Coming out and sharing one’s personal journey to LGBTQ+ identity is no doubt an incredibly scary and vulnerable time for a youth, requiring a tremendous amount of courage. It can also be a scary and vulnerable time for parents and caregivers, and present an opportunity to support and strengthen trust bonds with kids. In this article, we are humbled and honoured that Aeron and his mom have courageously shared their personal account of some of Aeron’s transgender journey for the Myles Ahead community. The intention is to provide perspective, insights, and compassion for anyone facing a similar situation, as well as provide some helpful resources to help the community better understand how to ‘be there’ through it.
Hey there! I’m Aeron, a soon-to-be 18 year old trans guy from the beaches in Toronto. I’ve been out for 3 years now, and my coming out story was… well, delayed. In the late fall of 2016 I told my mom (and my mom alone) that I was thinking of maybe changing my gender identity and name at some point, but wasn’t sure yet and not to tell anyone. Almost a year later I’d figured myself out – new name, new pronouns, secure in my transness – but my reluctance to come out had only grown the more solid an identity I built for myself. When you’re just presenting a theory, there’s less stress to be right. When you’re presenting someone the truth, there is no middle ground. Either the people in your inner circle (family, closest friends) believe in the truth, or they (in part or in whole) don’t. The only difference is whether or not they trust you unconditionally, which is something you only really know when it’s been tested. Considering my struggles with anxiety, needless to say I was terrified.
I changed my name on all my social medias in the hopes that they would start the conversation with me, because clearly I was never going to find “the right time” to do it. I waited on pins and needles, but my family was either too inactive on instagram or too unwilling to breach my privacy to say anything. My deadline was coming up – my birthday was a month away, and I wanted a binder. (Not a binder for school notes, which is immediately what my mom thought on first mention, but an article of clothing to bind or flatten the chest.) I still have the screenshot of the email I sent them; For my birthday I’d like a drawing tablet, a new dresser or to fix my broken one, and “Maybe a binder since I’m trans (if you think I’m going to come out in person you’re wrong I’m not good at this)”.
As Aeron’s mom, I still remember that email — rejoicing that finally I didn’t need to keep his secret any more. I had spent the time since he first confided in me reading articles, books, quizzing people I knew with trans kids and generally trying to prepare myself, all while keeping it to myself. Finally our whole family could support him together! I knew I wanted to let him lead and go through this transition at his own pace. I remember being worried about other peoples’ acceptance of him — including his grandmother. His response was “Gran is great! She’ll be totally fine with this.” Which she really was — she is a great ally. The summer that he first came out we went to an annual summer bbq with close family friends and I sent an email ahead of time at his request to let them know about the changes in our family. His closest friend in that family greeted us at the car door with “Hello, great to see you again! What’s your preferred name? What are your pronouns?”. It was a fabulous weekend.
The road however, has not always been smooth. Not even close. As a mom I worry about the bullying and transphobia that he will meet when he’s not with us or a group of friends. People that don’t know him but presume to judge. This worry is not needless, as trans kids are routinely bullied and harassed. On New Year’s morning, he and a friend were hassled by a transit officer and repeatedly misgendered and called by their birth name (deadnamed) as well as being bullied into having to pay a fine. One of the things that has come out of that is making sure all of his official ID bears his correct gender and name.
I’m not going to lie, there was grief at the loss of our daughter who was — especially at the beginning. She was a pretty amazing girl and it was hard to let her go. Seeing the growth of confidence and brilliance as Aeron grew into himself helped me to put the old life to rest. Not that I didn’t make mistakes with names and pronouns — everybody does. Apologizing and trying harder made it get easier as time went on.
Aeron + Mom
Some ideas that really helped us through this whole process. Our process was transition, but most of the tips below are equally as helpful if your child is gay, or affected by mental illness.
Trust your child. They know their own self better than you do. Let them be the guide in the speed of their own transition. Your job is to trust them and love them unconditionally.
(Aeron: “Coming out is the final step in a long process of doubt and uncertainty. If your child makes it to that step then they’ve already thought it through.”)
Use their pronouns. The more they hear you trying, the more they believe you’re on their side. Tell their pronouns, but only to those they choose to tell. Don’t out them to someone they are not ready to be out to. Correct people gently when they use the wrong pronouns! Assure them when they apologize (and they will) that everyone makes mistakes but it’s so important to your child that they keep trying.
(Aeron: “When someone misgenders a trans person, being the one to correct them can put the trans person in danger. Step in and be an ally!”)
Use your child’s chosen name. The deadname is no longer who they are. Let it go. This one is hard at first — especially if you have no input on the new name and/or the old name has some family meaning. Once they have settled on the new name (this may take a few iterations), it is so important to get your child’s ID changed to incorporate their new name and gender. There are a lot of forms to fill out, but it is so worth it.
(Aeron: “Ask what your child’s priorities are when it comes to ID changes, since the whole process can take a long time.”)
Express your grief, but not to your child. I used a journal, mostly, writing in it letters to my new son about loss and hope. Maybe you need a supportive person to just be an ear as you let the emotions out.
(Aeron: “Never blame your child for being trans. Never blame your child for being themselves.”)
Surround yourself with a supportive community. We were lucky to already be in a fabulous community. Check out some of the options below to find community if you don’t already have one.
(Aeron: “As a cisgender person, your voice is treated as more legitimate. Use it to speak up when you see discrimination!”)
Educate yourself — read articles and books on the process of transition. Follow communities and individuals on social media that highlight and support LGBTQ2+ issues. Listen to the conversations your child has with friends about the struggles they have.
(Aeron: “At the end of the day, your child is still a child, not a teacher. They are not responsible for being an expert on all social and political issues involving LGBTQ+ rights or history.”)
We have been truly blessed to be surrounded by a supportive community, and Aeron has been allowed to be who he is from day one of coming out.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Aeron is a high school student attending Oasis Secondary School Triangle Program, the only all LGBTQ+ highschool in North America. He enjoys writing and performing poetry, Dungeons and Dragons, and Gaming.
Catherine has worn many hats over the years — martial arts instructor, hand crafter, web designer, etc — but the best fitting hat is mom. During her time as a martial arts instructor she organized a few youth mental health symposiums that brought many experts to her community. She has a passion to help youth and their parents deal with mental health issues.
The 519 (519 Church St, Toronto). If you are in Toronto, this positive space has many programs to support LGBTQ+ youth and trans specific programs as well.
A helpful article on how to support your LGBTQ+ child.
The Unfinished Dollhouse by Michelle Alfano – A book encapsulating a mother’s struggle to deal with and support her trans son.
The Transgender Child by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper – So many good tips and resources in here for families and professionals!
The Triangle Program (part of Oasis Secondary School) in Toronto – LGBTQ2+ kids are just kids learning in a supportive inclusive environment.
LOVE Organization. Their Louder Than a Bomb program has presence in British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Quebec, and encourages kids to express themselves and give their feelings and struggles a positive outlet.