June is Pride Month, a month-long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) history, and a time when the world’s LGBTQ communities come together to celebrate the freedom to be themselves.
Big Brothers Bigs Sisters welcomes the differences that make us all unique. By sharing diverse stories, we help promote acceptance, create a safe space for all Bigs & Littles, and offer possibilities that empower youth to make the decisions best for them.
This Pride, we share the compelling story of Big Sister Judy. Judy is a parent of a transgender woman and now, a mentor. We sat down with Judy to learn more about her journey, motivations, and lessons learned along her rainbow-colored path.
Tell us a bit about your personal connection to the LGBTQ community.
Well, even as a child, I just assumed that men should be able to marry men; women should be able to marry women. I never even thought about it. And then when I was going through coaching training, I really wanted to focus on the LGBTQ community, I just didn’t know how. I had no idea yet how deeply this was going to impact my life.
Then in 2016, right around my child’s 28th birthday, I sent her a card and wrote why I was so grateful for her. When she got the card, she called me. At that point she was living in Seattle and said, “Mom, I’m thinking I’m transgender.”
And I asked, “OK, so what does that mean? Are you going to live as a woman? Are you going to be gender fluid? What exactly are you saying?”
She responded that she didn’t know yet. She knew. She just didn’t want to tell me yet.
In June of 2017, she had to tell everybody because her father was going to visit her. At that point, she had just started taking hormones and wasn’t even seeing a doctor yet.
After my ex-husband came home, everyone in the family was still using the name Michael and the pronoun “he.” One day, my daughter said, “You know, even though she’s not here, we really should be using her preferred pronouns and her name.” And that really struck me because I think it’s important. It also helps you with that transition. We then have to start to learn. We have to grieve it. It’s a grief process because, you know, they call it their dead name because that person to them is pretty much dead and they’re rebirthing a whole new identity in the world.
It was very emotional because I was far away, but through it all and now as Mara, we’re closer than we’ve ever been. We connect with each other differently. Because she was holding back from being her true self, we were never able to get that full connection. Now that she’s female, and although she still lives in Seattle, we talk at least once a week and sometimes we talk two or three times a week.
What made you seek out Big Brothers Big Sisters?
I joined Facebook pages and transgender people would come on and say, “My family doesn’t like me anymore. I told my family and they aren’t accepting me.”
I started to see the statistics on how many transgender children are homeless or unwanted or can’t live as themselves because their parents wouldn’t accept it. And I thought, “How can I help?”
Plus, as I grow my leadership within the organization I work for, volunteering is really important—to go out and really give back to the community. So, I was out there looking and came across Big Brothers Big Sisters. As I was reading, I thought, “Yeah, I’m going to do this. And I’m going to be as upfront as possible. I want to support a transgender child.”
What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions about transgender people?
I think the misconception is that they choose this. They don’t choose this. This is who they are and I think science is starting to show that more and more in this present age. The only choice that they truly make is to live as their authentic self.
Do you have any advice for other parents of transgender children?
If your child tells you they’re transgender, don’t immediately write it off and say, “No.” From the beginning, you have to show acceptance and then do your research. There’s a lot of research out there. There’s Facebook groups that you can join and see; you don’t even have to participate. Try to find other parents of a transgender child. The last thing you want to do is alienate your child, because suicide rates are so high for children whose parents don’t accept them. And if nothing else, we don’t want to lose our child. Period.