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Raising a Transgender Child

Photograph by Getty Images

Like every other hopeful mom, Deeanna Collier was excited about the impending birth of her first child even though her mother was a little less than thrilled that her teenager was pregnant. At 16, Deeanna was still going to the skating rink and skipping school at every opportunity. Despite her antics, Deeanna managed to win her own mom over, and they both grew excited as the days counted down to the birth of her first child.

“I wanted a little girl so I could dress her up like a lil’ baby doll,” Deeanna remembered with a laugh. But on that fateful day when she gave birth, Deeanna received a double surprise. Not only did she give birth to a beautiful baby boy, but after looking him over, she was pretty sure that the hospital had switched her baby with someone else's.

Her baby boy was fair-skinned with piercing blue eyes and long, shiny black hair. Deeanna, who is black, wondered if they had handed her a white baby by mistake. Deeanna’s mother, who had been there for the delivery, assured her that she had the correct baby and after a few more curious stares Deeanna relented.

Deeanna had a rough childhood, which made it even more important to offer her own child the things she never had. She overindulged him, never giving him a chance to cry and offered hours of uninterrupted playtime and attention.

She knew that her son wasn’t like the rest of the boys on the block and never would be.

Encouraging her baby boy’s development, Deeanna doted on her son. His progress reached a turning point when he was around 4 years old. At this point, Deeanna noticed that he wasn’t interested in rough-housing and playing typical boy games. Instead, he favored playing dress-up with her best friend’s daughter, having make-up parties, prancing around in heels and dresses and stuffing the front with tissues.

Deeanna was a little taken aback by this behavior, but her friends and family assured her that this type of play was normal so she didn’t press the issue, allowing her baby boy to freely play out his childhood fantasies as he saw fit.

One day when he was nearly 5, while watching him giggle and twirl in front of the mirror, something clicked inside of Deeanna’s mind, and she knew. She knew that her son wasn’t like the rest of the boys on the block and never would be.

Deeanna didn’t wonder if her son was gay, bisexual or transgender. She simply decided to allow him to be himself and encouraged him to do what makes him happy. At one point Deeanna admits she blamed herself for his transition. She wondered if loving him so much and sheltering him had turned him into a girl.

She admitted that she did cringe when her baby boy became a teenager and she saw him walk out of the bathroom fully dressed as a woman for the first time. She had secretly hoped he would grow out of playing as a girl, but it was quite obvious that he hadn’t and probably never would. She assessed his hair, makeup and outfit, and then took a deep breath and smiled.

“He looked just like me at 16,” she remembers playfully and muttered under her breath that she was glad he didn’t look like a football player. “It’s not something you want, but I had to accept what he was.”

An estimated 2 to 5 percent of the population is transgender or experiences some degree of gender dysphoria where the individuals feel the gender they're born with has no personal connection with the gender they feel they are. Many of these individuals endure identity crises, bullying, depression, drug abuse and thoughts of suicide because of the disparity in how they are expected to interact with the world versus how they view themselves.

It takes a loving hand of affirmation, gently guiding the transgender child to enable her to grow up with confidence and faith in her ability to carve out a place for herself in this world in the distinct way that Deeanna’s baby boy, now widely known as Diamond Stylz has.

The transition impacted everyone as Deeanna learned how to parent in a brand new way.

Today Diamond is a transwoman, blogger and YouTuber dedicated to educating people about the transgender lifestyle and transition. Her mom, Deeanna, recently made an appearance on Diamond’s YouTube channel to share what it was like raising her transgender daughter.

“It’s just like putting on a pair of heels,” Deeanna commented. “Each time you put them on you learn to walk better in them. Each day I learned to accept who he was better.”

For the Collier family, which grew to include two other sons after Diamond, the transition impacted everyone as Deeanna learned how to parent in a brand new way. “I talked to my child. I had to know who he was in order to deal with him,” she said. “I had to learn to call him, ‘her’ now and use her name. It’s all about acceptance. Once you accept who that person is, it just comes naturally. Because it used to be a time when I would say ‘he’ but now it just comes out … she … her … Diamond.”

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A proud mom, Deeanna watched blissfully as Diamond transitioned through hormone therapy, stood up as a champion for transgender students by taking the Arlington, Texas, school district to court for trying to ban her from going to prom and went on to successfully complete college as a woman, living out loud the lifestyle she knew she was born to live.

Deeanna adamantly urges parents of transgender children to sit down and talk to their kids face to face about how they are feeling and who they are. “You have to be understanding,” she says. “You’re not going to always agree, but you have to share in what they are feeling in order to know how to treat them, how to become their parent again … I was transitioning as well, into becoming the parent that she needed me to be.”

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