Faces of Pride: A Mother’s Letter

CHARLOTTE — “I’m Shenna, I’m a working parent, I’m a runner, I’m a volunteer, and the mother of a transgender child.”

Shenna Patterson, a local mother, looked back on memories of raising her child, and she wrote a letter addressed to herself after giving birth with advice.

>>In the video at the top of the page, hear Sheena’s journey.

Shenna’s 9-year-old daughter is the art designer of Channel 9′s first Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade resource guide handout.

Read Shenna’s letter below:

“You’ve made it to the end of pregnancy! Guess what: this is the easy part. Once that baby is born, things get a lot louder and messier. But every sleepless night and day of wailing is worth it. This sleeping (or wailing) child is yours. You will marvel at the love you feel. There’s just so much. You’ll also marvel at how quickly your baby changes. Before you know it, this will be a toddler on the move. You’ll be always watching, keeping ahead of the dangers that could be in reach.

You will notice how your toddler is into girl things. It’s so cute. He doesn’t know yet that they aren’t for him. But they can be! You won’t limit your child. You’ll buy princess dresses and tiaras and all the things you didn’t expect when the sonogram announced a baby boy. You will be pleased with your open-minded parenting skills.

When you are lucky enough to do this a second time – with a second “it’s a boy” sonogram, you will feel like a pro. And as that baby boy grows, you will note some differences. This child won’t want a tiara unless it could be used to dig in the dirt. He will want all the trucks that your first one never glanced at.

You’ll notice some other things. How your oldest will ask when he can be a girl. If he grows his hair out, that will do the trick, right? This is one of those phases, you’ll think. Then you will offer another haircut like Daddy’s. Another dinosaur t-shirt. But always allowing the dolls and sparkly high heels.

Some things will gnaw at you. Your oldest child off to school now, surrounded by friends, but not quite fitting in with the boys or the girls. Becoming more withdrawn, sneaking off to play with your makeup. Then, suddenly, bursting with the weight of his secret. The world will stop for a moment when he tells you he needs to wear girls’ clothes. The fact that it’s a need will be evident to you with striking clarity.

You’ll find yourself adrift with questions. You’ll lie awake at night, reading all the books and scouring the internet, but the answer you’re looking for won’t be there, no matter how late into the night you scroll and worry. You’ll be afraid of people who might not understand, kids who might bully, and yourself… afraid you’ll get it all wrong. Labels will feel like a weight. Is this a girl? A boy who likes dresses? Gay? Transgender? Does it matter?

This is what you’ll need to do: Listen and support. Love and be open.

Your child will amaze you by showing the world who she is by slowly, deliberately transforming herself. Hair long enough for pigtails. Sparkly sneakers. Shopping is limited strictly (and happily) to the girls’ section. Declaring with the full small weight of herself that she’s a girl.

When you are still stumbling over new pronouns and words like “daughter” or “sister,” she will bring you along by flinging these words proudly, like glitter. Seeing this child be her full self will cause your heart to ache with the beauty of it.

But when your child cries, at times, that she doesn’t want to grow a beard someday, you will cry a little too. You’ll say it’s ok, there is medicine for that. When she asks, “Can I be a girl in high school, too? What about when I’m grown up?” you’ll say of course. The doctors can help her. She will trust you so fully, knowing that you keep her safe.

But, as always, you will still need to keep watching for new dangers. This time, in the form of bills. House bills. Senate bills. At first they will be elsewhere.

Then these bills will encroach, suddenly, on your state. You’ll feel under attack. You’ll BE under attack. The reality of what’s at stake will be so horrifying that you’ll find ways to speak out. You’ll find ways to be stronger, with the support of family and friends who have stepped up as allies, and learning on those who are leading the fight. Fight with your community, for your community, for your child. And as always, Listen and support. Love and be open.”

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz,

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.

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