I'm not saying there is no support, because I am part of a couple of groups, but they are not easy to find. So I wanted to write today about that path, and how rocky it sometimes is, and how sometimes you still have to dig your own way out.
There are several issues to overcome in finding support. The biggest one is secrecy. While the world is changing and becoming more accepting of trans people, there is still an awful lot of hate out there, and the majority of that hate can be found on the internet. It's so much easier to act tough from behind the anonymity of a screen. Taboo subjects can only become accepted if and when brave people can come forward and speak up for the minority. As a mother, I am more than willing to do that, but I don't get the final say in how open I can be. That privilege rightfully belongs to my daughter. I am only here as support, so I have to protect her and not make her a target.
She also wants to be "stealth", so in our community, anyone who didn't know her before coming out doesn't know her history. But she's not the only one who needs support. I also need support, and when we first stated seeking help for her to transition, I was given information on groups for parents and help lines to call. There was a common theme to all the support offered - We are here to help you understand and hopefully accept your child in this confusing time. We understand your reluctance, and hopefully we can help turn your resistance around. Great! Except we're past that. I don't need help understanding my child.
I don't need an explanation as to why this is happening. I'm not confused about the situation. I just need to talk to others in the same situation. But there isn't really any "support" out there for accepting parents. It's all geared towards folks who want to stop their children from transitioning. People who are in tears, wondering where they went wrong. I trawled through the internet, Googling many variants of the sentence "Support for parents of trans kids" and found myself going in circles. Walled in, frustrating circles. I searched through Facebook and found it hard finding support for parents of kids with autism who are also transgender. I've written before about how much the High Priestess' Aspergers interferes with her transition, and also the support generally offered to trans parents. I'd signed up to a trans parent Facebook page that was based in America. It was great for me to know I wasn't alone and there are so many kids of my daughters' generation that are transitioning now. But in the end, I found few parents on there were dealing with the double whammy of autism with it.
I found myself envying other parents who got to celebrate publicly the child's transition. But even more so, most of the participants in practical discussions on there were from America, and the advice they gave did not apply to Australian circumstances. In the meantime I continued my search on Facebook and came across an autism trans page. Eureka!
I sent a request to join and was immediately accepted. I read up on all the posts there and got such a keen insight into what these people were experiencing, and how I could help my own child. The next day I felt a need to thank them for their posts and say how much it meant to me as a parent to read what they are going through. My post was immediately leaped upon. "Who is this person? Are you someone with autism and is transgender?" Some of the responses were harsh. "Who keeps letting these people in??" I had no idea that parents who are not also trans and autistic were not allowed to join. Whoever accepted my request didn't vet me and nowhere did I find notice that non trans people were not allowed. "These people" were most definitely not welcome!
I understood immediately and noped out of there as fast as I could, but the experience was completely demoralising. Just when I thought I'd found a safe place to vent my feelings, I was chased out of there like I was the enemy. "No group for you!"
(At least one other person from that group had looked me up and discovered this blog. While out at Hub's work Christmas dinner, I received an email notification saying someone had commented on my latest blog post. The message was dressing me down for what I'd written and the background image of my blog. It was a doozy. I sat on it for a couple of days wondering whether I should delete it, or post it with a response. I chose the latter, feeling like it represented what we trans parents face every day. You can read it here if you wish.)
In the meantime someone from Australia in the trans parent Facebook group noticed I was a fellow Aussie and sent me a direct message to steer me towards an Aussie group. This Facebook community was deep underground. Like the opening title sequence of Get Smart (don't get your nose caught in a closing door!) I was so relieved to find somewhere I could access relevant information for my daughter and her journey. The medical side of being transgender is like a labyrinth inside a maze. Every state has different laws (but at least we have so few states. Having 50 like America would be a minefield!) but there is usually someone in the group that can answer a question, or has been down a certain road before you and can offer their experience. And just the support is invaluable.
