At 13 and a half years old, Bradley started exhibiting drastic changes in behavior and physical appearance. He also had an abrupt, severe episode of depression. We’d had a great relationship up to that point, but he stopped talking to me. I kept thinking something had happened to him. Then he asked to see a psychologist we knew. I thought, “Well that’s a step in the right direction. You don’t want to talk to me, but you want to talk to someone.”
He went to some sessions, but I wasn’t getting any information. I was invited to sit in on a session, and the therapist asked how I felt about what was happening. I told the therapist I didn’t know what was happening. He looked at Brad. Brad looked frightened. The therapist said, “If you’re not ready, you don’t have to tell her.” Of course, I was on the edge of my seat, thinking, “What do you mean he doesn’t have to tell me?”
After that session, we went out to breakfast, and that’s when Brad told me he was transgender. I was so relieved that someone hadn’t hurt him physically or emotionally that it didn’t hit home exactly what he was saying. About three days after that conversation, it really hit me, because he started throwing out anything that had to do with being feminine or female.
He was never a crier or a tantrum thrower when he was a child, but on a particular day when he was really struggling with things, he came over to me, hugged me, and wept for about an hour and half. I could feel his torment. Any grief or discomfort I was feeling became nothing. Because he’s more important. It’s not about me.
Through the whole process, our relationship got even stronger. We have a bond that other people can’t penetrate. It’s not a secret; it’s just that there are things we discuss or feel close about that don’t include other people. There are some things he experiences that I will never be able to experience firsthand. Sometimes it’s guesswork. But he’s very open about pretty much anything.
I’ve learned that I’m a lot stronger and a lot more flexible than I gave myself credit to be. I also tend to be more protective of other people now, even if I don’t know them. I can guess what they might be feeling, or at least understand if they are in torment.
If you read peoples’ memoirs about what they’re going through, a lot of them are horror stories. And that’s the truth: there’s a lot of opposition; there’s a lot of ugliness; there’s a lot of ignorance. But it doesn’t always have to be negative. There are positive moments that need to be shared as well. Transgender people need to know that there are people in this world that do and will support them. They need to have even one person who says, “I accept you for who you are and you are not alone.” I think this applies to everyone.
If you have a trans person in your life that you care about, realize that no matter how hard it gets, you have to balance that difficulty with your feelings of how much you love a person. Remember a time in your life that you felt you needed love and support, and did or didn’t receive it; remember how it made you feel.
Be patient with yourself. And don’t be afraid to ask the person to be patient with you. Let them know: “It might take me time to change the use of pronouns or to use a new name when addressing you. I might feel uncomfortable in certain situations at first, but just give me a chance.” Learn to be gentle with each other, until you find that comfort zone together.