For the last three years the support group for parents of the LGBTQ people is active in Minsk. With the help of psychologists parents learn how to understand and accept their children. Unfortunately, coming-out in Belarus often leads to conflicts and end of relationships with the parents. It’s especially difficult for parents to accept their transgender children often because of the drastic change of appearance. But there are exceptions.
The mothers of transgender children, who are members of parent support group told news portal LADY tut.by about loving their children no matter of who they are (the names are changed):
Ludmila, the mother of Sasha, a transgender woman.
“I’m grateful to fate that my daughter moved somewhere, where there’s no such discrimination. To cut a long story short, now I have a transgender daughter, whom I love very much. My younger son was very quiet and calm when growing up. I didn’t notice anything strange about him. I had no clue or feeling, I wasn’t excepting what was coming. One day I got a text “Mom, where are you? We need to talk.” I will remember this conversation for the rest of my life.
“Mom, I can’t do it anymore. I’m confused with pronouns. I went to an endocrinologist, I’ve decided to transition and start hormone therapy. Now I have my pills, thanks to which I can live happily in harmony with my body”.
My first reaction, was perhaps a typical one, for any mother in similar situation – shock, fear, pain and shame. What was I going to tell the relatives. She stopped coming home in order not to discredit me and the others (currently Sasha lives abroad). She hasn’t been here for three years. But I’ve started visiting her more often, our meetings have become better than at the beginning, conversations are warmer.
When he’s 20 and you know that he transitioned you have to get used to it. I’m glad that I didn’t have to get used to a new name. Because the name is Sasha. My grandson is also called Sasha.
The first person I told about Sasha’s transition was my husband. His reaction didn’t surprise me: “Why did you tell me about it?” My elder son found out some time later, maybe a month later. His reaction was rather neutral. And when my grandson saw Sasha, so I asked him: “Is it a boy or a girl?” And the seven year old simply remarked: “Grandma, Sasha is a girl, she was just joking that she was a boy”. And I think that tells everything.
I have only one photo where she’s in her female image. Others are old, taken before the transition – it doesn’t bother her.
Friends and family members that I opened up to accepted me, gave me their understanding and support. Nobody turned their back on me. Gradually I started opening up to my sister. It took nearly two years.
And once, when I was talking to Sasha I mentioned that I’d like to talk to mothers in a similar situation. To what Sasha replied: “Mom, I’m so happy you asked. I was honestly worried about you. I have a number of a therapist, I’ll give it to you”. Two years ago I met mothers who have LGBT children, we started to communicate closely. We could share our pain, our worries, and to understand each other like no-one else could. Every time I go to a meeting, I say to my husband: “I’m going to meet the moms”.
I’m outraged when I hear people say “Oh, it’s trendy now to be friends with gay or transgender people”. I immediately want to ask: “What’s the difference between heterosexuals, gays and transgender people? We’re all equal!” My request for all the mothers, all the parents, who happen to be in this situation: don’t push away your children, love them, accept them for who they are, because who if not you, their mothers will understand and love them? And if their mothers won’t accept them, how can the society accept them?
Now my girl graduated the university with honors. I’m very proud of her, she’s very kind, nice and vulnerable. I’m so grateful to fate and God that there were people who helped her with the residence papers and she went somewhere where society is not that transphobic or homophobic, where same-sex marriage is legalized. I’m sure that she will be successful, self-sufficient and happy. I am sure she has so much ahead of her and I’m very proud of her.
So many times I tried to put myself in her shoes: what would I do, could I transition and tell everyone like that? No, I don’t think I could. When you’re twenty and you have the courage to take such an important step… I think that’s an act of true courage.
Natalia, a mother of Grigoriy, a transgender man.
“For me it’s already unnatural to think of him using feminine pronouns”
“When my daughter was born in 1991, I was very happy. That was my only child. When my daughter was 22 she made a decision that changed our lives forever. We brought her up, patronized and loved her a lot, too many cooks for one child. She was a very active child in kindergarten and in school, used to be friends with boys and girls. And of course now I connect some things in the past with what happened. There were questions from the child: “Mom, why am I a girl? Let’s play a game where I’m a boy?”
But I was in denial. I was so ignorant about this topic before my child opened my eyes. And now I find myself asking “why are we never told about this, never educated on how we should behave with people like that?”
I was in shock when I found out that such people exist and that my child was one of them. I didn’t expect it to be so serious. One time I accidentally over heard that he was talking to somebody using the name Arthur and I asked what that was all about. “Oh, it’s just roleplaying, never mind”. I asked: “Maybe we should see a therapist?” “No, there’s no need, what for? If you need it, than go, I don’t need to go to a therapist”.
Of course, I had suspicions, but it remained something we did not talk about. I was like an ostrich, hiding my head in the sand, I was in a deep denial – It could happen to anyone but not to me.
Then, a week later he called me and said: “It’s ok, there is a center at Mendeleeva. I’ve already made an appointment”. We went to a sexologist Vasiliy Petrovich, I’m grateful to him as he brought back to life not only my child but also me. Once he told me: “The most important thing is not to blame yourself, and much more so to make your child smile. Remember that 7 out of 10 transgender people commit suicide”. Of course, there couldn’t be a better argument, I was keeping it together after this. Thank God, we got through the initial stage of shock.
I was thinking, whatever happed – the nature will take turn and sort things out. Turns out the nature is a very delicate substance. And everything can be very serious, the biological features, primary sexual characteristics are so opposite to the brain, that a person can’t handle it. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for him even though I’m his mother.
He changed his passport. We sat through evaluating panels, went to Novinki (mental facility). Had an open conversation with all the relatives – couldn’t go without that. Told everything to dad.
Every time another family member found out, I felt such a relief. My husband and my mother accepted it. My father was more difficult though. At some point he said: “I had one granddaughter. Now I don’t have grandchildren”. To what my mother responded: “Say whatever you want, I have a grandson now”. And with my mother-in-law, I didn’t know what she would say. She’s an old person, from the Soviet era. And at the end she was the most understanding and accepting of all.
He’s so different now, He is a son without a doubt. Grigoriy, he wears male clothes, shoes. Feels so comfortable in it. He is like, wow, I’m so handsome! Very good-looking. He even takes me shopping.
As regards to his previous life, there he shows a male determination: no photos, nothing. His previous life is a complete taboo subject as if it never existed. And when I say: “Remember this from the childhood?” – he interrupts me abruptly and I realize that maybe I said something wrong. He changed his passport, got married. All official, all on the papers.
And now for me that life is like a dream. And this life is more natural, more real than what was before. All the photos were torn into pieces. What is a photograph? Just a piece of paper. You can tear it apart and throw it away.
It’s unnatural for me now to think of him using female pronouns. I actually see him as a real man now. He’s happy. We love each other, we’re united.
They managed to accept their children for who they are. Can you? To join the support group please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is published with support from the Nordic Council of Ministers, within the project “Sharing expertise and fostering LGBT human rights in Belarus”