Be forewarned, this post is going to be more personal than book-related (though I have some books at the end if you scroll down!).
A lot of you have been around my blog since the beginning and you’ve gotten to know me a bit over these past five and a half years, so you know things have been going on in my personal life. Things I haven’t addressed directly, but I’ve alluded to over the past few years. Sometimes deciding how much to share of our personal lives on our blog can be a tricky issue. But I decided this week to dive in and just address things head-on since it was starting to feel a little disingenuous not to. Especially since I’ve talked about my kids on the blog for years, and those of you who are astute may have noticed that I’ve gone from talking about my son Jaden—to referring to my “oldest”—to mentioning my daughter Jade.
About a year and a half ago, my oldest came to me and told me that she’s transgender. She was born in a male body, but looking back on her life, she’d always felt female. That was news to me, and a bit of a shock, but I’d like to think I handled that initial conversation well. I told her I loved her, no matter what and we would figure things out together. But, I’m not going to lie, that process wasn’t always easy.
Here’s where sharing on a public forum gets hard. Because I know there are people who will judge our actions on all sides of the issue. Some people will say that it should have been a no-brainer—our kid says she’s a girl, so she’s a girl. Done. In theory, that sounds fine, but in practice it felt a whole lot more complicated than that.
- First off, we had already been seeing a counselor for some really challenging anger issues and conflict with our daughter (who we thought of as our son at the time), and that counselor wasn’t sure what to make of Jade’s gender issues.
- Secondly, some members of my family had a lot harder time processing the idea of Jade being transgender than others—and that made for some very tense days around here. Everyone processes gender issues differently and in their own time, something that we all had to learn firsthand. It’s not always easy.
- Making life-altering decisions with a young teenager is complicated. As a parent, you want to make sure that you’re setting your kid on a path that’s going to give them the very best life possible. You want to trust them, but you also have to acknowledge that hormones and brain development and all that are at play. I think any parent can relate to the fact that figuring out how to best help your kids navigate life is tricky at best—in this situation, it felt even more difficult.
And then there’s the flip side of the coin. The people who will judge us in the other direction. If you’ve been around my blog for long, you know that I’m a Christian and my faith is important to me. I’d say about 90% of my (offline) life has revolved around my church, where we’re very active, and our conservative Christian homeschool group. I have to give my friends credit—most of them responded more lovingly and less judgmentally than I would have expected—but there’s still this general opinion that we’ve let “The World” dictate our actions instead of following God.
- A quick scan of my blog will tell you that I have disagreed with the “traditional” Christian viewpoint on LGBT issues for quite some time. I review a lot of LGBT-related books. I’ve questioned the church’s stance for years, and I’ve done my own digging when I didn’t agree with the message that my church seemed to be sending—which is that we love all people but that being LGBT (or at least acting on it) is a sin. I didn’t come to these conclusions out of nowhere.
- I’ve come to the personal conclusion that just because most Christians around me agree with something doesn’t mean it’s right. I’d like to think that if I had lived in the South during Civil War times or during the civil rights movement I wouldn’t have let the general Christian population’s opinions about race issues sway me. People during those times could show you Bible quotes to back up their beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that they were interpreting them the way that God intended. I see this as a very similar issue.
- I won’t lie—I’ve had moments of doubt. I’ve wondered if I could be letting “The World” guide my thoughts and actions. But when I step back, I see a pattern: God has been working in my life for a long time, preparing my heart for this revelation about my daughter. He might even be leading me to do something more about LGBT issues in the church—though I’ve yet to figure out what that is (and it feels a little overwhelming!). I’ve never been an activist type person, but I can’t discount my own personal encounters with God to please other Christians.
Since Jade has transitioned to female (which happened in December), she’s blossomed in a lot of ways. Many of you might remember that I’d mentioned that she was really struggling with anger issues for a good two years before we ever knew anything about her being transgender (and before she really realized it for herself). All of those have gone away. Parenting my daughter is actually a whole lot easier than parenting my son was. It’s one of the things that assures me we’re doing the right thing. I should mention that I have Jade’s permission to write about her here.
I thank you for this supportive community because you really have helped me in times where things have been tough. This blog has been a refuge for me. (I don’t know how many times I’ve complained to you guys over the past few years that parenting is hard, but you’ve taken it all in stride.)
Now, onto the books, because this is a book blog.
Here are some books that have helped me on this journey. Some of them are Christian-related because I felt that I needed to further educate myself so that I could explain my position better to other Christians.
- The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens – This book was the first one that I picked up when we found out that Jade was transgender. It gives a lot of information on gender, including terms, history, and emotions and struggles that parents might experience when their child comes out as transgender.
- Changing Our Mind: Definitive 3rd Edition of the Landmark Call for Inclusion of LGBTQ Christians with Response to Critics – This book was very helpful for me, and it solidified a lot of my beliefs about how the traditional church might be misinterpreting God’s word. It also made me feel a little less alone in my beliefs.
- Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships – I’m actually still reading this one (I’ve put it aside for a while because I have so many review books to read!). It’s a little denser than Changing Our Mind, and the author disagrees with some of the finer points of that book, but it’s again been a great way for me to solidify my beliefs. Most of my research had been done via the internet in the past, and I was glad to be able to read some books on the subject.
- (Not a book, but a great reference, so I’m mentioning it anyway) – Denver Community Church did an LGBT Learning Group when they decided to become LGBT affirming, and they have videos on their website. I thought that they were very helpful in framing the debate. One thing that I really respected about their discussion was their focus on “unity over uniformity.” Meaning that even though their staff and elders didn’t all completely agree on all of the Biblical aspects of the LGBT issue, they moved forward on the principle that Jesus is inclusive and would value love over law.
Other recent reads of note:
- The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord – I read this book at the perfect time last year, and it impacted me in a huge way. This book features a Christian protagonist with a completely open mind about a transgender character. Faith is so often ignored in YA books today, especially when it comes to LGBT issues (or it’s portrayed very negatively). This book was a breath of fresh air.
- Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen – I got this audiobook from the SYNC summer listening program and listened to it on my way to Utah. While Jazz’s situation is a lot different than ours (Jazz knew she was transgender from a young age), I love the idea of a book that helps people understand some things that might go through the mind of a trans teen. Most importantly, I think the book illustrates that trans teens are just teens—Jazz sounds a lot like any other kid her age, with a lot of the same doubts and fears.
- Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out – Disclaimer: I’ve read a few reviews from people who have issues with the way gender is defined and portrayed in this book. I can see their points (my Jade still loves video games and math and has no interest in fashion and very little interest in makeup—she’s not a girly girl, which makes understanding her gender dysphoria a little harder for people who think of gender in very binary ways). Still, I think the book does a good job of portraying portraits of a few transgender individuals and acknowledging that the journey is very different for everyone.
So, this has been a long post. I feel like I could write a whole lot more on this topic, but obviously I have to stop somewhere. I thank you again for being my support when things have been tough. We hear a lot of noise about how the online community can be toxic, but in my experience, the book blogging community is fantastically supportive. If that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t feel like I could share my personal journey with you guys here. Thank you for that.