Here's what I learned as a mom of a St. Pete trans kid

Kids deserve to have champions demanding they be treated as full and equal human beings.

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click to enlarge Raffi Darrow (L) and her son Elliott Darrow. - Raffi Darrow/Facebook
Raffi Darrow/Facebook
Raffi Darrow (L) and her son Elliott Darrow.

Another mother once said to me, “When your children are born, they are characters in your story. Eventually, they start their own storyline in which they are the main character and you are in a supporting role.”

For the better part of a decade, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay has worked in concert with St. Pete Pride on production and distribution of its event guide, and despite a pandemic that forced an all-out cancellation of Pride last year, CL and St. Pete Pride teamed up again in 2021 for a standalone guide on stands through the month of June. This piece by Raffi Darrow is pulled from that guide.

It may be hard for a parent to determine when their child’s story has begun and when to let them learn from their own actions. (Notice I did not say “learn from their own mistakes,” be-cause I have learned that sometimes what we think are mistakes at first turn out to be happy accidents in disguise.)

As a mother of a transgender son who communicates frequently with other mothers of trans children around the world, I know there are many parents who wonder, “Is this transition for attention? Is my child really trans, or grasping at straws to get through their depression? Is this a response to abuse or trauma? Is this because their friends are doing it? Because it’s cool?”

Parents with these thoughts are not alone, and they are not horrible people. They are reflecting on a major change in the life of someone they love—love with their whole being—and want to be sure the process is thought through mindfully. They are considering many angles. They are moving through all sorts of feelings.

Going over “what ifs” in your head is not wrong, but at some point we all need to stop ruminating and move forward—move toward growth. What finally helped me move forward was releasing trying to figure out WHY this was happening, and focusing instead on WHAT was happening.

I love my child, heart and soul—and seeing him happy while at the same time reiterating that I have his back eventually transcended those questions. Who cares about his clothes or haircut? All of that is temporary.

Therapists look for consistency and insistency when helping trans kids. If your child hasn’t wavered the last few years in their transition, then getting them on a path that may fight dysphoria and mental health issues seems like the way to go, in my opinion.

Worrying about what other people think and how they may react will only cause anxiety. That’s true of most situations in life. You can imagine all sorts of possible future struggles, or you can focus on NOW—nurture the moment—and move forward while holding your child’s hand lovingly and protectively. You’ll both grow so much from the experience! And that is not temporary. That is forever.

One night at dinner, my son asked me something along the lines of, “They say parents of trans kids mourn for the child they used to have. Do you think you are in mourning for me?” Here’s how I responded: “Let’s pretend you told me I couldn’t see my friend Erin ever again. I love Erin, she’s fun and one of my tribe, and I would miss her and be hurt, angry and sad."

“When you came out as trans I was scared I would miss the person you used to be. I thought I was being told I would not be able to see the child I love so much ever again. I was so scared of what I MIGHT feel in the future while watching you transition, but I should have taken the time to actually focus on what I was feeling in that moment. And sitting here, across the dinner table from you, feels a whole lot like sitting across the table from the kid I’ve always had.”

It’s still my child’s heart, it’s still his soul, and it’s the same twinkle in his eyes. The rest is just wrapping paper. The real gift is what you find inside the wrapping paper.

People ask me if I miss my younger daughter. I’d rather have a happy son living his true life than a suicidal daughter living to satisfy others. I am blessed that my child is still with me and feels close enough to share his life with me.

Isn’t it beautiful when people are allowed to be who they uniquely are, and we accept them without boundaries?

LOVE, real love, is willing to allow those who you care for to be their authentic selves without any insistence that they satisfy you.

This year the trans community is under attack in state after state after state. It isn’t just pain that folks are feeling; it’s palpable fear—fear of what has happened and of what is yet to come. Simply debating anti-trans legislation in more than half the country causes harm. Trans people are watching. Trans kids are watching. Videos are being shared online of brave but vulnerable 8-to-14-year-olds speaking up for themselves in front of our government, and then getting heckled by adults and told they don’t deserve the same rights as their peers.

Those kids deserve better. They deserve to have champions coming to their defense and demanding that they be treated as full and equal human beings. Be their champion. Tell your cisgendered elected officials that they have no right to inspect trans bodies or to police how trans people interact with the world, be it in sports or in bathrooms or in a private conversation with their parent or medical professional. Use your privilege to help those without it.

Please Visit the HRC “Count Me In” webpage to get started:

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