When the Government Comes for Your Trans Kid 

Even before I turned 16, I knew I liked girls. I also knew I liked boys. I didn’t understand it. Why was I drawn to women? During that period of my life (between 11 and 16 years of age), I was also in a boarding school. An all-girl boarding school for that matter. It was torture. It went against everything I knew to be “right”.

That was the first time that thought occurred to me: The world can think something is right, even when it is untrue.

I was born, “bread”, buttered and slightly burned in Nigeria, one of the most religious, yet most corrupt, and most homophobic countries in the world. Back when I was young, one didn’t see it too much, but in today’s Nigeria, much like in many developing countries, as in the Bible belt of the United States, Abrahamic or organized religion has become somewhat of a noose around the necks of its practitioners.

When I told my dad at the age of 16 that I also liked girls… His response was swift yet gentle. “It is a phase, you will grow out of it, Nne”. Like any obedient child, I listened intently and believed all of it; hook, line and sinker, as they say. You see, it’s what kids do. They believe their parents. They trust their parents; they want to please their parents.

And so, I went about my business and tried everything in my power to squish the life out of that tendency to like girls. I decided to only date men and eventually married one. But that didn’t stop the feeling, it didn’t stop my reality. I still had an intense attraction to women. Thankfully, I am fiercely monogamous, so I never acted on it.

Then I had my first child.

I watched with a mixture of disbelief, shock, fear, anxiety, shame, uncertainty, then certainty, and hoping against hope as this beautiful human whom we assigned male sex at birth acted nothing like a boy! Not their mannerisms, speaking style, energy, body gestures, likes, choices, nothing! I mean nothing! I was tormented. I cried to sleep every night. I had nowhere to turn to, no one to tell, no one to ask.

So, I kept it all in, and prayed and prayed and prayed fervently for my suspicion to be incorrect. It was the loneliest time of my life, the hardest time of my life. I hated God for doing that to me. I hated God for “blessing” me with a child who would cause me so much pain. A child who the world would not give a chance to just be. I hated God for making humans who hate each other, I hated me for bringing such a child into the world.

As much as I blamed myself, my ex-husband blamed me more. He took the stance that homosexuality is not in his family. That it must have come from mine. It must have come from me. He despised me for “making his first son gay”. He was mean to me, he called me names, and wouldn’t speak to me for months sometimes. I, in turn, hated myself much more for causing the demise of my marriage.

I tell you all this to give you a bit of background. I eventually filed for divorce and met someone who loved me as much as I loved her. But even that relationship was doomed from the start. With internalized homophobia from my own Catholic upbringing to straight-up homophobia from friends and (some) family, coupled with our own individual histories of trauma, our beautiful relationship had no chance.

I would like to blame Covid for its demise, but truth be told, we had started matching to separate beats long before the lockdown.

The summer of 2020 brought with it my first child’s graduation from college, Stanford University. It also brought in new vocabulary: the phrase non-binary, transgender, and they/them pronouns. Apparently, my kid had been identifying as this through most of their college life. They hadn’t told me because even as a queer person myself, I had not created a safe enough space for them to invite me in.

I, on the other hand, was going nuts with questions… What is it? What does it mean? Who are you? Why this? Why now? What will become of my “son”? Is this a phase? What on earth will my friends say? What will the church say? What will my family say? How can I protect you? What am I going to do? On and on and on…

Then one day, my kid pushed back, and I heard the words I will not forget soon; “Mom, it’s not about you!”

That was when it struck me. That I had been making it all about me. I had been thinking about myself the entire time. I had not taken a moment to ask myself what my child was experiencing. How did they see the world? If I was scared and afraid of not being able to protect them, how much more fear were they feeling? What is it that they really want from me?

Surely it isn’t fear, guilt and shame. It is love, compassion, and affirmation. Support and acceptance with or without understanding. It is parental responsibility and a motherly hug. It is an open heart and a welcoming smile. It is me being their mom, periodt. Nothing else. It is also me unlearning, learning, and becoming the parent my child needs.

And so, when the governor or the government comes after my trans child, they are in essence coming after me. They are invalidating all the thoughts I have had. They are invalidating all my pain, all my suffering, and my entire journey thus far. They are saying none of that matters. They are saying I don’t count; my feelings don’t count; my child’s existence doesn’t count.

They are drawing a line on the sand and asking me to prepare for battle. They are asking for war.

And that’s what I am prepared to give them.

