parent-child

(Photo: Petras Gagilas / Flickr)

Mothering, like aging, is not for the faint of heart. As author Jennifer Senior said of parenting, it is often all joy and no fun. Sometimes very little joy as well. Sometimes there’s a whole lot of fear. But nurturing a human being from birth to adulthood is also one of the most deeply gratifying and mysteriously wonderful processes that a human being can participate in.

Every child presents its parent or parents with unexpected talents and challenges. The challenges that are the most difficult can test us beyond the limits we ever imagined our fortitude could take us. Yet, especially as mothers, we have no choice but to put that innate motherly love and strength on a course of steroids that makes us equal to the task.

I never imagined I would give birth to a child whose brain was formed, in utero, to the female end of the gender spectrum, but whose reproductive organs were what we characterize as male. I didn’t even know that happens. But it turns out that it does—a lot. My child was born transgender.

Mothering a transgender child who was born in 2000, several years before there was any public understanding of the natural process of what makes a baby transgender, was one of those mountains most mothers hope they don’t have to climb. They want their children to have an easy path. Confusion abounded about why my little “boy” insisted “he” was a girl, why he made dresses out of blankets, napkins, shirts; why he turned his trucks into dolls and nursed them; why all his little preschool and elementary school friends were girls.

But mothers don’t have the luxury of staying confused. Mothers get educated. Mothers fiercely protect. Mothers fight. Mothers nurture. Mothers love. Mothers make sure their children live.

Read the full article on VICE.

Karen Dolan directs the Criminalization of Race and Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.