When Debi Jackson’s son, Avery, was only 3 years old, she realized that he really felt like a girl. She began to feel that it was part of her job as his mother to help him transition into living as the girl he knew that he was on the inside.
Jackson told People magazine: “She was requesting to wear princess dresses during play time, associating with female characters in cartoons and movies, fighting haircuts and wanting longer hair, and wanting her fingernails and toenails painted.”
Initially, Jackson didn’t know what all of these signs meant and assumed that Avery was homosexual.
“We thought these were signs that we had a gay son. Eventually there was more, including an obvious discomfort with her body and tucking of her genitals, a growing sense of depression, an obsession with death, and questions about getting a second chance at life in a new body.”
Eventually, Avery told her parents that she’s “a girl on the inside.” That is when they decided to turn to professionals for help and sought out doctors and psychologists.
“We knew we had to trust the process, and trust the doctors and therapists that changing clothes, hair and pronouns never caused anyone permanent damage,” Jackson says.
Avery’s parents began allowing her to wear girl clothes at home and eventually they extended this in public as well. Jackson was still worried.
“[Our concerns were], is she crazy, are we crazy, are we making a huge mistake in listening to what she is saying and allowing her to transition? The only reference I had to anything regarding transgender people were Jerry Springer-esque shocking stories. I was afraid we would be judged as parents. I was afraid she would be bullied and teased. I was afraid she’d end up unhappy and hating us later.”
Not only that, but their extended families were not supportive of their parenting decisions, and their church looked down upon their actions.
“Our family felt pretty isolated,” Jackson admits. “The Southern Baptist Church condemns the support of trans identities. We didn’t know and couldn’t find any other families with trans kids near us. We lost most of our friends.”
However, they immediately realized that they had taken the right steps, because Avery began to bloom, Jackson said. “She went from hating preschool, and fighting getting dressed and leaving the house to being the happiest, bounciest kid who couldn’t wait to take on the day,” she says. “The depression and acting out stopped. The obsession with death and dying went away. Her confidence has grown and she really blossomed.”
Jackson is now an advocate for parents who are navigating the hurdles of having transgender children.
“I want them to know that they aren’t alone,” she says. “The more we talk and the more we share, the less frightening and taboo having a trans child becomes. Education and support are key. We need to stop being so invisible so that others can be less afraid.”