Walking with Samantha
Last year my son told me he is transgender. This is what has happened since
On 15 October 2017 at about 7.20am I received a text message from my son Anthony. He had sent the same text to me, his father and his sister to tell us that he is transgender. It is something that he has grappled with for some time (it turns out about 13 years), and he hoped that we could support him in the days and weeks ahead.
It was a total shock, and there had been no indication of this beforehand.
My initial response was to text him back and say I would be there for him. I reckoned I could make sense of it at another time – and that is still happening! I was preaching that day and managed to get through it somehow.
I wanted to see Anthony after the service, but he was working, so I stopped off at my Baptist church on the way home and spoke to the minister, who listened and assured me of any necessary support and prayers.
I saw Anthony that evening, and we had a conversation, the sort of which you don’t normally expect to have with your children – adult or otherwise. However, this was the first of many – and I have to say that the increasing contentment I witness makes me believe that for him, this is what has to take place.
Some clarification. Someone who is transgender believes themselves to be the gender that is different to that of their birth. Anthony was born and assigned the male gender at birth, but believes he is in fact female, and is taking the journey of transitioning to be the person he believes himself to be. Gender and sexuality are different. Sexuality doesn’t change. Anthony was heterosexual, so now as Samantha (chosen name) is gay.
I’m quite lucky. As someone who is adopted, there are a number of issues I have already dealt with myself which have similarities with someone who is transgender. For example, being born to be one person and brought up to be another. Change of name. The need for identity – which in fact most of us have. Issues around separation and loss. Making sense of somehow feeling different but not always understanding why. The need to know who you are and where you have come from.
Dealing with having a transgender child isn’t something I or most people would choose. It will be a lifelong journey, which for me goes hand in hand with my spiritual journey of faith. For some reason, I have been given this life experience. It has already had a far-reaching, but I believe positive, impact on my life.
The first thing that came to me and that I have found really helpful is those well-known verses: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all of your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself, this is the greatest commandment’. These are Jesus’ words. We know that none of us of ourselves are able to love to that degree – it is something that we always aspire to. However, if we concentrate on this – loving more and more each day – we are becoming more like Christ, and everything else follows.
Love your neighbour as yourself. Who is our neighbour? Well, if we are to follow the example of Jesus, our neighbour isn’t just the person or the family next door, but all of those underprivileged, different, irritating, angry, gay, transgender, black, white, disabled, other faith, men, women and children that we meet every day of our lives. God is far broader and bigger and all-encompassing in his love than we will ever imagine. We are expected to be far broader and bigger and all-encompassing in our love that we ever want to be or perhaps even can be.
Anthony has never taken anything lightly, so I trust, whatever my own personal beliefs, that this is right for him. He has independently started hormone treatment and blockers, which work to make his body take on a more feminine form. A big challenge took place in May 2018 when he booked to go to Spain for facial feminisation surgery in Marbella where there were experts in the field. This tied in with his 28th birthday which was the day after surgery. Very planned. We all went (Anthony/Samantha, my husband and me). I expected it to be quite traumatic. It wasn’t (for me), and I put that down to knowing that people were praying, so thank you to those who prayed, and still do. It was major surgery. Four procedures in one operation that took eight hours. (Brow, nose, jaw and Adam’s apple).
Now is the real challenge. Anthony David is now living as Samantha Angela. She returned to work in June after four weeks annual leave for the surgery. It’s going to take me some time to get used to saying Samantha. When I pray for her, I find myself wondering if God knows who Samantha is – I’m sure He does. I don’t for a second think that God made a mistake. Anthony or Samantha – she is still my child, and part of God’s creation. Still loved. Still with a purpose in life. Still the same person. I find an analogy as a butterfly really helpful – started life as a caterpillar, and eventually went through a process of transition and learned to fly.
We often say that we will never understand everything. Nothing could be more true in this situation. I don’t need to understand or make sense of it. This is real. I need to be there, and be alongside, and carry on being the mother I have always been – just buying perfume and dresses instead of aftershave and suits!
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV):
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Life throws up all sorts of challenges and difficulties, and sometimes they don’t make sense. I hope by sharing this, some of you with family members who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender will know that you are not alone in the church. There are other Christians also on this journey with their loved ones. We can talk about it and share with each other. Since talking about it I have found at least six people in my church for whom this is of relevance in their own family. It can happen to any family. Statistically there will be LGBT people in most churches. How sad if they don’t feel they can be open and accepted (never mind their family member!).
I went to a Diverse Church conference at the beginning of June. I was with a group of lovely Christian parents who have met with terrible prejudice in their churches. Hurting. Many who are church leaders. Some have been thrown out of their church for supporting their children. Let’s go back to those verses from 1 Corinthians 13 – we protect, we trust, we hope and we persevere.
God loves us all, and we are all called to love Him and devote our inadequate, messy, imperfect lives to him for His service, and to grow His Kingdom.
I am taking each day at a time, and deal with each issue as it arises. It’s a bit like being in a river. I go with it and face each challenge one by one. God is with me, and I trust Him to lead me on. Thankfully, everything is in His hands.
The author of this reflection is a member of a Baptist church. Names have been changed