Here we go again.
It’s that time of year. Summer shifts to autumn and school starts up for the new academic year. My son is leaving for his sophomore year of college, and my momma heartstrings are being tugged.
Our family has had quite a summer with the release of my new book, He’s Always Been My Son: A Mother’s Story about Raising Her Transgender Son. It’s been exciting and nerve-racking, gratifying, and overwhelming in so many ways. The response so far has been incredible; the book held the #1 spot in its category on Amazon.com for over a week, and I’ve heard from so many people near and far who have read it already and tell me that our story has educated and inspired them. Goooooal!
What I had not quite expected was how the release of the book would affect my son, who is of course the main subject of my book. From the beginning, Amaya has been supportive of my work writing this blog and my book. He knows that sharing our story is a way for us to bring more understanding, acceptance, and support for transgender people and their families. Still, all this attention being focused on my son, and especially on his transition, has been uncomfortable and disconcerting for him. As Amaya says, he is just not someone who is comfortable being in the spotlight.
It isn’t that he is not proud of who he is; to be clear, he is proud. Still, being transgender is just one aspect of who he is. It’s not Amaya’s all-defining characteristic, he doesn’t go through his days saying, “Hi I’m Amaya and I’m transgender” to everyone he meets. Amaya lives his daily life, and the subject of being transgender hardly ever comes up. With the successful release of our book, however, the topic is on the tip of the tongue of everyone who knows us. Lately, when he runs into the mother of any of his friends in the grocery store or elsewhere, instead of the usual, “Hello how are you?” he now hears how “brave and amazing” he is and how “proud” they are of him.
While most people would love to hear such accolades, Amaya told me recently that he feels uncomfortable with all the attention. He said he doesn’t feel that being transgender and making the adjustments he needed to make in order to live a healthy, happy life makes him any more “brave” or “amazing” than many other people who have overcome challenges in their lives . He also said he thinks there are many and much more difficult challenges that many other individuals face in life.
I asked him if he regrets that we decided to share our story, his story, with such a broad audience. He answered that he does not regret it, as he knows many other trans youth do not have the same level of understanding and support in their lives, and therefore he appreciates that this book could help change things for the better. His eyes widened and lit up when I told him about the note I got the other day from a mom who has a teen who is gender-questioning. This family lives in Australia, and while understanding and acceptance of transgender people is growing “down under,” they are far behind where we are in California when it comes to creating gender-inclusive environments and addressing the needs of gender-expansive youth. The mom asked us to sign and send three books, including one for her child’s school and one for her local library.
Seeing my son grapple with all the attention has challenged me to look deeply at my intentions. Why do I feel compelled to share our story? As I say in my book:
I feel called to tell our story. Making the decision to go public was a challenging one. I certainly don’t want to put my son, myself, or anyone in danger. But I know my silence would not make the world safer for transgender people. My silence would not provide comfort to other parents, nor tell them they are not alone. And it’s more than that: by sharing our stories, we can give voice to the voiceless. Our family is fortunate for what we have, for where we live, and we are grateful. We have the strong support of our extended family and a wide circle of friends, a great number of loved ones who fully accept our transgender child. We have good jobs and good medical coverage. We are white. We live in an accepting community.
I am humbled to remember every day that not everyone shares these privileges.
It is my sincere hope that our stories will contribute to real change that has positive impact for everyone, with the greatest and most positive impact upon those who need it most. These stories are for anyone and everyone who needs to hear them.