I’ll just say it, I love the holidays. There is something about the crisp, cool temperatures, the kids’ excitement over Santa Claus, the anticipation of a momentous dinner. But my favorite tradition has to be reaching out with a personal holiday card to friends and families across the globe.
It’s an opportunity to reflect on the previous year and show a glimpse of our life to those near us. This tradition had been a part of our family since my husband and I got married and continued as we had each of our four children—including our daughter Maya, who is transgender.
If you were to judge us by these cards, you would think we had it all figured out. We all know that is not the case; families are more complicated than that.
I had to relearn that lesson two years ago when I was tucking my children into bed. It was on a September evening when my 4 ½ year old turned to me and whispered, “Mommy, why did God make me a boy? I’m really a girl.”
I was stunned. I didn’t even know the word transgender existed at the time! But here was my child staring at me with eyes wide in pain. So I took a deep breath in and told her, “God doesn’t make mistakes. Mommy and daddy are going to help you find your unique purpose.”
“My 4 ½ year old turned to me and whispered, ‘Mommy, why did God make me a boy? I’m really a girl.’ I went to my husband and we talked throughout the night about next steps. I had made a promise to my child, and we were going to keep it.”
I went to my husband and we talked throughout the night about next steps. I had made a promise to my child, and we were going to keep it.
As our family studied up on what being transgender meant and reached out for support from other families going through similar revelations.
One thing we learned in doing our research is that in 32 states, transgender people aren’t fully protected from discrimination, meaning they can be denied employment, housing and service in public places like businesses because of their gender identity.
As the newly realized parent of a transgender child, that scared me. I was already worried about how our friends and family would react to the news (I was already preparing for the annual Christmas card, and knew we’d have some explaining to do).
Now, it turns out, I might also have to worry about Maya’s future—would she be bullied at school or in public? Have problems finding a job as an adult?
Thankfully, Washington is one of the other 18 states that do have laws that prohibit discriminating against transgender people, meaning if Maya ever experienced anything like that, she would be protected. Knowing this, I was even more secure in our decision to support Maya as the girl she always knew herself to be.
“Now, it turns out, I might also have to worry about Maya’s future—would she be bullied at school or in public? Have problems finding a job as an adult? Thankfully, Washington is one of the other 18 states that do have laws that prohibit discriminating against transgender people, meaning if Maya ever experienced anything like that, she would be protected.”
So that fall, Maya started the process of openly transitioning. The months ticked by and the holiday season passed. For the first time I held off writing my holiday card, unsure how to introduce this new topic.
Finally, January came and I realized that this was too important to put off any longer. So, in addition to a new family photo, I included a longer update to talk about the past year and re-introduce Maya to the 150 families on our list.
We were met with an outpouring of support for Maya. While I was nervous about what the response would be, it turned out I didn’t need to be. I’ll never forget the collective sense of relief we all felt when we started to receive the overwhelming positive messages, e-mails and letters from those closest to us.
The response from our friends and family members gave me so much peace. I had worried that she wouldn’t be accepted, and she was. But now I’m worried again. Right now, there is an effort underway—I-1552, which could appear on the November ballot—to repeal the transgender non-discrimination protections that allow my daughter to flourish as a human being.
“All transgender people deserve to feel the love and acceptance that Maya feels from our community, and upholding Washington’s transgender non-discrimination laws is critical for that.”
We are so thankful she’s been accepted by our community, but if she ever isn’t, we want to know the law protects her.
I continue to recognize that happiness and joy, within the glow of Maya’s eyes and the smile on her face. Every day, Maya’s whole being reinforces that we made the right decision to support our daughter, even when we did not understand.
I know that we are lucky, we have the ultimate well-supported story with a strong network of loving family members, amazing friends and a considerate church community. It is hard for me as a mother to know that is not always the case.
All transgender people deserve to feel the love and acceptance that Maya feels from our community, and upholding Washington’s transgender non-discrimination laws is critical for that.
That’s why we Decline to Sign I-1552, and are urging other Washingtonians to do the same. Click here to learn more about and get involved in the movement to defeat this shameful ballot initiative.