In Found in Transition: A Mother’s Evolution during Her Child’s Gender Change, Paria Hassouri, a pediatrician and mother of three, chronicles what amounts to a dual transition: her child’s transition from male to female and her own evolution as she overcomes deep-seated insecurities about not fitting in as an Iranian immigrant. Paria navigates through anger, denial, and grief about her child’s gender dysphoria and eventually arrives at a place of acceptance and advocacy. We hope you’ll enjoy this conversation with Paria about the book.
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Tell us about the title of your book, Found in Transition?
A great portion of the book is about how I felt lost when my daughter came out, and how I found myself again while she was transitioning. Beyond finding myself again, I asked myself deeper questions about who I wanted to be for the rest of my life, what insecurities and fears from my past had been holding me back, and who I truly was if I could get away from the expectations of who everyone else thought I should be. The title is also a play on the phrase “lost in translation.”
What made you decide to write your family story and share it with the world?
When my daughter came out in 2017, there were not many examples in the media of stories of trans people who come out after starting puberty without having traditional signs of being transgender in childhood. Everything I read or saw was about kids who either expressed their true gender as early as age four or five or said they were aware of it that early but did not act on it and suppressed it. The book I needed to read, a parent’s journey when their child presents later, was not available. I remembered Toni Morrison’s quote, “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
The subtitle of your book is A Mother’s Evolution during Her Child’s Gender Change. How have you been changed by the experience?
Having a trans child has made me open my mind and heart beyond what I could have ever imagined possible. It has taught me what being a mother truly means. I have a new sense of purpose and passion, and I’ve become involved with a community of other parents with trans children that I would not otherwise ever have met. I have become an activist and am learning to use my voice to make an impact in any way that I can. I’ve also reexamined my own relationships and worth, and how the insecurities I have carried from my past due to being an immigrant have impacted them. I’ve let go of ideas that held me back for thirty years.
What is the biggest mistake you made as a parent through this process?
I did not listen to my daughter when she first came out. I said no and I shut her down. I assumed that I knew her better than she knew herself. My greatest regret is not listening when she came out. Even if I was not going to accept what she told me, I could have said, “This is a lot, and I was not expecting it. Can you give me a few days to think about it?” Instead, I immediately said no.
What would you say to parents who are concerned that being trans or nonbinary is a fad or phase?
For many bewildered and blindsided parents, they think being trans must be a phase or due to teenage confusion when their adolescents come out to them. I definitely thought that it would be a phase for my daughter — a desperate attempt to belong somewhere or get attention. The media certainly does not help when people who have limited to no experience with transgender kids and teens propagate this myth. Social influence does not make someone transgender. Listen to your child. Take it day by day. Keep an open mind. Get the help of professionals in this field.
What is one of the most important lessons you learned through this process that you would share with other parents?
Make decisions for your child based on love, not fear. For example, if you’re asking if you should let your child take the next step toward transition, a fear-based response would be, “What if she regrets it or changes her mind?” A love-based response would be, “Is this the right choice for the child in front of me today?” Pretend there is no hate or fear in the world, and see how that would change your decision-making process. Let choosing love and choosing your child be the guiding points.
What do you most hope readers will take away from your book, Found in Transition?
I hope that parents will gain an appreciation for pausing and listening when their child or teen comes to them with any circumstance, rather than immediately reacting. I want people to know that transgender identity can emerge beyond childhood. Most of all, I want the reader to see that we have the same hopes and dreams for our children that they have for theirs, and that a family with a transgender child is not any different from their family.
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Paria Hassouri, MD, is the author of Found in Transition. A pediatrician, mother of three, and transgender rights activist, her essays have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, and Women’s Running magazine. She lives in Los Angeles. Visit her online at www.PariaHassouri.com.