Saturday, May 30, 2015

Our Stories Matter: Meet Rebekah

I shared this on the blog’s Facebook page last week, but I wanted to share in it this space as well. LGBT Pride Month starts in just a few days so it seems fitting enough.

A few weeks ago, I shared the following message on my personal Facebook page. Since then we have been overwhelmed with messages of love and support from our family, friends, church, and community. Many have thanked us for sharing our story and asked for permission to continue to share it. If you've been following my blog for any amount of time, you know how important I think our stories are... our stories of joy, success, struggle, disappointment, and challenge. Our stories matter. So here is one of my family's stories, a story very much rooted in the love, grace, and courage that we both strive for and are saved by daily.
............................................................

We’d like to re-introduce you to our firstborn child.

As some of you have no doubt noticed over the years, Ben doesn’t follow society’s expectations when it comes to gender. Ben is gender nonconforming. We learned this term about a year ago, after years of following Ben’s lead with his interests and style. Ben has loved all things pink and sparkly since he was a toddler, and over the years, Ben’s interests and passions continued to be strongly feminine with all of his closest friends being girls. We supported him in choosing friends, activities, and clothing that felt like the best fit for him. We knew Ben didn’t fit the mold that our culture sets for boys, and we supported him in expressing himself authentically.

At the same time, our bright, sensitive, and empathetic child struggled increasingly with anxiety and, eventually, depression. We worked through various medical and therapeutic resources over the years to support him in his anxiety, trying to give him the best tools possible to thrive in the world as someone whose huge heart just feels things too much. Despite our best efforts, the anxiety and depression reached a crisis point this past year. We were all feeling pretty scared and lost.

I am so incredibly thankful to say that we are in a very different place right now. With the support of various professionals, we’ve come to understand that Ben is transgender. While he was identified as a male at birth based on his outward appearance, he feels and knows that he is a girl. Gender is a spectrum, and we know that liking pink or things attributed culturally to girls does not, in and of itself, make you a girl. But in Ben’s case, his gender identity was the missing piece to the puzzle. Despite our support in being any kind of boy he’d like to be, including one that loves all things feminine, Ben knows in his heart that he IS a girl.


Within the last few months, Ben has socially transitioned so that she can live as the girl she knows she is. Together, we’ve chosen the name Rebekah Eleanor. With the transition to Rebekah, we have seen a significant shift in her energy and demeanor. She suddenly seems more comfortable in her own skin, and we are seeing that gorgeous smile of hers more than ever before.


While, Rebekah has always had and always will have our complete support, this has not been easy. Being transgender is not something anyone chooses. It is not something Rebekah has chosen. It is not something we are choosing for her. We are very aware that the road for her will not always be smooth. The suicide and depression rates for the transgender community are nothing short of terrifying, but we know that with love and support from us, our family, and our friends we are giving Rebekah the best possible chance at not being one of those statistics.

What we are asking of our friends and family is that you respect Rebekah’s gender identity as female by using her preferred name and pronouns. Though Rebekah specifically asked us to tell you that she will be gracious if you accidentally call her Ben as you get used to the change, as she knows this is quite an adjustment for everyone. We also encourage you to learn more about what it means to be transgender along with common misconceptions. We are not experts, but we are learning by necessity and are happy to talk about any of this with you. We will include some resources in the comments below. What Rebekah needs is your love and support. She is a bright, beautiful, and brave girl with a huge heart. We have no doubt she will change the world just by being who she is.

All this is posted with Rebekah's permission and with thanks to Maegan Dougherty Photography for the beautiful photos.

Some helpful resources:
http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/transgender-kids
http://www.pbs.org/.../bb/biology-gender-identity-children/
http://www.glaad.org/transgender/trans101
http://www.cnn.com/.../01/us/transgender-questions-leelah/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.../post_9402_b_7190458.html
https://www.genderspectrum.org/
transkidspurplerainbow.org

8 comments:

  1. What a powerful post! I am blown away by the love and support you are giving Rebekah. For every Rebekah out there, there is a Ben who is trapped by ignorance and a lack of support from family and community. I thank God for parents like you and pray that your powerful story will inspire other families in similar situations to display the same kind of love towards their child. All the best to your family in the days to come. You are an inspiration and an example and I am so moved by your story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am so glad to see a Christian family who are accepting of those identifying as LGBTQ+ as well as those with mental health struggles. As a child of Christian parents who are accepting of neither, and who has lived in secrecy and shame for many many years, I want to thank you for creating an environment where a beautiful little girl (and her siblings) can grow up without fear or shame, and get to know God and be loved. You're so very fortunate to have such a beautiful daughter, and she is so fortunate to have you. It gives me hope that one day I might be accepted for who I am as well, even if right now it has to stay hidden from everyone closest to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hugs to you, Jess.

      Delete
  3. Oh, I can't believe that I missed this the first time around! So glad that I'm seeing it now. I am so moved and humbled and overjoyed by your family's journey through this transition, which I know is not easy -- I just want to stand up and cheer for all of you, but especially for Rebekah, who is BRAVE. I know that you are not the only parents to react with compassion and love and understanding, but it is hugely meaningful that you're doing it publicly and unapologetically. I'm sending lots of positivity and love your way -- maybe you can store a little up for a bad day. ; )

    ReplyDelete
  4. The love and care you have for your daughter is a beautiful thing to see. Welcome to the world Rebekah. What an inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm over whelmed with pride and joy for my niece , her husband, and my great niece Rebekah!! what great present living!!! We should all be so respectful to each other and the hidden beauties within us all waiting for expression!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I just came across your blog and wanted to reach out to you but more importantly, Rebekah. I too am transgender, but free up in a time where little was known about this issue. For 40 years I struggled with it. Then in 2009, I dealt with it.

    What I want her to know, is that she is not alone. Dealing with this at such a young age, is an immeasurable gift. It's not an easy journey, but in the end is worth it. If I can be a role model to her and a support to you, it would be my honor.

    Thank you for being the rock in her life and giving her the freedom to blossom.

    ReplyDelete
  7. My son at age 3 told me he was a girl. I'm not religious and wasn't political so I didn't know what to say. He kept on arguing about it, so finally one day I broke it down the best I could. I said "Adam, you are a boy because you have a penis. When you grow up you could have your penis removed and put on a dress and you could look like a woman, but you could never be a real woman, just a man in a dress with his penis cut off". Adam never once said he was a girl since. He wears his hair long, he's sensitive, and he has his own dolls, but that's okay. Boys can like pink, they can like dolls, they can even like make up and dress up. I think it's cruel to teach a child to be ashamed of his body. Why are pretty things just for girls?? What is the message you are sending your child? That because he likes to be pretty, he can never have children of his own, or even enjoy a healthy sex life as an adult? Hormone blockers cause infertility, and cause the child to lack the tissue necessary for reassignment. Is it really worth it? I guess it's just my opinion, but suicide rates do not decrease after transition. If you really want to help your child, do not body-shame him just because his interests are feminine. If, according to your beliefs, gender is not determined by the body or reproductive organs anyway, then why alter his at all?

    ReplyDelete

I want to hear from you! Leave your comments.

It may not show up immediately because I moderate comments due to spam. I promise I'll get to it as soon as possible and look forward to talking to you!