Neither of my Jewish sons is circumcised, but that wasn’t how I planned it.
When I was pregnant with our second child, the doctor looked at the ultrasound and announced we were going to have a boy. I was elated to be having a healthy baby, but felt anxious and stressed knowing that my partner and I differed on the subject of circumcision.
But it was taken out of our hands when our son was born with hypospadias (his urethra was not in the right spot). He needed corrective surgery around 8 months old, and we needed to keep all of the skin on his penis. After the procedure, our son has a urethra in the correct spot, and it looks like he has been circumcised.
As I said, I have two Jewish sons and both aren’t circumcised. My older son is 8, but he’s only been my son for five weeks. Before that, he was my Jewish daughter.
Our child’s first words weren’t, “I’m a boy.” He was not a tomboy, and did not seem confused about his gender. A year ago, he asked for a “boy haircut” and received one. I wanted to support his choice in getting the short hair cut, but felt guilty that I had allowed it after kids began to bully him. They called him names and said they didn’t want to play with him. One friend recently said it’s been scientifically proven girls are better than boys, so she would not play with him anymore. Another child wrote a note to his teacher sharing how my child was being teased, because it was getting so bad.
What I didn’t realize was that he didn’t mind being called a boy; he just didn’t like being called an ugly or weird-looking boy.
On a recent trip to Target, he chose superhero item after superhero item. He told me then that he feels like a boy, but I didn’t get it. I thought he was telling me he felt confused because he liked boy stuff. The very next day, it became more clear.
When I arrived at school to pick up my daughter, I didn’t see her anywhere. I asked another student—actually, my daughter’s closest “frenemy”—if she knew where she was. The student told me that my child was talking to a teacher because the two of them had gotten into another fight. When I asked why they were fighting, she said, “Well, you should know your daughter’s secret is that her inner-person is a boy, and she thinks you are going to be mad at her.”
The next thing I knew, I was sitting with the co-teacher team and my child, who shared this secret with me. Thanks to the conversation I’d just had with the other student, I managed to stay cool, calm, and collected—even though it felt like my head was spinning around, exorcist-style.
As we walked away from school, we talked about how he could dress and be anything he wants. At that moment, we walked past a person who appeared as a man, dressed as a female. His style was extreme, wearing fishnets and a crop top, short pigtails dyed green, piercings, makeup, high heels, and a huge smile. My child took the sight of this person in and then turned to me, grinning ear to ear. I said to him, “If that isn’t a sign from God, I don’t know what is.”
That night, my husband came home from work and we all talked. My husband’s reaction was calm and loving, though like me, he felt the situation was surreal and shocking. We both had blown off numerous comments that he had made about feeling like a boy. We thought he was struggling with feeling conflicted about enjoying stereotypical boy things. But our child was clear on his desires and plans. He shared that this had been a secret for the past year, and he was relieved to get it out.
For the first couple of days, it felt like the question was: Is this real? But there was nothing more real than what was happening. For us, there was no option other than total love, acceptance, and support.
During those first few days, every time he called me mom, I thought, OK, I’m still mom. You are a new person, but I’m still your mom. He truly seems to be a different person in various ways. It isn’t just the boy haircut, clothes, and pronouns. There has been a dramatic shift since he has transitioned. There’s a weight off his shoulders and a confidence about him. There’s a happy glow that hasn’t been there for a very long time. There is no hesitation or waffling. He is feeling free of his secret. I’m grateful to have a happy child who was brave enough to share his truth.
Now, a month into this process, it’s impossible to say we’ve even begun to “grieve” for our daughter. It’s not like I said goodbye to her; I just welcomed him. I’m going to miss her. And I already do miss her, but it’s not quite like a death. He is here. I still get to say, “Why aren’t you using a fork? I’ve told you over and over to use the fork!”
Yet I don’t really know this child like I thought I did. I love him, but I feel a distance as I acquaint—or reacquaint—myself with my own child. It is odd and uncomfortable, and I know it will take time.
With statistics that 41% of transgender kids attempt suicide, I’m in complete support of love and acceptance. There are also statistics that say if transgender kids are allowed to transition to the gender they identify with—and are actually accepted—they will do as well as cisgender kids.
As I begin to walk along this path as my transitioning son’s mother and advocate, I will educate myself and manifest resources. Our kids look to us to make sense of the world. Luckily, they can’t see that we don’t know much more than they do. And sometimes, they actually know a lot more. Our children know what makes their hearts sing, what their inner truth sounds like. My child knows this about himself. And my child is sharing it with the world.