I recently had the privilege of meeting two mothers who were visiting Thailand to support their daughters, who were facing a profound and life changing experience. I was deeply affected by the stories that these mothers told me.
“What’s so strange about this?” you may ask. Well, both daughters were identified at birth as boys and had been brought up as such. Now they were about to undergo Sex Reassignment Surgery, which would permanently alter their physical appearance and give each the female body they so desired, in order to be true to their own gender awareness.
The media make a big issue about the transsexual lifestyle and about what these people have to undergo in order to feel whole and to fit into a society that largely does not understand. The media also tend largely to ignore the other family members who have to live with the trauma that their relative is going through.
Jane and Janet told me the stories of their respective sons who only recently had become their daughters. Each story was unique but also similar in so many ways. Jess is 27 and Sue 23, and both had told their parents when they were teenagers about their need to be other than what they appeared. The girls are shy and withdrawn but also willing to talk about their own experiences to those whom they trust; I am honoured that they were willing to talk to me. As for the mothers, their story is also similar – the worry, concern, sadness and having to deal with the bereavement of losing a son, even though the person remains as a daughter. Generally, a mother’s love is unconditional and, in these cases, so complete that each is willing to see the child they love undergo painful and life-changing surgery in order to be fulfilled and able to face the world as the person they truly are. Unfortunately this is not always the case and some abandon their children to face the world on their own. My admiration for Jane and Janet is enormous and I acknowledge the courage that each has shown to support their daughters as they undertake this journey.
Janet has recently written to me about her experience in Thailand as her daughter heals.
“Everyone has a story to tell here and for me it’s been such an eye opener to hear of the difficulties that the girls have faced – each one is different and unique and mostly there’s some degree of sadness for them all. I think for Sue it’s been an experience too and she’s starting to realise that she mustn’t let herself get too ’embroiled’ in their (i.e. the other patients’) experiences as it can bring you down yourself and you need to concentrate on moving forward and on building your own life. I think everyone seems to go through an ’emotional’ period here – maybe it’s the op itself or the fluctuation in hormone levels that you go through, or maybe it’s just that for the first time each girl is spending a lengthy period of time surrounded by others’ in the same situation as themselves and can feel free to be themselves and show the emotion and pent up feelings they’ve had but have hidden for so long.”
This says it all for me and encompasses the worldwide experience of young transsexual people and their mothers. As for the mothers themselves, they move on, knowing that their child is complete in herself and ready to face the world. They, the mothers, have a history to remember and to deal with as they look back at what they have given up, in order that their child has the opportunity to flourish. I thank them all for their trust and willingness to tell me their stories, such that I may better understand what it is to be a mother of a young transsexual person.