The following interview was written by a local mom about a local mom. North Phoenix Moms supports all families in our community and we hope those that need to hear this message find it. We will always support all moms on this very hard motherhood journey with love.
When I became a mom almost 4 years ago my eyes really opened to how many amazing hard working moms I was surrounded by. One of my past coworkers, Tami Staas, is one of these astounding moms. She is the proud parent of a transgender child, and her knowledge and activism really made me want to pick her brain. The goal was to educate myself and others on an important hot topic. During one of our few precious moments off from teaching, we sat down over a cup of coffee and I did just that.
There are a lot of questions that people have for someone who is the parent of a transgender child. Tami’s openness and willingness to share her journey and advice is something I truly consider eye opening and important for everyone, not just mommies, to read.
Tami’s son is currently a happy and thriving college student and, while being transgender is an important part of his identity, he aims to be seen as his own person separate from that. His mom Tami has always been along for the ride as a supportive parent and her story, I believe, is something we can all relate to and gain from.
What were the early years like?
Gender was never a big focus for Tami from the beginning. Her nursery was gender neutral and she would be happy with whatever gender her baby would be. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl, the first girl in 28 years, and her family showered her with the traditional pink girl clothing. Even from a very young age her son didn’t gel with the idea of being a girl. As early as 3, he had a say in what he wore and liked, so he gravitated to boy clothes. To him they were more comfortable, and had cooler things on them, like Star Wars. Tami didn’t really think anything of this. Society was more accepting of a girl who dresses in boy clothes and he was just considered a tomboy. Looking back now, and having the knowledge she does now, she saw early signs, but they were not as clear in the moment.
When did your son come out as transgender?
Puberty was the big culprit for the negative changes to her son’s mood and demeanor. Middle school mixed with puberty changed her happy child into a depressed teen. Developing as a female and getting a period was the most horrible hurdle for her son and affected him on all levels. Finally, one day he said to his mom, “Mom, I don’t like boys the way that I am supposed to like boys, I am a lesbian”. Tami almost had a sense of relief hit her, now she understood what was going on and affecting her child so profoundly.
She wanted to help her child so she hooked him up with an Arizona organization that supports LGBQT youth, called One-n-Ten, so they could help both her and her son navigate these new experiences. One day Tami was sharing this news with a close friend, and was explaining that her son came out, and the friend said before she could finish, “Oh, came out as transgender?” This is not what Tami was going to say and her friend quickly picked up on that and dropped it. This moment stuck in Tami’s head and was a precursor for the future.
One of the great experiences is a camp each summer. In middle school, her son was all signed up to go. “I dropped off my sad, depressed, lesbian daughter, and picked up my ecstatic, over-the-moon transgender son.” During the camp, he sat in on a trans panel and that is when everything clicked for him. He was able to ask questions and get information and now he understood more of why he was struggling. He was happy and felt a sense of direction.
Even while driving home from the camp, he cried tears of joy and told them all about how he was going to transition. For Tami, this was overwhelming. Not the idea of her daughter becoming her son, but she had a 13 year old child and NO idea where to start or how to help him.
What sort of impact did this have on your family?
Tami, her husband, and her younger daughter were accepting but afraid. “We parent from experience,” she said, and they had no idea what to do or where to start. Tami was told that if she were to pick up the phone and call an endocrinologist to request hormone therapy, it would be considered child abuse and CPS would show up at her door.
Her focus shifted from keeping him healthy to keeping him alive. There is a 60% suicide rate for a transgender child in a non supportive environment but it drops to 4% when they are in a supported environment. “I would have to bury my daughter if I didn’t support my son,” said Tami.
What advice do you have for parents?
First, take a deep breath. You and your family are going to be fine and you are not alone. Second, follow your child’s lead. As much as you want to help, don’t take control but aim to support.
What sort of resources do you suggest for others on this topic?
Tami is part of a parent led support group called, Arizona Trans Youth and Parent Organization. Their website has a plethora of helpful information.
One-n-Ten was also a huge help and you can find out more about them at https://onenten.org/.
This interview opened my eyes. I am grateful that Tami took the time to tell me her story and let me be the vessel to pass along this information. Whether you think this affects you or not, it’s important to educate yourself and see what goes on in the lives of others. And as Tami says, “When in doubt, just show up and love” and I believe that is truly what can connect us all.