My Transgender Life: Teach Your Children... and Vice Versa

04/19/2016 06:19 pm ET Updated Apr 20, 2017

Teach your children well
Their father's hell did slowly go by
Feed them on your dreams
The one they fix, the one you'll know by
- Graham Nash

My father was 4 years old when his mother died in the 1918 flu epidemic. He was the middle of 3 boys, when his father -- an immigrant went hunting for a new wife to help raise the kids. My father has one more ½ brother, but the stories that I heard were that by the early 1930s and the depression he pretty much was on his own. I am pretty sure his entire worldview was focused on his personal survival. It took me a long time to realize that his lack of close friendships is perhaps a good example of how epigenetics may work, as for my own reasons, this trait was passed along to me.

My father was a gambling addict and as far as I could tell had no dreams except get through each day, and have some "action" to feed his inner demons. I am not sure if I knew my father too well, or not at all. I come up empty when I try to list what I learned from my father.

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I first became a father in 1978. Then again, in 1980 and 1983. I wanted to teach my children so much. My only admitted addiction was sitting in front of the TV, but I was living in my own private hell, and struggling with many conflicting dreams. I had no idea that the dream of living my true life could ever come true. That private hell took a back seat as I navigated my own path of day-by-day survival. Part of this focused on teaching my children -- hopefully to find their own truth and not to chase anyone's dreams but their own.

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I left my private hell 5 years ago, in 2011. My kids are in their 30s now, and each of them has learned to follow their true paths, and respect the different paths of others. There has been an interesting journey for all of us in learning and teaching each other about our varied interests. As they became adults I began to understand that my new job as a parent was not to teach or control, but to listen and support, and if asked, advise without criticism or connection to whether they follow my advice or not. In some sense, my children have taught me this.

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When I was young in the '50s and '60s, there was no language or understanding of gender variance. Somehow I knew, that I could never tell anyone -- even my parents -- that I was not a boy. I knew this was true, but I also knew that I had to find my way to survive. Perhaps this was not so different than my father's life experience.

And you of tender years
Can't know the fears that your elders grew by
Help them with your youth
They seek the truth before they can die
- Graham Nash

The world is different today. I am so happily amazed to see young children being able to articulate their gender identity, and the many parents who are learning to listen, and learn to accept what is, and deal with a variety of fears they may have.

The clinical view is that when children are stating gender variance in a manner that is insistent, consistent and persistent, there is a good chance that they are transgender. Back 60 years ago, I knew this inside, but would never dare say it out loud. I cannot even imagine what my parents whose worldview was focused on their own personal survival would have dealt with my stating I was really a girl.

We hear so many stories of young trans children being able to bloom as a person when they are allowed to live as their true selves. For these children, it is not a phase, as many who have no idea what it is like living with gender dysphoria is like, may think.

I am meeting more and more parents of trans children who are letting their children teach them what a good parent really needs to be. One whose love and acceptance of their children has no limits. One who shows a willingness to face their own fears. One who will stand by and fight for their children no matter how many laws or people might want to label their children as "less than" others and discriminate against them. One who learns that their own dreams that they may have had for their children are a lot less important than the dreams the children have for themselves.

I don't understand a worldview where anyone can abandon a family member who is transgender. I know this happens much too much. I wonder when and why so many people have given up the desire to learn from each other's life experiences. As I learned each person may have their own view of what their survival means to them.

I have also come to love that I can learn from anyone. Even my children.

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Grace Stevens transitioned at the age of 64 and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is the author of No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, an intimate memoir of her journey to live authentically. Grace is available for speaking with Live Your Truth: Discover Paths to Improved Performance. If you have a topic that you would like Grace to think and perhaps write about, let her know. Visit her website at: http://www.graceannestevens.com/. Follow Grace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/graceonboard .