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Daughter to Son

Alistair's Story from LGBT+ @Sky

Daughter to Son: My stepchild's journey

I’m Ali, having survived in this world into my 40s and never really knowing anyone who was openly LGBT (to be fair, I probably have come across many people but just not given a hoot how they identified). My older sister lives in Sydney and has many LGBT friends and, as some of you will know, the “scene” out there is like a different world and by the magic of social media I see the pictures. I’ve survived thus far with a fairly simple ethos: take people as you find them, live and let live, and don’t be a D-Head.

That was up until 2-and-a-bit years ago when I met my now wife. She has 3 children aging between 17 and 26 and when we first met, Middle Child (yes they are called Eli but we mostly refer to them all as Youngest, Middle and Oldest Child even when speaking directly to them) identified as gay. They were 17 at the time, had been out for some time and seemingly perfectly comfortable with that decision.

I say seemingly because a few months before turning 18 they plucked up the courage to tell us that although they were biologically a female, their Gender Identity was in fact male. To understand some of the pressure they were feeling, this was done initially through a series of text messages, with Middle Child in their bedroom and mum being in the living room. And then to progress from that to a protracted face-to-face silence, tears and then back to the bedroom and texts - that kid was suffering big time.

In many ways this wasn’t a great surprise as they were far removed from the stereotypical “Girly Girl” – they had short hair, had previously spoken about how much they disliked having breasts, would wear baggy clothes to hide them and they had been mistaken for a boy.

Me being me started researching Gender dysphoria, transitioning support groups - the whole 9 yards. In many ways it was an easier adjustment for me as I didn’t really know “The Girl she was” and, like I do with everyone, was more interested in the human that they are. The essence of the person should always survive, to quote the bard “This above all: to thine own self be true”.

It’s been tougher on Elaine, as anyone with an ounce of empathy or any parent will know. With 2 out of 3 children being sons, she felt she was losing her only daughter and is to an extent grieving. With the internal conflict between grieving and supporting her child, a mother’s love is a truly amazing thing. For a period, it was the elephant in the room, as she would decline support groups as if talking about it made it somehow more real.

For his siblings we had a mixed reaction, the youngest when he was young had some mental health issues and Eli was so instrumental in getting him through this, which is indicative of the type of person they are. As for the oldest he had some issues to start with, characterised by “If she said she was a Dolphin would you just feed her fish?”. Fortunately his partner has guided him through this and he’s now on board - as a family we just want each other to be happy and healthy.

So where are we at now? 

Eli has seen all the shrinks and medical doctors and is now progressing through the medical side of things, it’s early days and he starts with regular testosterone injections.
There was a really special moment at New Year when he “came out” to his grandparents and all his anxiety about this was dispelled with a simple, “What took you so long to tell us?”.
I’m able to be a little more detached form the emotional side of this and just want all my step children to be happy. I can see significant changes in Eli (not physically yet) and so far so good. Eli is a student nurse and fortunately we live in an informed and enlightened part of the world, his mentors have been great and even in his part-time job in a local restaurant they are respectful of his choices. He doesn’t have lots of friends but has a small circle of close friends who are really supportive.

We have been fortunate as when you look at the various forums for parents, there are so many heartbreaking stories of mental health breakdowns, self harm and even attempted suicides which we’ve had none of and fingers crossed never will.

Are we all on the happy path and is everything perfect? Well no, gender pronouns continue to be a minefield but we’ve spoken about this and Eli knows that this is not malicious in any way and accepts it will take time. I deliberately encouraged his mum to seek out male-themed Christmas and birthday cards, “Happy Birthday Son” and his aunt sent him a “Merry Christmas nephew” card so there’s a lot of progress.

There is still such a long way to go. We haven’t even considered what gender reassignment surgery will bring to the table. This isn’t yet done in Scotland for FTM so we’ll have to go to Manchester for that but we’re taking things as they come - there will be tears and snotters but with the support of each other we’ll get there.
I’ll finish with this memory as it pretty much sums up our life. When Eli first came out as Trans we sat him down and with the straightest of straight faces told him: “We love you and will respect your choices and your decisions, you’re heading into a new chapter in life by going to University where you’ll meet many new people and be exposed to many new influences, and we whatever choices you make we will continue to love and support you, however... if you come home one day and tell me you’re a Vegan then we’re done.”

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