Happy Pride Month, Nomads!
This year’s theme is all about owning your own pride.
What does that mean to us at Earthbound?
We’ve been a leader of inclusivity and a supporter of individualism since we first opened in 1996. We attract people of all backgrounds, cultures and beliefs under one ideal: we are all a part of one world and one race, the human race.
It’s never mattered to us what you look like, where you’re from or who you love – as long as you open your heart to all.
This month we’re highlighting 4 LGBTQ relationships related to our Earthbound family.
Follow their journeys as they discuss love, hope and the challenges of 2017.
MEET DAWN & RYANN:
Dawn (left) is the Director of Online Sales and her teenage-son Ryann, 18, is a transgender male. He is currently transitioning and undergoing hormone therapy.
Before we get started, let’s discuss a few terms:
- What is transgender? Transgender is a term used for people whose gender identity is different than the sex they were assigned at birth. A transgender person does not have to go undergo hormone therapy or any other medical procedures to identify as transgender.
- What is gender identity? As explained by Ryann, gender identity is not necessarily the gender you were assigned at birth, but it’s whatever you feel that you are on the inside. Some people may not identify with either male or female, and therefore identify as non-binary or genderqueer.
- What is sexual orientation? As explained by Ryann, sexual orientation is the gender or genders that you are attracted to.
To recap: It’s the gender you are (gender identity) vs. the genders you like (sexual orientation)
We sat down with Dawn and Ryann separately to discuss their journeys. Follow along as this mother and son speak candidly about their experience and what it’s like for Ryann to be transgender in a world that is still trying to understand.
Growing up, Ryann always considered himself a tomboy. He preferred wearing boys jeans and shopping in the boy section. Many parents, including Dawn, believe committing to a specific style is just another part of being a preteen anarchist. But for Ryann, this was a matter of self, not just personal style.
Ryann: “I always wanted to wear guy clothes but when I started middle school, my mom started forcing me to wear girl clothes. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school she started letting me dress how I wanted to again.”
Dawn: “I think about the time Ryann hit late middle school, we though Ryann was in a tomboy phase – which happens a lot – and that he would grow out of it. As he got more into high school, we began to realize that maybe he was gay.”
Ryann: “For the longest time I thought I was just a gay female (a female who is attracted to other women). When it [being transgender] first popped in my head I was like, “nah that can’t be it”. At the time, I didn’t’ even understand what transgender was. I thought it was just dudes in dresses. It’s a very big misconception.”
(editor’s note: A trangender person and cross-dresser are not the same. Cross-dressing usually involves males who wear culturally feminine clothing and makeup. Cross-dressers do not want to change their sex or want to live full-time as a woman.)
After Ryann spent a lot of time debating “what was going on” and realizing something still felt “off”, he began doing his own research on gender identity and sexual orientation
Dawn: “Ryann actually felt – which I am grateful for – comfortable enough to come talk to me and explain to me gender dysphoria. He actually recommended a book (The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals) and gave me multiple websites to visit. He tried to find ways to inform me where I would take it seriously. I think it’s a concern that parents tend to say, “oh you’re just going through a phase”, or “your friends talked you into this”, or “you just want to be different”. It’s very typical of us as parents to put our kids in a box, but Ryann was prepared with a lot of information.”
Ryann: “I told my mom first through a note I had written. I gave it to her during a car ride. It was very nerve wracking. I felt very vulnerable. She just kind of turned around, patted my leg, and said we’ll talk when we get home. I felt a little better, but still freaking out.”
Dawn, who always considered herself fairly progressive and accepting, was now facing a reality she never could have imagined. Armed with a slue of new information and an unknown future, Dawn did the only thing she knew how to do: be a supportive mom.
Dawn: “You fear for your child because you know life will be a little bit more difficult. You have concerns that permanent things could happen from something [a feeling] that maybe isn’t permanent. You don’t want to make a mistake or steer your child in the wrong direction. But you also don’t want to hold them back if that is truly what they need. So you feel stuck. How do you know for sure? And really, you can’t. So you have to trust them. It’s really all you can do.”
