When my husband told me that our sixteen year old had come out to him as transgender, I laughed. I thought it was some weird joke I didn’t understand. John may as well have said Sam was on a spaceship headed toward Jupiter.
I was shocked and confused; it made no sense to me.
Janna Barber is the kind of girl who’s been known to spill potato soup in her lap; and it’s not always funny. She grew up with a Preacher Dad, a Southern Belle Mom, and two cool siblings. Now Janna is married to a guy who works for a church, and they have three kids of our own. She likes to write poems and tell stories about faith, family, feelings, and hope.
Sam or Samantha
“Bring Sam up here,” I said. “I’m gonna call his* bluff and make him* put on some of my clothes.” Then we’ll see who’s really a girl, I thought to myself. Thankfully, my husband knew better than to comply with what would have been an awkward and humiliating experience for everyone.
Three and a half years later I still can’t bring myself to call Sam Samantha, and I don’t know how to tell this story without using masculine pronouns, (note the asterisks in my first paragraph.). But when Sam comes upstairs in a skirt and asks me if I want to grab lunch at the food court, I say yes. Because loving someone you disagree with is complicated.
A Whole New Grief
In April I finally finished writing my first book. It’s a memoir about how I learned to give myself permission to grieve the loss I experienced growing up as a preacher’s daughter in the Deep South. When I began writing the book, after my second miscarriage, I never imagined I’d be struggling with a whole new grief by the time I finished it—brought on by a grown-up child.
Up to now I haven’t written publicly about Sam because I was afraid of exploiting my child, just so I could be part of the conversation on the topic du jour. And because this story is just beginning, and who knows how it will turn out; and what if what I say—or don’t say—has a negative impact on it?
But despite those complicated emotions, I want to share my experience because other moms need to know they’re not alone.
Read the rest of Janna’s story here.
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