Dr. Lulu aka the Momatrician is a Pediatrician, Author, Speaker, Life Coach, and Mom of a Non-Binary Transgender Young Adult. You can find her at Dr-Lulu.com and @askdoctorlulu on Instagram and Facebook, and Dr. Lulu on Tik Tok and Linkedin.

Snow On The Ground

“Mom, it’s snowing outside!”, my last man child exclaimed. “Yeah right, what snow, in San Antonio?”. “Dude, I shall believe that when I see it”, were the only words I could come up with in response. You see, even though I couldn’t imagine that my youngest son was lying about the snow, I still couldn’t believe it. Not in Texas…

But it was snowing…a lot.

In fact, it snowed for hours that night, and I LOVED every moment of it!

“I hope we don’t have school tomorrow”, I heard his 16-year-old voice add with a note of finality. “Me three”, I agreed. Glad to hear the happiness in his voice. Ever since the online schooling thing began, he has been outwardly so brave and so agreeable and gone with the flow, even as I know deep inside that he hates it!

My heart went out to him. He is such a brave boy. His parents got divorced when he was only 3. Even though his father is showing a semblance of presence in his life these days, I know it must be tough. Dealing with not having his older brothers in the house anymore, and his mom and stepmom going through a separation.

Being only 16, missing his friends, having to endure high school on a computer, with his mother around the corner, in the same house day-in, day-out, must be hard. But he has been nothing but gracious about it. He is a cool kid. Even if I have to say so myself. The strongest of the three, emotionally, I think. But what do I know? I am only their mom, LOL.

Morning After
Night Of

Back to the snow.

That night I took some pictures and even went live on Facebook to share. I love the sound of snow falling. The softness of it. I love the color of snow. The whiteness of it. I love the peace and calm that often comes in the morning. Everything is white, the sky is bright, the air crisp, the snow cold, clean and inviting.

I ran outside at the crack of dawn the next morning with Lulu, my pet rat terrier-mix who appeared to be enjoying herself as well. She was prancing around in the snow and seemed more comfortable in it than I thought she would be, knowing this was her very first-time seeing this much snow. She is 8 in human years. Wait, did I just spy her lick some of it? Lulu! 😊

I remember the day the boys and I picked her up at the pound. Her sister had just been adopted. Her original name was Honey. She had actually picked us. She was the only Black dog there, and she was beautiful. She kept jumping up and barking at us, like she was saying “Pick me, pick me”. And pick her, we did. Her full name is Lucretia, so we call her Lulu for short.

My street was quiet. Everything around me was covered in snow. Roof tops, branches, cars, the street, shrubs, sidewalks, everything. Que buena! Not a soul was outdoors. No cars, no kids, no parents, no school buses, no pets, not even the birds were out yet. None of the usual suspects of neighbors who walk in the morning. Noone. Just me, my dog, my phone, and my thoughts…

For a few moments my mind went to her. I wonder what she is doing right now. Would she be awake? Would she be outdoors? Would she be by her window watching, thinking, wondering? Is she lonely? Does she miss me? Does she even think about me? She did not come to walk Lulu this past weekend because of “Inclement weather”, her text had read.

I miss her.

I miss calling out her name, “Elle!” when I walk in the house. I know I would have been all over her this morning, if she still lived here. I would have been in her room first thing, waking her up with my usual Tigger-like excitement, wanting to share it all with her, asking her to come out and join me for a walk, to which she would nearly always respond with a cold “No”. 

“Why do people do that?” I asked myself for the 46th time. “Why did I do that?” Stay in a loveless relationship. Was it desperation? Was it love? Was it to fill a void? Both my beloved youngest sister, and my relationship coach, Dr. Sonia Wright, had asked me the same thing. “How long were you going to stay?” and more importantly, “Why?”

I knew both of them meant well.

“I don’t know”, was the best I could come up with each time. “I don’t know”. As a coach myself, I know that-that is not true. Everybody knows. We all know why we do what we do. We all know why we make decisions that may or may not serve us. We do know, but we mostly choose not to accept it, or more commonly, choose to deny it.

We generally choose to say those three words first, “I don’t know.” It is easier. It is safe. It absolves us of responsibility. It prolongs the time of indifference. It allows us to remain in the victim mentality. But it also keeps us stuck. Shackles us to indecision. Prolongs our pain, and might I add, prevents our progress. Because if we can’t figure out what it is, or call it out by name, we can’t truly fix it.  

