I didn't know I had a daughter until my child came out as trans

Apr 1, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Image: Carol Bray

What if life went on as usual, raising three boys and seeing them all get married and start a life of their own — and then one day you found out you had given birth to a daughter but never knew it? This is what happened to my husband and me. I found out her name is Nicole. Funny, because if we would have had a daughter, that’s what I would have named her. I also learned she was born on the same day as our middle son. But unfortunately, I never really got to see this girl grow up to become a woman. Confused yet?

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Our son called us in 2013, while we were wintering in Florida, and told us to expect a letter that he was sending to us by overnight mail. We received it the following day, and I had my husband read it first. It was pages in length, and he handed me the first page as he continued reading the rest. This is how we found out that our son was actually a female trapped in a man's body.

As I continued reading this letter, totally shocked (we never had a clue), I had flashbacks and recalled many instances where she was so much different. As early as 18 months, she played so gently versus how her brother was at that age. She loved puppets and stuffed animals well beyond the age that my other boy had given it up. There were many more things I recalled while reading that heartfelt letter.

After we finished reading, we picked up our phone and called her right away. We wanted to let her know that we loved her unconditionally and that we would stand beside her and support her transition. How could we do anything different than that? She was and is our flesh and blood, and from everything that we have read and absorbed, we knew this was all beyond her control and not her fault.

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I read somewhere that there’s a gender birth defect of some form or another in 1 in 1,500 births, which is a lot! In fact, most people are rather uncomfortable to talk about gender. What I really can't understand and what makes me so sad is why does the word transgender make people hate those who are? Even now, many states won't allow a transgender person to use the correct bathroom. They're confusing sex with gender — and they are different words with different meanings.

Nicole knows she’s female, but to look in the mirror and see a man’s body has made her miserable her entire life. This in turn has led to severe depression and suicidal thoughts. She had been diagnosed with severe gender dysphoria, and that’s one of the reasons why 41 percent of transgender people attempt or commit suicide. As Nicole puts it vehemently, “WHY WOULD ANYONE CHOOSE TO DO THIS?” By committing to becoming a woman, she’s putting her life at risk because of all the hatred in the world toward people who are transgender.

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Our daughter has told us from the start that we could lose some of our friends for her being transgender. And yes, I did lose a couple of "friends" who couldn't get past the religious issue, thinking that this is the work of the devil and they couldn't be friends with me anymore just for supporting my own child.

I put my life on hold for a while as we started a fundraiser to help raise money for all the surgeries she was going to have. We also dipped into some of our retirement funds to help her out. It was either this or we were certain she would commit suicide. We did nothing more than any parent would who had a child who needed their help.