Two years ago this November, my child came to me and said that she was a girl. No big deal. Except that she had been identified by a doctor at birth as male, and had lived her life up until that point as a boy.
In two years, she has changed schools, changed names, changed hair, changed clothes, changed gender terms.
As that anniversary approaches, I think about what we haven’t changed. Her legal identity. In Connecticut, this involves some paperwork, $150, and a trip to Probate Court. Once approved, her name will officially be Rose.* The name we carefully chose for our baby boy, with love and care in our hearts, will no longer exist. When a parent chooses a name for their baby, they never think that it will change. Maybe he’ll pick up a nickname or two. Maybe she’ll drop her middle name for her maiden name when she gets married. But that first name? That’s an identity. That’s a symbol of love and tradition and a parent’s involvement in a child’s life. ….Isn’t it?
I’ve gotten weepy a few times. Raising a child means constant adjustment to change for any parent. Raising a transgender child raises that by a factor of ten. I have found myself grieving for the child I sometimes feel I lost, even as I rejoice in the beautiful, amazing child that I have. Releasing this name that we picked for our baby is more than signing some paperwork in court. It’s an effort of heart and mind.
One might ask why we would bother to change her legal name now, while she’s still so young. It’s expensive, it takes time, it’s a big step, it’s permanent. These are all true. On the other side of the scales, it’s an affirmation to her. It makes paperwork mistakes at school — an old gender marker slipping through the computer system, perhaps — easier for her to explain away as just a mistake if the name isn’t also wrong. It saves having to explain in front of strangers in a crowded waiting room every single time we go to the doctor, the dentist, or the optometrist, that she is transgender when the insurance card lists her birth name. And then sitting on edge for the next few hours as we navigate the office and then the parking lot in case someone takes it upon themselves to express their bigoted views at my child. And it’s what she wants. Identity is an intricate, inherent part of us all. She deserves to own her name, that calling card that the rest of the world uses. Because her new name isn’t just a nickname, isn’t just a passing phase. It’s who she is.
I still grieve. I love the name that we picked out for our baby boy. It had meaning and purpose, and it was beautiful. I didn’t choose her new name. She did. I had to consciously let go of my assumption that, as a parent, I got to make that choice for my baby. Because by the time the need for a new name became apparent, she was no longer a baby. The expected dynamic wasn’t there. We were charting a brave new world. But her new name is beautiful, too. It has purpose and meaning. It fits her. And she loves it.
In two years, she has changed schools, changed names, changed hair, changed clothes, changed gender terms. And she has changed me. I have let go of some of my control, and come to understand that a happy child is far, far more important than a child that conforms to social expectations. I have found some peace in the middle of not knowing what comes next, as much as I want to know. I have found strength I did not know I had, to face down strangers and affirm my child’s right to exist as a child who was born with an outwardly male form and entirely female identity. I have found acceptance in how my expectations for her life have changed, knowing that she will face choices that impact her fertility and physical form far sooner than any person should ever have to.
I have come to peace with letting go of her old name. I’ll still cry. But my heart feels joy that I have a child who is finally happy in her skin. Making her new name official is a part of that. It’s an affirmation of self that she needs and I can do this for her. A parent’s job is to meet their children’s needs and simultaneously, constantly, let them go. I can do this for her, and let go of the baby she was for the sake of the person she is now. It’s time to go get that paperwork.
*Rose is not her real name. Dear readers, it’s a crazy world out there sometimes, and her privacy is her own. I hope you understand the writer’s sleight-of-hand I chose to do here.
7 thoughts on “a rose by any other name….”
Another great post. I’m so thankful that you are sharing your family’s story!
How lucky are we to get to read about your beautiful, loving way of excepting your child for who she truly is. You inspire me to love my child unconditonally and be open to things that are hard to except and understand. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. It makes us all better people.
You are such a strong, wonderful mama. Whenever I read your posts I am just so glad that this beautiful child came to live in your life instead of someone who could not handle this. I am sure it was uncharted waters for you as well, but it seems like you’ve done an amazing job finding the way together.
This is excellent. Such a challenge to relinquish who we are for the sake of who are kids are. It’s a tremendous gift that you give each time you do it, rock on!
This is so open and wonderful. Thank you for sharing.
Did Rose pick her name completely on her own, or maybe with some guidance from you? Does it have anything to do with her former name, or is it unrelated?
Her name is an interesting story. She fully came out to us as transgender when she was 7. But as early as toddlerhood she had a chosen alter ego, and this alter ego was a little blond girl with pigtails and a certain name. And that name stayed the same her entire childhood. Whenever she made a Wii character on the Nintendo, or played pretend with friends, or got to choose a figurine for a board game, it always, always had this name. So it wasn’t a huge surprise to us when she informed us that this was, in fact, HER name. To this day I have no idea where she came up with it. She was very little when she chose it — maybe 2 or 3 — and it isn’t a family name, nor can I remember any exposure to it through friends, books, or TV shows. But it’s a lovely, classic name and it suits her.
Her middle name was harder to come by. I asked her to consider keeping the first initial of her old middle name, as it’s a link to her father. She was fine with that. So I found myself in the decidedly odd position of sitting down with my 7-year-old and a book of baby names one day and we went through the entire J section together. She saw a name that made perfect sense to her, pointed it out, and that was that. If I hadn’t care for it, I would probably have asked her to take another look through the list, but ultimately, it is an affirmation of her, not me, at this point in her life.