Helping you to better navigate life's changes. #LoveChange

Mom, I’m actually a girl

Mom, I’m actually a girl

We had always suspected she might be gay or a cross-dresser, but never imagined she might be transgender.

"We bought feminine clothes and wigs, and she gradually gained confidence in presenting as a girl, while we became more comfortable with it."

A family’s journey from denial to understanding, then ultimately, to love and acceptance.

I’ll never forget the day our 13-year-old son told us that he’s actually a girl. It came as a shock, of course, despite all the prior evidence.

17 years ago, we had one child and decided to adopt another. The story of the adoption is interesting in itself, but that’s for another time.

Suffice it to say that we adopted a five-month-old boy, transracially, and have not regretted it for one moment, despite the numerous challenges.

From the age of about two, our son showed a keen interest in dressing like a girl, playing with dolls, and identifying with the female character in the children’s movies and stories.

Once she nearly drowned – we’ve been referring to her as “she” for four years now and have come to regard and accept her totally as a girl, so I’m going to continue with the feminine pronoun – anyway, she nearly drowned when she put both legs into the one leg of her stretch pants and tried to swim like that, wanting to be just like Ariel, Disney’s Little Mermaid!

When she told us, “I’m a girl, I’m transgender, and I want to go onto hormone replacement therapy immediately”, we were in complete denial.

We had always suspected she might be gay or a cross-dresser, but never imagined she might be transgender.

We said she’d been watching too many social media sites and had picked up on this, thinking it might help with other issues (being adopted, being the only black person in the family, etc).

We said anything we could think of to avoid facing the possibility that she might belong to one of the most marginalised, vilified, and maltreated groups worldwide.

When it became evident that this was not a “phase”, we put her on hormone blockers on the advice of the professionals from whom we sought help.

Blockers are reversible. They arrest the development of puberty, but once halted, puberty will continue as normal.

This meant we would have some time before having to make the difficult decision of whether to go ahead with hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which is not reversible.

HRT would mean reducing her testosterone levels and increasing her oestrogen, to acquire feminine physical characteristics, such as decreased facial and bodily hair growth, a softer jawline, wider hips, and small breasts.

Naturally, we wanted to be sure we were doing the right thing. Not easy. Is a 13-year-old aware of the implications?

Does a 13-year-old really know that their gender is the opposite of the one assigned at birth?

The only way I could think of answering the myriad of questions circling in my head was to start reading up about the subject.

So, I Googled, I read books (mostly biographies), I listened to podcasts, I went onto social media sites. Fascinating. Terrifying. Daunting.

I became aware that life is not only extremely difficult for a transgender person, but it is also fraught with ignorance and prejudice from others, sometimes to the point where they are shamed, bullied, attacked and even murdered.

Statistics show that one in three transgender youth attempt suicide, the majority of whom do not or did not have parental support.

Six months after she began the blockers, we put our daughter onto HRT. It was a very happy day for her.

We then had to adjust to saying “she” instead of “he” and going out into public with her dressed as a female.

We also faced the challenge of telling family and friends about her change of gender identity.

We bought feminine clothes and wigs, and she gradually gained confidence in presenting as a girl, while we became more comfortable with it.

Although she’s a lot happier presenting as a girl, it hasn’t been easy for her. She’s been subjected to frequent verbal abuse and has been physically assaulted.

She has to be careful all the time. It breaks our hearts when we hear what other youngsters say or do to her.

She has been asked by teenagers and adults whether she’s had surgery and has bravely told them it’s none of their business. (Do people ever ask you to give details about your private parts?)

It’s enormously challenging to protect her. However, she has a strong character and has learnt resilience and self-care. Nowadays, the negative remarks barely affect her.

We are so very proud of her, and hopefully, with our constant love, care and affirmation, she will grow into a self-assured and happy woman.

Hannah Lewis

Change expert, Hannah Lewis, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

Related stories

The Change Programme

Are you thinking about making a change? Or trying to make a change? Or dealing with some change that’s happened? Whether you’re getting married or having a baby, moving house or jobs, starting a diet or stopping smoking… the Change Programme is for you.

Start the programme now!

black and white pattern