I admire my child. I admire her courage, her strength, and her self awareness. Things have never been easy for Braden. We all now know the struggles that A-T brings. There are the tremors, deterioration of movement and ultimate dependency on others and a wheelchair, oculomotor apraxia (eyes not going where you tell them,) dysarthria (slurred speech that’s hard to create,) apraxia of the tongue (a partial paralyzation of the tongue,) reflux, immune deficiency and dependency upon immunoglobulin therapy, increased risks of cancer and diabetes, sterilization, gray hair and warts, degeneration of the cerebellum. Do I need to really keep going? It’s depressing. Having to endure those things isn’t what makes me admire her. Nope. Why not if not for that impressive list of mountains to climb?
My child has had to learn that just because someone gives birth to you doesn’t mean they love you. While we have experienced adoption with an AMAZING biological family that is now our family, this isn’t the case for Braden. That initial hurt is a big one. I admire her for accepting and understanding that sometimes people are too sick to understand their actions or to care about them. I love that she knows family are the people that love you regardless of blood ties. We teach her to be proud of the love we have for her and her adoption story.
Why else you ask? Oh millions of reasons! Perhaps it is because she can teach a sex education class since we’ve had to explain how she is brown and biracial. She will educate you on why pigment of skin isn’t a determining factor of her worth but is a part of cultural identity. She knows that you don’t have to be color blind but color aware. She has shown her siblings that love knows no bounds.
In the past few weeks we have endured some serious criticism about Braden being transgender. The resounding words are, “We don’t get it!” Perhaps none of us ever will. After all, we don’t live in her skin. I’m sure most don’t “get” what it is like to be adopted, biracial, or have a rare terminal illness. To be honest, I’m not asking you to get it. Nope. I’m just asking you to go with it. I’m not asking you to read countless books, videos, documentaries, blogs, or research articles. I’m not asking to you to attend PFLAG meetings, wrap yourself in a rainbow flag, or to speak to specialists throughout the nation. Nope, that’s our job. A job we have taken very seriously. I’m asking you to treat my child like you always have. At the very least treat her with the same dignity and respect you should treat all human beings with.
What I admire most about Braden is her concept of self. She is very VERY aware of the current turmoil surrounding her “coming out.” We have gone over every ugly word (hopefully) she can be called. She understands that some will tell her she is destined for hell, a sinner, an abomination. She knows that some folks think she is wrong, choosing this, or minimally playing dress up. She understands she will be teased, bullied, and harassed. She knows that there is a threat to her safety. She knows that even family is capable of turning their back on her and disgustingly and narrow mindedly have. She knows folks may stop loving her or very sadly being her friend. Yet, she knows who she really is. She is capable of holding on strongly to her sense of self and her convictions. How can I not envy that? How can I not admire that courage and strength? Is there anything you feel that strongly about that you would risk such hatred, condemnation, or the love of your family? There are only five reasons I would. They are my children and husband.
So what’s life like out of the closet? Um, normal. We do what we do just like you. We don’t have tantrums like we used to over this subject. We no longer have to have lengthy debates over whether we step into society “forced to be a boy.” We just live. We can now tackle the much larger hurdles in our life. Y’know like surviving an upcoming surgery. The awful truth is that Braden has been hurt immensely by many but has been shown more kindness than hate. The wounds will scar over in time, and she will learn that those that remain by her side are the ones that truly count.
So thank you Braden for teaching me that being true to yourself is the key to happiness. I will always love you unconditionally. Thank you for teaching all of us under this roof that we don’t have to understand completely to love you anyway. I will always cherish the life lessons you have taught me sweetie.