We sat in the lobby, or reception as it were, surrounded by mothers and children, with various disabilities, or special needs. The Doc’s door opened and shut at regular intervals. Whenever his eyes met ours, he would smile warmly, asking us to be patient- and how well we recognized that expression. We had been patient, and we knew we would require far more with what we were going to share with him. We loved this doc, and we trusted him. We needed to trust him more than ourselves. He’s been our boy’s messiah and friend, and confidant for the longest time. We had just moved to Gurgaon from Bangalore, and we carried news, earth-shattering news, and rushed to share it with him: our son was a girl- he had gender dysphoria! What’s that?
As defined by google : the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex.
The boy has never had it easy, and therefore nor have we. At age 16 when your male child announces that he is ready to reassign himself to the female lot, you baulk. Why you might ask? Well, for one there had never been any signs thereof- how can one miss seeing the strangeness, which is part and parcel of gender dysphoria, right?
Then, apart from not reading the signs that should have jumped out at
us- he was always a naughty, wicked little fella, up to tricks that are
generally associated with ‘boys’; then he has had umpteen phases of
this and that- and none lasted beyond a week, or a fortnight, at best.
That’s not all. He’s always had girlfriends!
That should seal his boyhood, right? Not right.
What was this noise all about? So our reaction was nothing short of expressions betraying shock and disbelief, and rejection, totally so.
“Okay, so now this….honestly what next?”
“Why this- when did you feel this way, and why now?”
“Honestly, what else are you going to cook up?” “Enough is enough, try and finish your school education- that should be the focus, not another phase for heavens’ sakes!”
We tried shutting it down before it began shaking the family terrain, yet again….but could we?
The boy had been diagnosed with ADHD at 4 and a half years, and hypo mania (borderline bipolar) at age 15. The episodes were so hard for us to handle, and so terrifying, that we had sought help, at 13, when there had been self-harm. Only in Bangalore did a psychiatrist tell us that it was clearly hypo mania and he could very well harm himself irretrievably. Medication was imperative. So that was that, and there were periods of calm, punctuated with periods of manageable unrest. However all through our boy’s life, there has been a kind of indefinable angst, a sentiment that nothing is enough- he has always wanted more than what we’ve considered his fair share. The sister has taken the brunt of most of his riling, his angst, his fears and his grief. None of us could fathom what it was that made him so, what it was that would make him happy; what was it he sought from this world, from us, his family. We plodded on, loving him, taking it in our stride, communicating verbally- seeking therapy of every type- including cranio-sacral, reiki, PLR (past life regression). None of it ever worked because the boy has always outsmarted it all. The only thing that did, partially, was medication, which belongs to the physical world, so once ingested it helped a wee bit. Even in that sphere, he has cheated and even overdosed- to what end? To feel, said he. The day he took all of his tabs, he talked non-stop for ten hours at a stretch, and a lot of it was not gibberish. He repeatedly asked us for our forgiveness for hurting us through his life- for being who he was etc. It broke our hearts to see him spout what he did. Was this the dysphoria that made him thus, I ask myself.
Once he had said to me that he cut himself so that he could feel his body- because he felt nothing, at least hurting himself would yield some feel. But we knew better, we knew that he felt a lot- perhaps too much, but was unable to express what drove him, what exactly he felt. He would cry, then he would laugh. But mostly, his eyes wore an expression of another world- a world we couldn’t parry with, one we could definitely neither enter, nor attempt to understand.
Was all of it this, I ask myself, the dichotomy of his existence- who was he- or was she?
Today, we know our son’s a trans woman- we’ve accepted this fact. The Doc is by his side, as are we. He is on hrt (hormone replacement therapy). I have connected with many trans women, and tried to grasp what they have been through, and what they must continue to live. It is a hard journey in a country like ours, where trans are regarded as half and half- whereas they are wholly one gender or the other, trapped as it were, in the wrong body. I’ve been alerted to the existence of such folk, and the government, bless them, has provided for a third gender- it’s a beginning. Although I still wonder why a reassigned trans, who is then a woman or a man, as the case may be, cannot get the passport he/she merits after surgery?
People empathise with my situation. Friends understand that it can’t be easy, and it isn’t. As my boy undergoes both therapy and HRT, he has mood swings, dizzy spells at work, and nightmares that disallow a long spell of restful sleep. No, it is not easy. I birthed a boy- and I have now to contend with two daughters. Why is it that difficult? I’m not sure. Mostly I suffer with the boy child. I have learnt that the reassignment surgery is tricky as it is painful, and the recuperation thereafter, long, tedious and agonising. Talking to other trans’ helps, and they all say, despite the pain, they would not have it any other way. I didn’t ask for this, nor did the father. Yet, here we are. Time to celebrate perhaps- still the pain that the boy has had to undergo and suffer in silence?
Someone asked me, “But nature doesn’t make mistakes, does it?”
Well, you only have to look around you and see how many trans there are, to know that the possibility, while not huge, exists. Being a parent to a trans woman- it’s got to become my strength, not my weakness. I love my child, very much, and were he to have been born a girl for starters, would I have not loved her all the same? So the point of the matter is that there lies a person within this lean frame- he’s a pretty boy, and a soulful, caring person- a bit lost, a bit unworldly and very talented. I love this person deeply. The boy will soon be the girl- and we will embrace her in her new form with gratitude and complete acceptance. It is we, the parents, who will help the world accept her beauty, with her multifarious capabilities, and so she will start afresh, reborn as it were.