What I want you to know about when your child tells you their friend is transgender


What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Lisa Mullen.

It changes everything you thought you believed. This "issue" that is out there in the news, suddenly becomes part of your life and you are changed.

The other evening, Abbey and I were watching the news.

We were in Detroit and she was preparing to go to Lancaster for a week to visit family and friends. She, my brother-in-law- Blake and I, flipped through the channels after the younger kids had gone to bed. We came upon a station where they were discussing the latest news regarding the law that had been passed, days ago, in North Carolina that would require transgender people to use the public restroom that was labeled for the gender that they were born as.

I had been thinking about this since I had heard the news. Knowing that people were pained about this issue always makes me more sensitive and aware. But it didn't seem close and I didn't have a strong opinion about it. I knew of transgender people who other friends loved and cared about, but I did not know of anyone in my life.

Abbey asked about this law. "What does that mean?" she asked.

So, we talked a bit. I did my best to explain what had been put in place and she listened quietly. The subject felt a bit abstract, awkward and I wasn't sure how to explain it fully to her.

She had a simple response.

Ryan is transgender," she said.

Ryan? Like your friend Ryan? I asked. "Like the Ryan you spent the day with last week?"

She looked at me with a confused expression.

"Yes, Mommmmmmm."

She said it in her most annoyed teenage tone. Like I just didn't get it.

Ryan is transgender. My mind is racing. How did I not know this? Why hadn't she talked about it? She didn't seem afraid or nervous about it at all. I had even questioned her when she asked to go to her house- is Ryan a girl or a boy since the name was masculine. "A girl, mom."

And then quickly, it all fell together. I knew she had a friend at school who was transgender. She had mentioned it once, months ago. She has continued to branch out and meet more and more people as the year has gone on. Names are thrown out all of the time. Groups of friends get together and I usually just remember the few who she is the closest to. But Kelly's name was fresh in my memory because Abbey had just spent the day with her.

Kelly, her friend who she hangs out with, is transgender.

And just like that, everything shifts.

Blake, who was sitting with us still, asked her- "So he was born a boy but now he's a girl?"

"SHE'S a girl." Abbey said. "Kelly's a girl."

And once again I stop, reflect and am reminded- my kids are showing me the way.

And that is my story.

My daughter brought someone new into my life that she loves. This is no longer about some distant person that wants to use the bathroom and somehow it's an issue. It's about my daughter's friend who just wants to be herself. It's about my child who cares about her friend and wants her to live just as every other friend of Abbey's lives. It's about a kid finding her way. My kid finding her friends.

*Since initially writing this, Abbey and Ryan have become even closer friends. I shared how this has impacted our family with Ryan's mom and it brought us into relationship too. Ryan is a welcome friend at our house who we love to have hang out and sleep over. Ryan changed us and we love her so. Listen to your children- they are leading the way.



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