Our initial reaction was relief...whew, no one died, no once had cancer. There were currently no issues with her marriage, no one got arrested, etc., etc. Fear of the unknown causes many crazy images to go racing through your mind, when you hear the words "I need to talk to you." So, okay, is that all? We can deal with that. Not quite sure what yet; but that we can handle.
Did we feel a sense of loss? In a small way, yes. It was nice having a daughter and a son. A complete family, right? It sounds good. But we really didn't "lose" our son because she didn't go anywhere. Our new daughter was the same person she always was. In fact, she was better. She was no longer distant and noncommunicative. She smiled more. There was a lilt in her voice, which became higher-pitched and softer after she began hormone replacement therapy.
And she called us more often! She was happy and relieved to have finally unburdened herself of her secret.
Although Ron and I both grew up and still practice our Roman Catholic faith, we are both fairly liberal in our views and in our support of the LGBTQ community. We have other relatives and friends who are gay, so we did not have any issues in immediately accepting and loving Annabelle. But, as parents, we did fear how she would be viewed and accepted by others. More importantly we feared for her safety as a transgender woman. Althought you always worry about your children's safety no matter how old they are, being trans just added another layer to our worry meter!
One of our first actions upon learning of Annabelle's transition was who do we tell and how do we do it. Annabelle contacted her sister and told her. She asked us to inform her uncles and their families and together we told her one remaining grandparent. We visited her grandmother while Annabelle phoned her to tell her she was now living as a woman. Later, Annabelle would meet my cousin Deb and her partner Alexia, who were filmmakers. This led to the documentary film about Annabelle, myself and our friend Shannon, called TransJourney.
I had been familiar with PFLAG for many years but had never felt a reason to contact them before. But after Annabelle came out to us, I thought it would be a good idea to attend a meeting, if for nothing else than to see if there were other families of transgender children to whom I could relate. Thus began my journey with PFLAG where I met a wonderful group of caring, compassionate people who got what I was feeling and who felt as strongly as I did about fighting for equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming family members.
One thing led to another and here I am leading the fight for the Greater Providence Chapter of PFLAG!