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.
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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