When I explain to people the reasons behind my stance on supporting Eli, I sometimes use a quote I borrowed from a guest on Oprah, a mother of transgender child. She said “I’d rather have an alive daughter than a dead son,”. It’s a nod to the increased suicide rates for transgender individuals who are forced to not only live one way when they feel another, but do so without support of their family.
I use that quote to demonstrate how deep the roots of my commitment to Eli are. But it is a lie. While it IS true that I would rather have an alive daughter than a dead son, saying so gives the impression that I made a desperate choice, that I was given an ultimatum in a dire situation with a dire outcome and that I was presented with a conditional “do this or else” scenario.
The idea that there was a choice to be made indicates or insinuates that there was a struggle in making a decision. That I had to wade my way through an emotional current to either support Eli and act as an ambassador for him or to squash and squelch that which speaks of his very essence and existence.
There wasn’t a choice. There wasn’t a struggle. I didn’t decide. I didn’t deliberate. I just followed his lead and followed my instincts and never thought there was anything wrong with him or what he is doing. I look at him and I see my baby. My child who will spend a lifetime swimming upstream. I see someone who will always need a life preserver and I sleep oh so well at night knowing that I am and will always be that life preserver for him.
People say, “This must be hard for you.” It isn’t hard for me to have a son that wants to be my daughter. Truly it isn’t. It isn’t hard for me to see my son wearing a dress and a pair of flowery sandals. It isn’t hard for me to accept him. What’s hard for me to accept is that other people find him hard to accept. That's what’s hard. That a person will see one thing and think another. That a person thinks my family is weird or damaged or even sick because a little kid feels something that this person has never felt before. And because they don’t understand it, they won’t accept it. Now THAT’s what’s hard.
What's hard is when Eli comes home from camp and tells me that kids were laughing at him. And it’s hard when Ethan has to be his protector because I can’t always be there. And it’s hard to know that Ethan is only nine, yet has to do something that is hard for some adults to do – which is to stand up for that which is right, yet unpopular. It’s hard to send my kids into the fire and hope I’ve done enough to keep them from getting burned. But aren’t these struggles that all moms have? Even though the journeys differ, the struggles are still the same.
As I spend the rest of the day nursing my aching heart, I will keep in mind that it is still a full heart. Full of the love I have for my kids. Full of the pride I have for both of them for living authentically and confidently. Full of the love I have for the friends and family that have put themselves in the midst of my battlefield and help me fight my fights. And I will smile as I listen to Eli and Ethan tell me about the fun parts of their day and the goodness they witnessed in others. And I will be comforted by the idea that I’m the only one crying, that they are smiling radiantly as ever.