So, that morning, standing there in the middle of my street, alone by myself, enjoying the scenery, while taking pictures of the snow, of my house, of Lulu striking a pose on the lawn, I asked myself the same question for the 47th time, “Why did you stay?” Reluctantly, I finally responded in a series of whispers…

Because I love her.

Because I wanted her to love me back.

Because I needed her.

Because she saved my life.

Because I loved being married to her.

Because I kept thinking and wishing that we would somehow magically work through all the mess.

Because I wanted us to make it.

Because, even though we were both suffering in the relationship, I still wished we would get through it.

Because I was still rooting for us.

Because I was in denial.

I love the feel of the snow under my rain boots. The soft crunching sound it makes as I walk down the street with Lulu coming along for her morning walk. The air was cool as I inhaled huge chunks of it into my lungs. I am cold, but I am so loving this once-in-a-lifetime experience. It snowed, in San Antonio!

Except, I am here by myself. Not able to share the moment with anyone, but me.

Then I recalled Dr. Wright telling me that I had to learn to embrace solitude. “Look at it as a welcome experience,” her soft voice came through the phone. “When we call it loneliness it has a negative connotation to it.” “This could literally be the beginning of the best time of your life, but you have to let it in,” she added. “You have to first go through all the emotions that come with a split from an 8 year-long relationship…”

“What if it’s OK to feel the way you feel right now?” I ran through my list of feelings; Unsure, angry, sad, devastated, disappointed, betrayed, afraid, shocked…” The list went on. Wait! Was that also relief?? Somewhere in the back there, was relief. I briefly looked at it and skipped it. Anguish, panic, despair, melancholy, heaviness in my chest… I continued.

At one point during the call, Dr. Wright instructed me to embrace “I am enough” in every sense of the word. While still crying my heart out to her, I realized that I have struggled with self-acceptance in that sense. I crave companionship, as a result, I have settled for relationships that amongst other things, have been unfulfilling and to some extent, toxic.

I have entered them from a place of scarcity. From a place of lack. No wonder I remained needy even as I constantly told myself I had a mate. I remained lonely in most of my relationships, even if they all started the same way, with excitement and the idea of commitment.

Apparently, I have always felt like I needed someone in my life in order to feel whole. It became clear as we talked in hushed tones around 11:30pm that night, with snort and tears running down my nose and my eyes, that I have struggled with a fear of abandonment…for years.

My earliest memories of being abandoned came up during the conversation. My mother had been unable to nurse me during infancy, I was told. When I was 6, my father forgot to pick me up one day from school and I had to walk all the way home. I had been the only child from my neck of the woods on the elementary school bus and was consequently bullied like crazy by the other kids.

My parents never came to visit me during my 5 years in a boarding high school in Nigeria, I got into high school at 11. Neither did they come to visit me during my entire time in medical school, another 5 years. I went to med school at 16. Looking back now, I grew up forcing myself to believe that they loved me, but this was their weird way of showing it.  

I remember vowing when I was a young adult, that I would never miss a visiting day in my kids’ lives. That I would be the mother I had yearned for, all those days, the father I had needed those early formative years if given a chance to have children of my own. Today, I can only hope that I am.

Before the call ended, we discussed the possibility that I had-had an emotional affair. What? Yes, she kindly explained. I had immersed my heart and soul into my work on trauma and suicide prevention in youth these past few years, because, in her words, I wasn’t “getting the nurturing and attention I needed from my marriage“. So, I guess, I cheated with my work. Is that even a thing?

Wow!

Night Of
Morning After

As Lulu and I turn the corner at the end of the street, I spy one of my White neighbors who never speaks to me, walking slowly in our direction with their own dog in tow. I immediately made a U-turn, I really couldn’t care much about messing up my beautiful and serene revelry with a snooty neighbor this morning…

We walk on, slowly, quietly, in the opposite direction. Lulu appears to step on something, and momentarily begins to limp. But she regains her gait, and we continue. She stops from time to time to do her business. I register the deep yellow color of her urine against the white snow, and make a mental note to check on her water supply when I get home.

I can barely hold on to my phone by the time we get back to the house. My fingers are so cold that they hurt, but my body is warm, my heart is happy, there is snow on the ground even if I have no one to share it with. I walk inside the house and call my name, “Dr. Lulu!” It’s weird, but I am doing what my coach has told me to do. I am trying to get used to being with me. It might work, only time will tell.

In the distance, the world is beginning to wake up.

It will be a good day.

“In life, you must know when to make a you-turn if possible” ~ Dr. Lulu

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