High School Could Have Been Hell for My Transgender Son. Don't Make It Hell for the Next Kid.

Melissa and Aiden DeStefano

This piece was originally published on USA Today.

When I gave birth to my first baby, the doctor said, “It’s a girl!” Before I even knew my child, those words helped me imagine the future.

But the future was different from what I expected.

By the time my child was in high school, he went by a boy's name, ran on the boys’ cross-country team, received hormone therapy, underwent chest surgery and used the boys’ bathrooms and locker rooms.

It was clear early on that Aidan was different. From about the age of 2, Aidan didn’t want long ponytails but short hair. He wanted to wear shorts and track pants — going shopping meant the boys’ section. He was super athletic. Aidan looked like a boy.

I thought I was raising a tomboy. I wondered whether someday my daughter would come out as a lesbian. Then, in junior high, Aidan told me, “Mom, I was born in the wrong body. I’m transgender.”

I was floored. When your child comes to you and says, The most basic things you think you know about me are false — it takes your breath away.

I Googled my mind into oblivion. I read about families that kicked children out of the house and disowned them. I read about schools that refused to use a child’s chosen name and preferred pronouns. I learned that transgender kids have a sky-high suicide rate. I was terrified. I realized that my choice might be a dead daughter or a thriving son.

Living your truth is hard — but right

I had hoped Aidan would wait until after high school to come out publicly as transgender, but after 10th grade, he told me he was going to do it on Facebook. I couldn’t stop him, and so I posted my own letter alongside his video — and people were supportive. Afterward, Aidan seemed lighter and happier.

Even so, it was not an easy path. Our family used to go to church together, and we’d jam to Christian music in the car — until one church associate told Aidan he was damned to hell. Aidan was devastated, and eventually quit the youth group. These days, he questions the existence of God. I still go to that church and feel so sad and angry that representatives of an institution I value denied my child’s sense of himself — I didn’t want that to happen in other places.

So I felt grateful for the support from Boyertown Area High School in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. By 10th grade, when Aidan started there, he had been consistently dressing in boys’ clothes for years. He told the guidance counselor he had gotten strange looks using the girls’ bathroom and needed an alternative. She offered the nurse’s bathroom.

That summer, Aidan started taking testosterone. When he returned to school in the fall, we filed for a name change so he would officially be “Aidan.” Then he had chest surgery. In Aidan’s senior year, he joined the boys’ cross-country team and, with the school’s permission, began using the boys’ restroom and locker rooms.

Finally, he felt fully validated for who he is. Aidan was coming into his own as a happy-go-lucky, popular and confident trans kid. Everyone who met him seemed to like him — he was even elected to the Homecoming Court. My fear began to fade.

There's more on the line than just bathrooms

But during Aidan’s senior year, a handful of other students sued the school, claiming that their privacy was violated because transgender students were using the same bathrooms and locker rooms. Adolescence can be an awkward time for anyone, but the high school has private changing areas and bathrooms so no student has to change in front of others.

I’m grateful that two courts have recognized the right of transgender students like Aidan to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. But now the other students have asked the Supreme Court to review the case. We are working with the American Civil Liberties Union to discourage the Supreme Court from taking up the case. 

It might seem like this is just about a bathroom — but in fact it’s a powerful institution saying to a child, you have no right to be who you say you are. Schools form the center of kids’ social lives, and they are where kids develop a sense of themselves. Had the school excluded Aidan from the same facilities as other boys, it would have negated, instead of affirmed, his new and shining confidence and ease in the world.

He knows transgender kids who have had more experiences like that: They have been rejected by family, friends, institutions. Several have attempted suicide.

I consider myself a very lucky mom. God blessed me with two wonderful kids. My greatest hope is that the world recognizes my son, and other transgender people like him, and allows them to find their paths. 

View comments (11)
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Ms. Gloria Anasyrma

It is time that we had a clearer definition of transgender people. If it is a boy transgendering into a girl then it should be referred to a s "Heshe". If it is a girl transgendering into a boy then it should be referred to as a "Shim". I am just trying to clarify the situation, and not said anything bad about people.

Richie Rich

Ms. Gloria, you succeeded in doing what you didn’t want to do; saying something bad about people. Your post is bigoted, uninformed and offensive. Don’t ever refer to another human being as “it” again. Then get educated about the trans community and which terms THEY wish to use. “Heshe” and “Shim” are bigoted terms. You have clarified nothing and made yourself look like a fool.

Ms. Gloria Anasyrma

How do you know they are bigoted terms? Have you used them yourself?

a trans man

Don't ever call someone a "heshe" or "shim." Don't EVER call someone an it without their consent. That is dehumanizing. Just call them the pronouns they use... why is that so hard? If someone called me a shim that would be equivalent to a slur.

By the way, it's transitioning. Not transgendering. That's not even a world.

Transgender is clear enough as it is, you just need to do some research.

Anonymous

NO. JUST NO. that is one of the worst things you could say.

Kylie

Aidan I support you no matter race or sexuality rock on ! Fuck those haters

Ms. Gloria Anasyrma

Well that's freedom of speech for you, they censor my comments here, but let the F-Bomb by.

AnonJuliaymous

Love it! Aidan is such a handsome guy :)

Joanne

I watched Aiden play basketball with my granddaughter, and after not playing, still coming to cheer them on. He is an amazing young man. I commend you as his mother for supporting his wishes and know he will do great things in the future!

Miley Cyrus

Great Post, I really appreciate to blogger for this useful information. Keep sharing

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