By sharing their own struggles, Dawn hopes their story can help other families in similar situations. She understands learning your child is transgender may be a shock – even a disappointment, at first, – but she challenges parents to look at the big picture. Situations like this can often be a matter of life and death.
Dawn: “this isn’t a tragedy. This is a curve. A tragedy is something awful happening to your child, like if they’re seriously hurt or killed or something else. They’re still here. They’re still part of the family – if you let them be. They still want to be a part of the family – if you let them be.”
According to the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, LGBT teens whose families don’t support them are twice as likely to think about or attempt suicide. That’s a very real – and scary – statistic.
Dawn: “I would ask parents to remember that statistic and to accept your kid as they are. It’s better than losing them – whether it is to suicide or them never talking you again. Every time parents aren’t supportive or every time they put their own fears or concerns of society ahead of their own, they’re pushing their child a little bit more [away from them]. And I don’t think any parent wants that.”
Even with a parent on board, navigating the world of Transgender therapy and resources can be extremely difficult and challenging. Currently, GENECIS at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas is one of the only clinical care programs for gender-expansive children in the southwest. However, before a child is even admitted into the GENECIS program, they must have a letter from a therapist supporting the diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
Ryann: “My therapist could’ve signed off on a ‘T-letter’ and I could’ve gotten it [hormone therapy] a lot earlier, but they turned out to be a bigot and was like, “absolutely not!” and kicked me out. So I had to go to a new therapist for a few months and then get a ‘T-letter’ so I could get into the GENECIS program at Children’s Medical Center.”
editor’s note: A T-letter is a slang term for the letter from a therapist supporting the diagnosis for gender dysphoria.
Unfortunately, push back from even the medical community can be a part of the challenge families face. Some people believe it’s a disorder, a phase. In 2013, the DSM-V replaced “Gender Identity Disorder” with “Gender Dysphoria”. This reclassification is important for the future of trans rights, including health insurance coverage.
Dawn: “I will be honest that I’ve gone 180 degrees! I grew up in a very conservative southern Baptist household, although as I got older, my personal views evolved. I wish people could accept them like we accept other races, cultures, and different types of people. I wish we could just accept them along with everyone else.”
Even with ongoing research on transgender children and the affects suppressing gender identity can have on one’s well being, there are still those who still think it is “gross” or “unnatural”. Ryann wants other kids to know that “they aren’t crazy” and “their feelings are valid”.
Ryann: “The human brain is a lot more complicated than just one gender. Genetics and how your brain develops can make you a combination of male and female brain features. There are scientific reasons for it. It’s not like just someone decided they don’t like being a girl anymore.”
As Ryann transitions toward becoming a male, he’s already noticed how the physiological changes have affected his overall self-confidence and mood. He said he feels “freer” and “like the whole world is his oyster.”
Ryann: “I kind of realized all of my insecurities related to my femininity. So now that part of me is slowly going away, I am just a more confident person now. I really feel better in my own body. I never really liked my body, especially during puberty when I started growing breasts and stuff like that. It was really uncomfortable and I didn’t like it, so I am starting to feel more like at home in my own skin.”
Dawn’s honest about the changes. She admits she’s still getting used to it.
Dawn: “Just patting him on the arm or shoulder, it’s like a completely different person than before, but the same Ryann is still there. The same Ryann, who just out of his goofy nature, will scream about something silly. He’s the same teenager who doesn’t want to do his chores.”
Through all of the various challenges, Dawn’s message is simple and has stayed the same: “We’re just all people. It really is just that simple”
A NOTE FROM DAWN:
If you have a question, just ask me! If there is someone who really wants to know or understand – and if it helps him or her deal with a loved one – then I totally want to help. I know it was hard for me so if I can help someone else, I want to.