Our Magic Girl
We are a family of three living in the beautiful Bay of Plenty. There's myself, my husband, our daughter who is seven, and our two cats. We love spending time at the beach and being with our friends and family. The way our daughter explains her story is that she was born as a boy, but she's actually a girl.
As soon as she was able to communicate she would tell us that she was a girl and from around the age of three she would become very distressed that other people thought she was a boy. Around three years ago, when she was four, she told us she was going to be a girl all of the time. She said she was going to wear girls clothes, grow her hair and change her name. My husband and I initially thought this would a short term phase but accepted it and supported her.
Initially our family and most of our friends didn't support us or agree with the changes our daughter had made. People would refer to her using the wrong pronouns and wrong name which made her and us upset. We found it really hard to get her any kind of support. Her GP told us what was happening was wrong. It was a very isolating and stressful time for my husband and I.
Some of the things that helped us and got us through this period were:
- Finding a Facebook group with NZ families with transgender children and meeting with local families
- A friend telling us about CAMHS (local public mental health support services) and helping us self refer to the service
- An amazing friend who didn't question our daughter or us and accepted us as we were
- Reading books such as The Transgender Child and sharing these resources with family members
- A supportive early childhood centre who welcomed our daughter and supported her.
It would have been awesome to have known there were local families and children here in our region straight away. It would have been great if our GP had known about what local support was available and referred us to someone who would help us. We now have an amazing GP who does everything he can to help our daughter.
The transition to school was challenging but having the backing of other parents in our area, and the knowledge of what the school is required to do to support transgender/gender diverse children helped us. Having services like Gender Dynamix in our area will also mean future families will have more support when navigating the school system.
A huge challenge for our family was gaining the support of our families. Time and education have helped here. We were also firm at the beginning and explained that our child's well-being was the most important thing to us. Some of the positives for us have been seeing our daughter so happy and confident in herself. We are now part of a kind, caring and accepting community and have gained new friendships.
To parents who are coming to this for the first time, I'd like to say that things will be ok, give your family time. Follow your child's lead. Your child is alive and becoming who they are meant to be, and that might change again and again over time, your child is living THEIR life. Going on this journey with them might help you become who you're meant to be. Get counselling if you need too, talk to other families in the same situation they understand. Breathe. The only other thing I'd add is people do still say things to me like "what did you do to your child, or why did you let your child do this?" My answer is always along the lines of "I can't even make my child eat breakfast." Children are their own selves we just need to provide them space and love to grow into who they are meant to be.