It was only after I found her crying hysterically while wearing the same dress on another occasion that I asked, “What’s wrong, honey?” She looked up at me and through her tears asked, “Why did God make me a boy? I should have been a girl.”
Listening to other families struggle to accept their child’s transition in group therapy, I was overwhelmed with sadness as I realized how deeply tormented my child had been for the first fourteen years of her life, suffering in silence — lost and alone. In that moment, I made a promise to myself to take my child’s hand, move forward and never look back. I told my husband, “We don’t belong in this group.” We wiped away our tears and hit the reset button — and Jane burst to life.
Prior to my daughter coming out as a transgender girl, my husband struggled immensely to build a father-son bond with our child. He thought his son would love to tinker around in the garage and play ball, but our child wasn’t interested in traditionally “typical boy” activities. My husband watched other fathers effortlessly engage with their sons, and he thought he wasn’t being a good father, which was devastating to him. However, when Jane came out, I said, “It makes so much sense now because we never had a son. We had three daughters the whole time.” Now Jane and her father share an incredibly loving, fun and genuine father-daughter relationship.
Someone recently asked me if I ever mourn “Jack.” It’s a difficult question to answer because it’s not so much mourning what was, but rather what wasn’t. To mourn would make it about us and it’s not — it’s about our child. So, do we think about Jack? Of course we do. Do we sometimes feel emotional if we see a baby picture of him? Yes, of course, we do. But not because Jane burst from Jack, but because Jane was Jack and had to endure us and the world treating her as Jack. When your child is lost, unfulfilled and uncomfortable with themselves and they become aware of who they truly are and choose to ask for help, you make sure all your ducks are in a row and take their hand and forge forward with incredible purpose. We’re grateful beyond words that Jane found her traction as a teen and didn’t have to come to this realization later in life. Jane has her whole life ahead of her to live precisely how she chooses.
And even though this path is about Jane’s gender identity, we transitioned as a family. We became more compassionate and patient. I became very much a mama bear on high alert. I’m someone who prefers to take charge and control matters, but for my daughter’s well-being, I had to step back and realize this wasn’t about me. I had to let go and let Jane be free to find herself and live her truth. As a parent of a trans child, you must navigate through bathroom etiquette, locker room protocols, therapists, endocrinologists, surgeons, medications, gender markers on legal documents, health care, counselors and social obligations. A 14-year-old child cannot navigate all of that without the support of a loving family. It teaches you to be patient and really listen to your child.
It’s overwhelming and daunting and downright scary at first. However, to witness your scared, meek, withdrawn child who’s struggling and possibly suicidal suddenly blossom and thrive by living their authentic truth – it’s euphoric. There’s no turning back. You find the resources. You find that one other person on Facebook in town who has a transgender child and ask for help. You find the right doctors and ask the questions and realize there are no stupid or ridiculous questions. As a parent, you likely will question yourself, “Am I doing the right thing?” But then, as you see your child progressing in a wonderful and meaningful manner — you have all the confirmation you need.
After travelling this road, we decided to share our family story of transition with AmazonPrime in the four-part docuseries “Always Jane.” As a family, we hope we can offer some insight and possibly change an unaccepting parent’s or relative’s mind, make the journey a little safer for a transitioning individual, or assist people in identifying resources or nonprofit organizations that will love and support them.
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