“There are gaps in the mesh of the everyday world and sometimes you fall through them into Somewhere Else” (Katherine May, Wintering)
Can you identify with that feeling of falling through a gap in everyday life into “Somewhere Else”?
For many, the gap opens when sitting in a doctor’s consultation room, with a knock on the door or a phone call.
For many parents of transgender children, the gap opens with a conversation that changes their life forever. The moment a child tells their parent they have something to say.
You know you have entered the land of Somewhere Else by your reactions – the sinking feeling in the tummy, the disbelief, the longing to turn the clock back to the moment you didn’t know.
Katherine May beautifully articulates how Somewhere Else is a different place, where other people are getting on with the everyday but you can’t keep pace.
Somewhere Else is where the ghosts live.
For me, Somewhere Else was when I found out my children were transgender. The ghosts of Somewhere Else were their identity as men and mine as the mother of boys.
Grief and Transgender Children
Not every parent feels sad when their child comes out as transgender. Some parents rejoice that their child is finding their true self or feel relief that a journey of self-discovery has been realised.
Other parents feel a sense of loss and experience emotions associated with grief which can consist of:
- Shock and denial
For parents, shock, denial, anger and bargaining may be expressed in the following ways:
- Not believing their child is trans
- Explaining it away by blaming others, e.g., social media, the internet
- Punishing their child, e.g., rejecting them, saying it’s their fault, they’re doing it out of spite
- Questioning their own parenting, their actions, even their genes
And sadness. It’s not unusual for parents to feel immense sadness because they feel they have lost their child. The expression “Dead Name” seems horribly accurate for some parents who feel like the child they have known has died.
It’s possible to reach this place by understanding that:
- Someone who is transgender is shedding layers of pretence. They’ve conformed to a gender stereotype which doesn’t fit. All you are losing is that expression of gender. The person beneath the stereotype remains themselves.
- You may have had hopes and expectations for their future based on them being cis gender. These are your hopes. It may be sad to let them go but who is to say your child would have conformed to these anyway?
- Not only are your children transitioning, but you are too. Your identity may have been enmeshed in theirs. You can form a new identity.
The concepts of your children as cis gender – and you as the parent of a cis gender child – these are the ghosts of Somewhere Else. They’re ethereal and you cannot grasp hold of them. They slip through your fingers and are gone.
- Call on the unconditional love that you feel for your child. This is inside you as reliable as the earth moving around the sun. Focus on their needs and this love will help you through.
- Be mindful of the denial stage of grief. If you’re questioning the validity of your child’s identity and seeking to prove them wrong, ask yourself “why”. While it’s natural to be concerned for their welfare is there resistance within you due to grief?
- Speak with other parents of transgender children and listen to the experiences of transgender people. Hearing their viewpoints can be enlightening.
In my podcast #GloriouslyUnready I describe the process of grieving and adaptation. You can listen to it here.