Keshet is a national organization that works for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. The organization equips Jewish leaders with tools to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, creates spaces for queer Jewish teens to feel valued and develop their own leadership skills, and mobilizes the Jewish community to fight for LGBTQ justice. Keshet’s blog spotlights this work, as well as the voices of LGBTQ Jews, our families, and allies.
My heart began pounding.
Faster and faster and faster.
“How can this be happening?” I asked myself, tears about to pour over the edge of my eyelids. “How can we ever get through this?” I panicked.
I had just learned that the 15-year-old before me, whom I had always called my daughter, was actually my transgender son.
For several days, I grieved. It was, I told people over and over, like a death. I had lost my daughter. She was gone. “Her beautiful hair,” was all I kept thinking. I just could not stop ruminating about that gorgeous mane of which I’d always been so jealous.
Soon after, she shaved it all off…
I knew, however, from the moment my son told me who he was, that regardless of how sad I felt inside, I would always be there to support him 100 percent. I would be his rock, his ally, his protector. I would help him jump hurdles and help him find light within the darkness. I would turn my sadness into passion, and I would help him be who he was always meant to be.
Three days after I learned that I had a son, my depression rapidly dissipated and I became his mama lion.
I then made my very first Facebook post:
“My almost 16-year old is changing his name to Sage. We support him.”
The responses I got were varied. Most people clearly didn’t realize what I meant. People told me stories of when they had wanted to change their names as kids. Others made light of my statement. “What a ‘Sage’ idea!” someone responded. Most only saw the name change. Very few even recognized that the gender in my post was not a “her.” Two people caught on and messaged me privately with information and support. For that, I was thankful.
And so, I decided I needed to be a bit more transparent. Thus, the next day, I posted this:
For everyone who has been wondering about my last post, here it is: My daughter “H” is now my son Sage. We love our son and he is happier than he has ever been now that we all know his long hidden secret. This is our family and this is who we are. End of story.
After hitting “enter,” I sat back and waited for responses. Would we be supported? Would people be nosy and rude? Surprisingly, I got 157 “likes” and 51 comments, each of which contained words of love, support, and acceptance. I couldn’t believe that, living in the middle of such a conservative state like Missouri, I had found so much tolerance and had not run into even the tiniest bit of nastiness.
Maybe the world really had become a better place…
And then, it came. The long awaited nasty letter in the form of a private Facebook message; the one sharp needle among my wonderfully soft- cushioned haystack:
Hi Sharon, I’m struggling to understand why it was important to you to post such a personal and private decision on behalf of your child? After all, my children’s sexuality is nobody’s business but theirs to share. I hope that my question is not offensive to you, that is not my intention. I’d really like to understand. If you decide not to respond, I understand as well. Either way I hope your family is at peace with the change.
REALLY?! I wondered aloud as I read this private Facebook message.
REALLY? Does she expect me to hide the fact that I now have a son? Am I supposed to keep him locked in a closet so no one knows that he exists? Am I supposed to keep telling people that I have a daughter? What does she expect me to do? And why would she refer to this as a private matter? Don’t most people share their gender with those around them? And doesn’t she realize that this has NOTHING TO DO WITH SEXUALITY?
I kept getting angrier and angrier.
And then, I stopped. And I thought. And I realized that this person was just trying to learn. She had probably never met a transgender person. She probably truly needed information. And so, I replied to her. And then I posted my reply on Facebook, so others could learn as well:
Someone messaged me to ask why I announced on Facebook that my child, Sage, is transgender. I’m sure this person simply has no experience with people in the LGBT community. Education is so important in this world. Here was my answer, my attempt to educate.
“Thanks for your message. I appreciate that you want to be educated about this. I posted this on Facebook because it was easier than calling and writing everyone we know to let them know. I just couldn’t fathom having to email or call that many people,
When anyone has a child in their family, they announce it on FB these days. I now have a son, and I wanted to announce it.
“H” becoming Sage was not a “decision.” Being transgender is not a decision. Being transgender is a way you are born. It was his decision, however, to tell us that he is transgender.
Clearly, our family will look different now. We see so many people in so many different places during our lives; school, work, synagogue, social events, friend’s homes, etc. Many people will be seeing that “H” is now a boy. So, we needed to let people know so they aren’t surprised.
I am in no way embarrassed by my son. He is a combination of my husband and me, so clearly we made him this way. Thus, we accept him for who he is. We know our friends and family will do the same. We are excited for this new journey for our family and want to share it with those we know and love.
Also, please know that gender and sexuality are not the same. Being transgender is about who you are. Sexuality is about who you love. I would never discuss my child’s sexuality (or mine for that matter) publicly. But gender, well, that is something that everyone sees.
I am sorry if you were upset or offended by my post. Please know that being transgender is just another way of being. There is no shame in it. I am a girl. My husband is a boy. My oldest child is transgender. No big deal.
Thus, I was sharing my excitement over having a son, just like anyone would share the exciting moments in their lives on Facebook. I hope you understand that and will be happy for us.”
The responses to this were incredible. Fifty-five messages filled with words of love and congratulations. Fifty-five messages reminding me that my acceptance of my son is the best gift I could ever give to him and that him being himself is the greatest gift he could ever give the world.
These past few months have been filled with ups and downs, learning curves, new experiences and finding a new normal. In other words, these past few months, we have been living life.
And what an incredible life it is turning out to be…
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