There are those moments when someone tells me a truth of their life, and I feel so grateful for the privilege of hearing it. Not long ago a truly "rock-star mom" gave me one of those moments.
I may live in a great little diverse and liberal neighborhood in an urban area, but I don't work in one. I work in company full of conservative people, in a much more conservative part of the state. Despite this, I have always been vocal and outspoken (some would say obnoxious) about my support of equal rights for LGBT people. Over the years it has led to me becoming the unwilling office expert on "all things gay."
Sometimes it can be funny. A coworker once came to me in a full-blown panic because she found out her family vacation to Disney World was scheduled on one of its "Gay Days." My response to this was easy: "Wow. Calm down. No one's going to be having anal sex in the fountains."
Sometimes it is touching. Another coworker, a woman in her late 40s, came out to me, mere weeks after coming out to herself. The response to this was easy, as well: "I am so happy for you."
And once it just blew me away. It was a normal day, and large group from my office went to lunch. I was sitting off in one corner next to my friend Monica. Now, Monica and I aren't best friends, but we've always gotten along and worked together for more than 10 years. As everyone was getting settled into their separate conversations, I turned to Monica and asked about her kids, a daughter and a son. And that's when she told me her 18-year-old daughter was now her son, Dominic.
It made me pause. I'd met her daughter before, and while I would never say anything, I thought she was probably a lesbian. I had never considered that she might be transgender. After a moment I got my bearings and started asking questions about Monica's son and his transition. Was he living as a man? Had he started hormone therapy yet? Was he meeting with a counselor?
Monica answered all my questions and seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to talk about this huge thing happening in her family. We talked for over an hour, huddled in our corner, ignoring the rest of the people there, just as they ignored us. And the longer we talked, the more proud and amazed I was with regard to my friend.
It had been a long journey for them. Dominic was only 13 when he told his mother that he was not a girl but a boy. The onset of puberty was torture for him as his body expressed characteristics so far from how he felt on the inside. There were days when Monica didn't go to work because she was worried about what her son might do to himself if left alone. Monica would look at her child and see all the pain, and she soon started to wish for only one thing: for her child to be happy.
Monica is a good Catholic, a good wife and mother, who lives in a small town. Everything about this was so foreign to her. She didn't understand; she'd never known any transgender people (to her knowledge), and she was acutely feeling the loss of her daughter.
But even through her own confusion, hurt and grief, she set those feelings aside and focused on her child. She educated herself about transgender people, researched therapists specializing in gender identity, and went to the family pediatrician to talk about not only the health concerns surrounding transition but making sure her son's new name would be on all his records.
When I finally asked Monica how she was doing with all this, she was honest with me. It was hard. There had been arguments and tears. Then she said, "I finally realized God had made him this way, and who am I to question what God has made?"
Several months later, when her son was to go in for his first transition surgery, a mastectomy and reconstruction, they had to travel to a much larger city several hours away. Not only did Monica accompany Dominic, but so did her husband, their other son, and Dominic's girlfriend. They went as a family to support Dominic and one another through such an important event.
When I ask Monica about Dominic these days, she simply lights up as she talks about how happy he is and how much she loves his girlfriend. It is so beautiful, for all of them.
Monica is a complete rock-star mom. I feel privileged to know her, and that she felt confident enough in my reaction to share her family's story with me. Although I know it will embarrass her to read it, she is the kind of mom I hope I am, the kind of mom who doesn't love her children for who she thinks they should be but for who they are -- even when it's not easy.
The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LGBTQ youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources, including its nationwide, 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline, digital community and advocacy/educational programs that create a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone. For more information or to talk to someone, visit their website or call 866-488-7386.