This short and easily-readable book is about parental perspectives for supporting a child through their first year of gender transition.
14 year old Olivia experienced the “tiger” of gender dysphoria: the dissonance between the gender assigned at birth and a person’s self-perceived gender identity. Her subsequent development was “like watching a baby bird learning to fluff up its wings as it becomes emboldened by the possibilities of beauty and flight.” Gender identity is located in the brain, not the body, and being transgender is not a choice. But whereas trans children might be comfortable with disconformity, only some relatives or friends will recognise a trans child as being the same person.
Lyndsay describes her initial shock, unpreparedness, uncertainty, sadness and lost parental expectations, as well as her anticipated fears of a difficult and stigmatised future life for her daughter as she struggled to adjust. The book traces traumatic school bullying and exhaustive hyper-vigilance in social settings from intolerance and staring when Olivia did not attempt to “pass” but was “clocked” as her birth gender.
Parental connections significantly intensified after Olivia “came out.” Parenting a transgender child modifies one’s rules, values and expectations. Past experience can’t be readily drawn upon so one must rely on gut feel. A trans parent’s primary objective is to find ways to keep their children happy and alive.
Lyndsay accurately describes the gender transition process as an endless struggle to provide logistical support and achieve incremental advances. This helpful book offers practical tips for navigating the many challenges. It also provides valuable insights and compassionate understanding for other trans parents who may also be experiencing this unusual familial situation. Lyndsay describes her feelings of inadequacy, uncertainty and desperate loss in her parenting journey. Life is lived not in the present but for some distant point in the future. But Lyndsay like other trans parents also experiences many joyful moments when their child is fully engaged with life and learning. Ultimately, unconditional acceptance and love “is what life is really all about”.
As well as educating readers on what it means to be trans, Olivia’s story informs other trans children that they are not alone. As L R Knost said, the broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.