I don’t think there is a timeline set for a person who is transgender, nor do I believe there is a checklist for one to identify as transgender. I do believe that we are born with “hardwiring” from each parent. I mean we get their DNA. I don’t believe that we as parents create a transgender child or a gay child for that matter. I do not believe that as parents we “do” something to cause that. It isn’t anyone’s “fault.” I also believe it’s not a choice. When I think about some of the things I have chosen in my life, I didn’t always think about the consequences. I have learned the hard way many times. There are always consequences to our choices. Some are good and some are bad. If you think about a person who is transgender or gay, many of them do not get support and in fact are horribly bullied. No one wants to be bullied or to be the outcast. So why would someone choose to be or do anything that might cause negative attention? It makes no sense.
Have you ever wanted to change something in your life because you aren’t happy? Maybe it’s a job, a new home, starting a family, or maybe it’s a death. Let’s talk about that for a minute. Death comes in many forms. Death can be the loss of loved one. It can be a divorce. It can be the death of a good friendship, or of a job that you loved. All of these create a change in our lives. In life we are faced with many changes and some we do not want to encounter for many reasons. That list goes on and on for each of us. With any of these “deaths” we encounter, we must move on. Moving on takes courage, faith, support of some kind, and depending on the “death”–it may require a mourning phase.
So at this point in Kam’s transition, he decides it’s time for top surgery (AKA double mastectomy). He has been on testosterone and looks more male each day. But oh my gosh, surgically changing his body forever? Hold up. That takes courage. As a family we discussed many times what this would entail. We also did our research and realized that for Kam’s wellbeing this would be a part of his transition. We gave Kam the go ahead to research options and doctors. Once again, he did this very methodically and successfully. With the help of his psychologist, he found two renowned doctors that perform this surgery. One in Florida, and one in Philly. Well after we got involved a little more from the insurance perspective, we found that some or most of the surgery was going to be covered no matter where he had it. But 100% of it would be covered if he had the surgery in Buffalo. We found a doctor here at a local hospital who was amazing. She just moved back into the area and is an amazing plastic surgeon. I went with Kam to meet her and for the initial consultation. I was blown away by her knowledge and bedside manner. I was also appreciative of her knowledge and compliance with the transgender community. She made Kam feel so welcome and brave. She took the time to get to know Kam and his journey.
There was some wait time due to Kam finishing school and collecting the letters and paperwork needed to have the surgery. In New York State, top surgery is covered due the psychological wellbeing of the person. It is actually seen as part of the transition. In many states the surgery is not covered and that leads to more anxiety and depression. The suicide rate is incredibly high among transgender individuals (40%).
Surgery date is upon us and Kam is very excited and nervous. This was a kid who thought he would die from a bloody nose. He worried about having a heart attack because he was out of breath–at age 12. He worried the flu would kill him. You get the picture. So here is this brave young man voluntarily signing up for a major, life altering surgery. The morning of surgery we all went to the hospital. Of course I went back with him whenever I could. There was no way I was going to let him be alone. We even took pictures! I was with him right up until he was wheeled away from me. I waited until he was out of sight and then cried. I’m so glad I was there because he was so nervous. It is very nerve racking waiting to have surgery. I should know, I’ve had enough of them. Lots of doctors, nurses and equipment making noises as you just sit there and wait for your turn. So in my normal state of behavior I made friends with everyone and cracked jokes. Kam was comfortable with me around (I think).
The doctor came by for one last check and then away he went. I watched my son be wheeled into the OR on his own free will. I was in disbelief. While I walked to the waiting room to join my husband I thought to myself, “wow, he REALLY wants this”. I was both proud, sad and scared. I joined my husband and we waited. I must have looked at the tv screen where his name was over a million times. It seemed like his name never moved. We were told the surgery would take roughly 2-3 hours. During that time I paced. I prayed. I journaled. I cried and I laughed. I also had Tim Horton’s and played candy crush saga. Journaling really helped me that day. I found peace in my prayers. So many memories flooded my mind. Memories from early pool days in cute little bikinis to what will I think or how will I feel when my son goes shirtless? At that point I couldn’t imagine what my body language might suggest when I did see him for the first time. I kept reminding myself that this whole surgery is happening because my child needed to feel and look more masculine. He needed to match his inner shell with his outer shell. It was a necessity for him. (Quick side note, not all individuals that are trans choose to have surgery.) Anyway, the day was filled with tears and what ifs. “What if’s” are the worst. They do nothing but bring negativity. I had to really be present to make my “what if’s” positive.
Finally, word came that Kam is recovering and did great throughout the surgery. Praise God! Whew. Surgery took a little longer due to a small delay in the beginning–something that would have been nice to know from the start. I could not wait any longer to see him. I raced through the hallway to his room and watched him wake from the anesthetic. I was so relieved just to see him. He seemed very excited to get on home and heal.
I must admit I loved having the opportunity to play mom again. He doesn’t live at home but during his recovery he stayed at home. Recovery for me was easy. Just emptying drains, recording pills and making sure he was comfortable.
His first trip back to see the doctor was amazing. When the bandages came off and he took one look at his new chest…it was all I needed to see that we, HE made the right decision. I was so happy for him. His scaring was minimal. But his smile was not.
The first time I saw him without a shirt it was in a picture. It was a great picture. The ocean behind him, his arms spread wide and a smile as big as his arm span. The first time I saw him in person without the shirt I didn’t think much. My feelings were not like I thought they would be. I thought I would be scared. I actually thought I would be embarrassed because I was picturing my little girl without a shirt. When it finally happened, I didn’t feel that way at all. I was actually more concerned with watching him without his shirt. He was so confident and proud. How could I feel any less than the same. I was relieved because he was so brave. Multiple times throughout his transition I have projected my feelings to be one way and was wronged many times. I like that. As a child, bra shopping and body image was very uncomfortable for him. But now, my son is feeling very much like a whole person. He has never really felt that way growing up and that makes me sad. Now, he’s different in a way where I feel his wholeness. I love that. My son is really brave and full of courage to be the person he was supposed to be all along. I’m so happy for him. He is not ashamed as he once was. I love him.