In Honor of Beautiful Livia, My Former Son: One Mom’s Perspective on Gender Dysphoria

For as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted was to be a mom and I had always wanted a girl. When I got married in 1983, I became a bonus mom to a girl and a boy.  I love them dearly and raised them on weekends for the first 9 plus years of my marriage. I dolled my stepdaughter up as much as she would let me (she teases me about that to this day). After many failed fertility treatments, I just wanted a baby… the sex did not matter any longer. I was simply thankful for a successful adoption… a boy in 1992. Seven years later, we adopted another boy. I spent 28 years being a boy mom.

In 2018, our oldest son passed away after a long battle with drug addiction. I was so very heartbroken. The only thing more painful for me than being childless is the experience of loving a child and losing them. I feel as if my life will never be the same. All the hopes and dreams I had for PJ are gone, taken away in the blink of an eye. I carry so much guilt about what I could have done differently with PJ. One day I will forgive myself, I am sure.

Not long after PJ died, our youngest son, Joshua, shared some news with us. (Oh… that feeling when your child finds you both in the same room and says with tears in his eyes “I need to tell you something.”) The last conversation that started that way went like this: “I don’t think I believe in God anymore.” He was 16 at the time. After we discussed the whats, whys, and hows, my husband said “We love you very much and we are not angry or upset.”

Confession: I wasn’t the coolest cucumber. My response went more like this: “Well, I am not angry, but I am upset. You may not believe in Him, but He believes in you. I love you and so does Jesus.”

This time, the conversation wasn’t about religion. He was 19 by then and the news was even more life altering… “I have decided I want to be a girl.” After some discussion about the whats, whys, hows, etc., he shared how he had been feeling for many years and promised that he was going to go through counseling before taking any type of hormones. My husband was cool. He said “We love you and we want you to be happy.”

Confession: I didn’t handle it as well as I should have. As much of a huge supporter as I am of LGBTQIA+ rights, it’s different when it is your own child… especially since I had already lost a son and I felt like I was losing another one. I didn’t want him to change… at all. What if his personality was different and I missed the big mess of a boy that he had always been! I cried. I cried hard. I cried hard and I was honest about my feelings. I asked if it was just some identity crisis he was experiencing and if he was being influenced by all his friends who were doing the same thing… was it a fad? I told him I was worried about him introducing hormones into his body and how that would affect his health. I told him about my fears that he would change on the inside as well and I wouldn’t know him anymore. He told me he chose his friends because they were like him. He didn’t change himself to be like them. He reassured me and told me everything would be okay. He would still be the same person.

The next day, I was driving and praying and crying some more. “Lord, why can’t life just be easy for a change?!?! I just want to be happy.”

“So does he!” is what I heard God say back to me. “So does he!” I wish I could say that was enough to settle things in my soul. I did text Josh right away and tell him I wanted him to be happy and I would support him however I could, but I also encouraged him to be certain of his decision before moving forward. I carry so much guilt that I didn’t immediately support him in the decision. One day I will forgive myself, I am sure.

Almost a year later she began taking hormones and we began using female pronouns and calling her by a new name… “Livia.” It’s been an adjustment, but it gets easier every day. One of my greatest fears was telling my family… we are somewhat conservative Christians. But it was a non issue. They couldn’t have been more supportive!

Last month I joined a group for parents of transgender children. It felt so good to hear other moms talking about their experiences and realizing that my reaction wasn’t as horrible as I had previously thought. A transgender woman on the call told me “You did good by being honest with your child.” She acknowledged my fear of losing my child as she transitioned and said there is a mourning period for the parents, especially the moms, that not enough people talk about.

I told her about my other fear… that my child would be ridiculed or hurt by ignorant, transphobic people. I said “This is the main reason I am afraid to tell everyone.” Her response? “That is the main reason why you should tell everyone. The more people like you, Christian parents who accept and support the transgender community, speak up, the more normalized transgenderism will become.”

Remember my fear that my child would change? She did change. She became a more confident and sociable human. My mom and I helped Livia build a new wardrobe of cute girl clothes and I’ve been training her on how to apply makeup and style her hair. She’s still my same beautiful child, but I’m a girl mom now.