“I’ve been having some gender issues lately.”
I was on the phone with my eighteen-year-old granddaughter Amy who had recently moved across country to attend college.
“Want to talk about them?” I asked.
“I want to be a boy.”
“Wow! Where did that come from?” Amy had come out to me as lesbian two years earlier, but I had never heard a word about gender dysphoria.
“I went to an LGBTQ meeting on campus last week, and the speaker said we need to honor who we are. This is who I am.”
“I’ll love you whoever you are.”
Inside I was screaming. You’re too young to make this decision! You’ve barely adjusted to your female hormones, and now you want to start testosterone?
Amy told me she wanted to be called Eli. As we continued to talk, I asked lots of questions and interjected my concerns as nonconfrontationally as possible.
To deal with my anxieties, I called an endocrinologist with whom I had worked. He assured me Amy was not too young and directed me to several websites to find the protocols and standards of care for hormone therapy.
Eli took no action immediately but kept making steady incremental progress toward his goal. Throughout, he was in counseling. When starting testosterone therapy, he learned how to self-inject but eventually switched to the gel. He changed his name and gender with the Department of Motor Vehicles and Social Security.
Although he was pleased when he could shave and was recognized as male, a continual source of dysphoria were his breasts. After several unsuccessful efforts to get approval for a mastectomy from his original insurance carrier, he enrolled in the college health insurance plan and received the go-ahead.
“I’m having my top surgery December 20th,” he happily announced.
“Your parents will be off sailing then, so they can’t be with you.”
“That’s okay, one of my room-mates will take me to the hospital.”
“No way! I’m flying out to take care of you.”
This was the hardest aspect of his transition for me. A secret part of me still hoped he might change his mind and stop the testosterone. Breast removal was an irrevocable step that sealed the deal.
Within several months of the surgery I could see how much more comfortable Eli was with himself and recognized what a good decision it was for him.
Eli’s now twenty-three, has finished college and holds a black belt in karate. I still miss the young girl named Amy, but I am eternally grateful for the close relationship I have with the man named Eli.