I’ll admit it: when Layla came out, I was terrified. I was scared about how I could possibly keep her safe, knowing what the media tells me about what a trans woman’s life looks like. That’s a parent’s primary job, isn’t it? To keep their kid safe. I was scared about how people — friends, family, our people — would react to her identification. But honestly, I was scared about having to let go of all the visions and dreams for my child.
What I came to realize is that what I was grieving was the breaking down of the construct of gender. When I first heard that gender was a construct, I didn’t really understand what it meant. What I’ve learned over these last few years is that a construct is something that has meaning because we apply the meaning to it. An example of this would be when I say seeing an old car is my brother who passed showing up to say hi. That is a construct; it means something because I agree that it’s meaningful.
Letting go of the construct of gender was so jarring and challenging because what I was realizing were all the places where I held me back because I am a girl. This killed me because I considered myself a hardcore, capital-F Feminist. And here I’m learning all the ways I do things differently, or raise my children differently, because of their assigned genders.
We had waited almost a full year before we were able to get Layla in front of doctors whose specialty is working with kids like her. We were nervous and excited about what would come from this appointment and then the doctor came in. She was lovely, introduced herself, we introduced ourselves and we went through an assessment. While she was asking her questions, I noticed Layla was shifting in her chair. She was a little uncomfortable and to try to get a little more comfortable she stretched out her legs, placing her feet in the Doctor’s personal space.
As I watched this happen, the doctor — without missing a beat — moved herself further back to regain her personal space. There was no thought about what was happening; that’s how engrained these programs are.
As this happened, I thought to myself, “Wow. And this is the difference between raising women and raising men.”
While Layla was my daughter and we had been using she/her pronouns for almost a year, her presentation was still very masculine. How many times have you been on a bus or a subway or in a waiting room and a man takes the seat beside you and spreads his legs while he sits? What do you do when this happens? You change your position and do what you need to regain your personal space.
My daughter took up as much space as she needed to be comfortable. She wasn’t concerned with how others would be affected by her taking up her space, she didn’t think about who would have to adjust while she got comfortable… she just did what she needed to do. And the world adapted.
This became a significant moment for me. Looking back on it now, I can see how it helped me to relax, to understand that she was going to do what she needed to do –- and the world was going to adapt.
Traditional approaches to parenting often tell us that we have to know everything, and if we don’t know, then we have to pretend we do. This method has left generations of people riddled with anxiety. How can you know everything? You only know what you know, and the benefit of being in a community, is that everyone knows what they know and collectively you know so much more.
I had no idea where Layla was going and what she was going to need from me. I was making connections and asking questions of people who had walked the path I was on. I did research online from trusted sources. And you know what they kept telling me?
Let your child lead you.
The thing is, Layla knew for a long time before she told us about who she was. She had connected with peers, she had done her research and she had a plan for her life. I didn’t need to make a plan. I needed to support her in executing her plan. Which — I’m not going to lie: it hasn’t always been easy. Because she knows what she wants, and then what she wants changes. How can I support her when I can’t rely on the terrain not to change?
I support her because I trust her. She knows what she needs to do in the moment she is in, and the world adapts to her. And sometimes, she adapts what she needs and then more adaptation happens.
As I learned this and embraced this, I watched my daughter bloom. My willingness to stand beside her as she made her choices about her life, not just about her gender identity but her courses at school, her time management, her… well, everything — she learned to trust herself. This has trickled down to our other children, too, and the result is that all of my kids have pretty solid self-esteem and know their parents are on their side. For me, becoming an ally meant knowing that I don’t know the way and the people around me do so I can trust them, love them and let them take me where they need to go.
Let your child lead you.
Michelle Scrimgeour-Brown is a master energy healer, published author, clairvoyant and non-denominational minister who practices at Spirited Healing. She delights in training others to hone their own intuitive abilities through her program Ignite Your Intuition, and she is excited about the opportunity to shift energetic blockages in real time, making it possible for you to truly step into the life you long for. Her book, In the Past…, is available on her website at www.spiritedhealing.ca/book/ and at local independent bookstores. IG: @revmichellesb FB: @spiritedhealing