One of Them Told Me She Was Really a Girl
As early as 18 months old, Kimberly Shappley's son started showing signs he identified as female. Now, the Christian mom shares how she learned to embrace Kai's transition — for her child's happiness and safety.
BY KIMBERLY SHAPPLEY, AS TOLD TO BREANNE RANDALL
Apr 13, 2017
I remember one night when Kai was very young, and I was tucking her into bed. Her legs were cold and, concerned, I lifted the sheets, discovering she had taken a pair of panties off a baby doll and put them on herself. It was constricting her blood circulation and if she'd slept that way overnight, it could have become very dangerous. After that experience, I realized I could no longer ignore something very real about my child: My son, born Joseph Paul Shappley, is a girl.
I was raised as a devout, conservative Christian with strong Republican values in the South. It's a place where being different can not only be unforgiving, but unsafe. I was, and am, an active member of our local church. I used to lead a small ministry teaching Bible study, and I didn't support or condone those living the LGBTQ lifestyle. That was just part of the Christian makeup I'd been brought up to believe. I knew I'd instill those same principles in my children.
But all of my beliefs and convictions were brought into question when, at 18 months old, Kai began exhibiting very strong female characteristics. From the moment my child was born, everything about Kai was geared toward femininity. She would pull T-shirts down around her waist to make them into skirts. She would tie long-sleeved shirts around her head and pretend like it was long hair. I tried so hard to force her into wearing clothes with camouflage and superhero patterns, and I even gave her severe, flat-top haircuts. Kai has three other siblings who are boys, so it was also a very testosterone-filled family environment, which I thought might help. Everything was fishing and spitting and boy stuff. But Kai just continued to be Kai.
As a Christian mother raising a Christian family, it was a very difficult time for me. I wasn't ready to give in and allow Kai to transition socially — especially at such a young age. My internal struggle beat me up daily. I felt like I couldn't go against everything I'd been taught to believe, and yet I also couldn't let Kai live in such obvious agony. I wasn't ready to face the fact that my one-and-a-half-year-old child was a girl. That battle lasted for a couple years.
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Yes, the emotional challenge has been great, but I'd rather face that challenge myself than have my child face it alone like so many transgender children have to because their parents won't let them transition. There's never been a moment of doubt or regret after making the choice to let Kai transition. I've learned too much about identity and faith in loving my beautiful daughter exactly the way she is. She's a loud, happy and joyful girl who expects that everybody's going to be kind and good. It's her persistent spirit that has enabled her to transition so young. She knows who she is and has no problem making sure that everyone else knows too.
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