Transgender child's mom opens up about transition

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Monday, April 27, 2015
Transgender child's mom opens up about transition
What is it like for them to go through it, and how do their parents feel about it? We talked to them to a mom to find out

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A lot of people are talking about what it means to be "transgender" right now, partly because of the big interview with Bruce Jenner. He's an adult, but what about children? What is it like for them to go through it, and their parents? We talked to one parent to find out.

According to LGBT groups, transgender is an umbrella term describing people who identity and express their gender differently than the sex assigned to them at birth. More children are coming out transgender, and much of it is because there is more transgender visibility and acceptance than before. One Houston woman shared her experience raising a transgender son.

When Ann Elder adopted a baby girl nine years ago, she was excited for their future mother daughter bond.

She envisioned a future where they would shop, enjoy girly things, and chat into the night. But then --

"Around the age of three, I started to notice some different behavior," said Ann Elder, a mother of a transgender son and member of PFLG. "He started me telling his clothing was too girly."

Elder and her husband kept seeing more signs -- their child wanted his hair cut short and to play only with toys traditionally meant for boys. Finally, their son refused to wear girl's clothing. So, they took him to a psychologist.

"The initial evaluation was that he is gender variant, and the psychologist said you need to do whatever you can to support him," said Elder.

So they did. They became his cheerleaders on their child's journey to find his identity.

"The happiest day of my child's life is the day he went to Target and bought millions of pairs of camouflage, Batman, Superman, cars, trucks, anything that was boy underwear, and he modeled them for me," said Elder. "He was so happy and beaming so intensely that I realized in that moment that the entire time I have known this child, he has been stifling himself."

But supporting their transgender son came with acidic judgment, especially from family members.

"They looked at us as highly indulgent, neglectful parents who were helping our kid be mentally ill," said Elder.

It took years before their family accepted it.

But Elder said that stigma and years of talking through transgender issues with their family members and friends were worth the well-being of their boy and his future.

"The transgender community can feel isolated because they're not understood. They don't feel comfortable enough to tell people their truth and talk about themselves because they don't know what that other person's reaction to them will be," said Lou Weaver, a transgender outreach specialist. "So what happens is over 40 percent of transgender population attempts suicide."

And that is a statistic the Elders don't want their son to join, especially as he nears puberty.

"People need to understand that this is a person born into a body that does not match their identity, and we need to look at them with compassion and respect," said Elder.

LGBT groups say 90 percent of people know a gay person, but only 7 percent of people know a transgender person.

The Annual Gender Infinity Conference is in Houston from Oct. 23-24 for transgender youth and their families. It will take place at DePelchin Children's Center, 100 Sandman, Houston, TX 77007.