Yesterday, Chastity Bono's rep announced that Chastity is getting a sex change. Momlogic spoke with Fran Cassata, a New York mother whose 15-year-old daughter, Sarah, lives as a boy, for some insight.
momlogic: When did you start to question your daughter's gender or sexuality?
Fran: When Sarah was very young. I must have realized she was gay when she was 9 or 10. I think it's because she was a tomboy, her style of clothing, her way of carrying herself, her mannerisms, and the way she walked. I would try to have her sit like a lady, but she would say, "I don't know how to do that." I tried to teach her to sit with her knees together and her ankles crossed, but she couldn't grasp that.
momlogic: When and how did your daughter tell you she was gay?
Fran: When Sarah was 13, she came out to me. I remember it was in the summertime and she was getting ready to leave for sleep-away camp for the first time. She called me at work and said she wanted to speak with me that afternoon. I was not feeling well and asked if we could talk tomorrow because she was supposed to go and stay with her dad for the night. I drove to her dad's house and we sat in the car talking. After beating around the bush and telling me she "liked people," she finally told me she's gay and she "liked girls." I wasn't surprised at all, and I knew in my gut what she was going to tell me. I had a gut feeling. She was surprised by my reaction and looked relieved because I supported her. I said, "And so ... ?" I told her it really doesn't matter which gender she prefers, whether she likes boys or girls, because she's still the same person, a good person. She's not burning down houses or torturing small animals.
momlogic: When and how did Sarah tell you she wants to live as a boy?
Fran: A year later, she approached me with wanting to change her gender. She told me she felt like she was a male trapped in a female body. She was crying a lot. I told her there's really not much she can do about it at this age, so to put it on the back burner and not dwell on it, because when you're as young as she is, I really don't think there's anything you can do about feeling that way about yourself. She let it go for a while. She didn't say anything for another year. Then, she brought it up again and had me watch the movie, "Boys Don't Cry." She was sobbing and told me she made me watch the movie for a reason ... because she felt like the character in the movie. Again, I supported my daughter and also brought her to speak with several counselors.
momlogic: As a mother, how are you handling your daughter becoming your son?
Fran: Less than a year ago, she made the switch from Sarah to Ryan. All of her friends call her Ryan and her Facebook page is now Ryan instead of Sarah. She is very disappointed that I don't refer to her as Ryan or in the male gender. When people have a pet, they can't even call a pet by a different name, so imagine a child? It's very difficult to call your child by a different name. I think she feels I can be a little more supportive. I went to a meeting for transgender parents and loved ones and learned a little bit, but I am not totally convinced ... I don't want it to be true. Either way, all I want is for her to be happy and live a nice, healthy, prosperous life. Her sexuality doesn't mean that much to me. And why don't I want it to be true? Because I think transgender people have a much more difficult time going through life. If my daughter did have surgery, I still don't know if I'd be able to call her by a different name. I would have to wait and see.
momlogic: Would you support her if she one day decided to get gender reassignment surgery?
Fran: Absolutely. I think when she's older, she'd know for sure that it's how she wants to live. As a teen, the entire world is confusing. Last spring at this time, she actually dated a boy.
momlogic: How do you feel about the news that Chastity Bono is preparing for surgery?
Fran: I think it's a courageous move. Especially because Chastity's in the media spotlight, it's probably more difficult to come out and say and do things without a lot of privacy.