Updated: Oct 20, 2020
Where are we and where do we go from here?
When my son Logan first told me he was "trans" 10 years ago, I had never heard the word before.
In fact, I thought he said "transvestite," which, of course, is a vastly different thing.
He was 10 years old and we were driving to pick up one of his friends to spend the night. He was sullen, fidgety and quiet. When I asked him what was bothering him he let out a big sigh.
What was to come next has forever changed my world and his.
He talked to me about not feeling right in his body. He said, "I think I’m supposed to be a boy. I think I am transgender." That was 2010. Before Caitlyn Jenner made transgender a household name. Before the issue of gender neutral bathrooms. And long before LBGTTTQQIAA or LBGTQ+ were widely known terms.
In the days and weeks that passed, I spent a lot of nights on the Internet trying to learn as much as I could about the subject. But as quickly as Logan brought up the transgender issue, he dropped it.
Then, during the summer before high school, he said "remember what I told you before? I still feel that way." I asked him what he’d like to do.
He said "I’d like to start high school as Logan and be referred to as a boy."
Inside, my heart was racing, my palms were sweating and my stomach felt like it had done a flip flop. But I kept it together.
That is what a mother does.
I asked him if this was something he was certain about, and he said it was. Although no one expects their child to denounce their biological gender, looking back there were signs that Logan, even at 4 years old, had misgivings about being female. In pre-school he was asked to draw himself as he imagined he'd look like as an old person. He drew himself as an old man.
As Logan entered high school as a boy, our small family adjusted to our new reality. It was not easy. There were discussions, so many discussions, disagreements, more discussions. A mother accepting her only daughter as a boy was one thing. It was not as easy for his father. It took time, but one day his dad said: "from now on I will be calling you Logan and refer to you as my son." Logan hugged his dad hard and said "this is the best gift you’ve ever given me".
Over the course of the next few years, there were ups and downs, more discussions, and a lot of learning. One day, in the fall of 2019 we were driving to a family member's memorial service when Logan and I struck up a conversation about him being transgender.
I said to him, "You know, I can't understand how you feel, just like you can't understand how I feel. But you know, Logan, you don't have to understand, you just have to be understanding."
You don't have to understand, you just have to be understanding.
It was like having an old song stuck in your head. That phrase was stuck in mine.
I had been through a lot over the last 10 years. We all had. We'd learned lessons, made mistakes, cried, rejoiced, and finally came to acceptance.
As I thought more about this, I decided I wanted to share my story to help other parents and children navigate the process.
That is when I came up with "Be Understanding."
The idea is to show others that they can be there for others despite not having the same experiences as them.
Our motto: "You don't have to be understand, you just have to be understanding" is designed to help you become a bit more compassionate to others who have been through situations that you have not.
Parents who’ve lost a child, a spouse suffering with Alzheimer’s, a teammate who has an unexpected stroke, a woman overlooked for another promotion, a black man afraid to go out at night, the list is literally endless. The reality of the situation is that you may never lose a child, become your spouse’s caretaker, know a stroke survivor, experience sexism in the workplace, or be a black member of society. But, this does not mean that we cannot listen, learn, and employ a bit more understanding when interacting with others, even if we will never be able to understand each other’s struggles.
It could mean a lot of things.
I invite you to tell your story. How does this phrase affect you? How can all of us be more understanding even if we cannot understand?
We can all learn something from everyone. This is how it starts.