I posted a question asking if there were any other parents out there whose trans kids were also on the autism spectrum, and soon discovered that there was a Facebook group out there for such parents. Alleluia! Naturally, as I'd finally found what I'd been searching for for months, I sent a request immediately. I read peoples posts and could relate immediately. I'd found my people! At last! You can probably tell already where this is going - down hill. To hell in a hand basket. What I'm about to say here is probably going to put me in a terrible light but as I said at the beginning of this post, I won't shy away from things that I feel need to be said.
A post went up on the Autism/transgender parent group, from a non-binary parent, asking that people stop talking about our kids previous life in terms such as "born a boy" or born a girl", and to use the prefered terms AMAB or AFAB ("Assigned male/female at birth") as it can trigger dysphoria in trans people in the group. I get that. We are all learning the terminology and must now be careful as parents to respect our child's, and other trans people's, true gender. I was giving her a little bit of side-eye when she ended her request "if you absolutely *must* do this for some reason I can't fathom..." because, well...this is a support group for parents to talk about their family's journey. But point taken, I can certainly be more careful.
Then someone asked if there were dysphoria triggering implications in using the term "Lived as female/male in early childhood"? The reply from the original poster was absolutely, yes it does, and "there is no need to reference a trans child's assigned sex." WUT? Now we are history revisionists? There's no two ways about this. My eldest daughter lived as a boy for the first 12 and a half years of her life. That's just a fact. Yet somehow, in a support group for parents of trans kids, I'm supposed to pretend that shit didn't happen? It's the whole freaking reason we need support! Because that is REAL, people! That's exactly why the last two and a half years have been a shit show. Because the preceding 12 and a half years established in every way possible that she lived as a male, and now we are trying to undo all that mess. And it ain't easy. And when you throw autism in with it, I need to bloody talk about that!
Most people who know me will find this hard to believe, but I don't like confrontation one bit, and I try and avoid it as much as possible. But sometimes it is unavoidable, and now I was defending my right to seek support from other like parents was being taken away, because we all had to tip toe around an absolute fact that was the whole foundation as to what we are seeking support for.
After going through so much in the last two years, if I've only learned one thing, it is that mothers of trans kids are at the very bottom of the list of who the world gives a shit about. We do SO MUCH to support our kids, to help them in every step of their transition, to be in their corner for every fight. And in the end, when it comes to support, we are last in line.
I knew when I posted my response, my days in that group were numbered. But I was going to make a stand before I exited. Sometimes being on the other side of the world to the majority of Earth's inhabitants means you might write something on the internet, then go to bed. It's a bit like dropping a truth bomb and coming back 8 hours late to find all the damage of the explosion. I'm at least pleased I was not the only person to see the pointlessness in being part of a support group when you can't talk about the major issues of why you need said support. I vowed not to comment again, but before I unfollowed I needed to see that I wasn't the only person who felt this way.
But what to do? This was clearly an untenable situation, and it had taken months to even find a group for families dealing with kids on the double spectrum. What were the chances of finding another one? And if I did, what are the chances of running into the same issues? What did I do last time I couldn't find support on the internet? Ah, that's right, I started a blog.
As much as I just wanted to walk into another group on Facebook and settle in, I knew once again that if I am to get the support I really need, I had to create an environment in which to grow it. Build it and they will come. I'd taken note of the mums that saw my side of the problem and contacted them. Would they be willing to join a group if I made one? A group in which we can be frank and honest and uncensored? It was pleasing to find them willing, and so I started a group. And this time I set the agenda. A welcome post, stating that we will be talking about our whole journey, not a curated tale to please the masses.
It's new and it's small, but it's there now for when I need it. And I hope when other parents and carers of this niche group of trans kids on the autism spectrum are searching for a place that will welcome their stories, they will find us with open arms.
ps. If you want to join, drop me a message or comment below. I also have Facebook and Instagram accounts for this blog with links on the right -->