July 26, 2012 | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Raising trans children

‘Transitions of the Heart’
Edited by Rachel Pepper, foreword by Kim Pearson
Cleis Press
$16.95
224 pages

It’s hard to imagine or understand the feelings of confusion or isolation that come when a young son says he’s really a girl or a daughter swears she’s a boy trapped in the wrong body. In the new book “Transitions of the Heart,” edited by Rachel Pepper, mothers faced with those dilemmas share how they cope.

(Image courtesy Cleis Press)

Even though it’s a problem most parents never face, it’s interesting to hear how those who have addressed it. Several say it involved a transition for both the child and parent. They write of gradually realizing their daughter isn’t just a tomboy or their son wasn’t “just going through a phase.” More than one mother admits that she knew her child was different when she was firmly corrected on pronouns and clothing choice.

Many women felt relief and were astonished when they realized that as their children were allowed to openly express their true genders, they were seeing their sons or daughters happy for the first time. As the stories unfold, it’s especially poignant when this joy has followed suicide attempts.

Still, it’s “a process.” More than one mother has hoped her child might have a change of heart. There are rants in this book, heartbreak and pain. There are moms who can’t believe this happened and in some cases, it happened more than once in the same immediate family.

And yet, most of the women in this book admit that they’ve come to respect their children and the difficult things they’ve done. For one mom, he’s “someone I would not have missed knowing for anything in the world.”

And from another, to her child: “… I’ll always love you.”

Sometimes, the “T” in “LGBT” seems to hide behind its fellow letters. Your friends and family might not even know what it stands for, but “Transitions of the Heart” explains in a gentle, celebratory way.

That’s a very useful beacon for anyone who feels isolated as their transgender child begins to embrace who (s)he is. But it’s also important, I think, that editor Rachel Pepper includes stories that aren’t so rosy mixed with the stories of acceptance and encouragement. That added a stronger, more authentic message to this book and quashed the Pollyanna-ish tone it might’ve had otherwise.

But it’s not just for parents of trans children. There are useful lessons about acceptance and unconditional love that will resonate with many parents, gay or straight.

1 Comment
  • The link to this article from the home page includes the term “gender non-conforming.” “Gender non-conforming” and “transgendered” do not mean the same thing, as many butch lesbians and not-so-butch gay men could tell you.

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