by Andrea Chacos


A year and a half ago, my son asked me a question that would change my life: “When we get off the airplane, can I go to the women’s bathroom with you?”

“Sure,” I replied, brushing it off as the nerves of a kid entering a foreign country with signs posted in a different language.

The next question showed me how wrong I was: “While we’re traveling, will you introduce me as your daughter and call me a girl instead?”

I paused. And then I finally acknowledged that this was not confusion or just a phase. My twelve-year-old was giving me space to swallow my fear and come to terms with what she already knew.
In retrospect, the signs were there. Cringing, I remember shopping for costumes at Walmart the previous Halloween. Two of my three boys battled over superheroes, yet the oldest made a beeline toward outfits typically worn by girls. I berated her choice for twenty minutes in the candy aisle, but in the end, her persistence won out. A week later, she proudly collected treats as Princess Leia while I struggled to decipher the feelings building inside me.
"A week later, she proudly collected treats as Princess Leia while I struggled to decipher the feelings building inside me."
I observed my child’s comfort in being identified as female by strangers. When labeled as a “girl” in response to her long hair and feminine features, I never heard a correction, unless it came sternly from me. On a field trip, her teacher even pulled me aside and pleaded, “Please don’t say anything right now. It’s alright.” Yet I struggled to stay quiet.

So it was after a long plane ride for an extended family trip to Central America, away from friends and other relatives, that my daughter took the opportunity to try things out. I fondly remember playing games by candlelight when the power went out. Conversation ebbed and flowed, until, with her two younger brothers and parents by her side, my oldest spoke with a cadence and maturity we’d never heard before. “Please let me be a girl,” she said. “I am not comfortable in a boy body anymore and I hate what I see.” My heart shattered, knowing I had inadvertently added to the shame of her growing self.
"My husband and I spent that summer learning how to let go of control, expectations, and how we thought we should 'parent.' Our daughter gave us permission to ask tons of questions as we stumbled over pronouns and learned behaviors."
Since that candlelit conversation, our family began the process of understanding how someone can be born into a body that doesn’t fit. My husband and I spent that summer learning how to let go of control, expectations, and how we thought we should “parent.” Our daughter gave us permission to ask tons of questions as we stumbled over pronouns and learned behaviors.

We slowly found a groove together, three thousand miles from home. Wearing a makeshift bathing suit, my daughter played in the sand with her brothers, allowing them to work through their anger and sadness for having just lost their older brother. We idly collected seashells, talking about feelings that were difficult to comprehend.
As she learned how to navigate the mores and behaviors of being identified as a girl, my daughter started to share some of her own observations about equity and discrimination. We encouraged our sons to consider the privileges offered American boys.

When we returned to the United States, I paused to absorb the enormity of knowing my daughter will endure a struggle in society that puts her at an increased risk of hurt, humiliation, depression, addiction, and death. Transphobia will deprive her of employment, housing, healthcare, and other opportunities most people take for granted.

When it was my turn to step off the airplane at the end of the summer, I asked: “How would you like me to introduce you?”

She looked up at me and courageously said, “Mom, I’m a girl. I’m just too tired to try acting like a boy anymore.”

That evening, we went to a family wedding. My daughter wore one of my dresses and walked into the reception nervously clenching my hand. After a moment of hesitation, she smiled and ran to the dance floor. As the evening progressed, her confidence soared.

As if I just gave birth to her, I fell in love all over again and slowly said goodbye to my oldest son.

Last week we boarded another plane, this time to Washington, D.C. I wanted to encourage my hopeful and brave daughter to use her own voice to help the transgender community. We were at the Women’s March on Jan. 19 as two women, together.

About the Author

Andrea Chacos is an Aspen Skiing Company ski school coordinator.

You Might Also Like