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“If I had listened to them, I don’t know if my child would still be here”

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When Sandra’s* child indicates that she was born in the wrong body, she immediately supports him. Something that her environment does not understand. She constantly hears that she is doing it wrong. “That made me so lonely.”

Sandra says: “During the pregnancy I knew for sure: I am having a son. That feeling was so strong that I could hardly believe it when the ultrasound showed a girl. A tough chick, that’s what I called her later. Where the girls in her class wanted braids in their hair and played in the doll corner, mine preferred to climb a tree and only hang out with boys. In the back of my mind, I always kept in mind that there might come a day when my child would say, “I’m a boy” or “I like girls.”


One day she came down, all in tears. She was thirteen then. As a mother you assume the worst. Who touched you? Did someone hurt you? When my child uttered that one phrase that had always haunted me in the back of my mind, I felt the relief. Oh, is this it? Luckily no one hurt you.”

Sandra immediately decides to take action. “When you are finally ready to share it with the outside world, you don’t want to walk around in the wrong body for months, because your mother has to get used to it? No. His brother and I immediately supported him. We immediately made an appointment with the hairdresser, bought boxer shorts and called him by his new name. Sem.*

“Obviously I thought so. You don’t wake up one day thinking you were born in the wrong body. He’s been running it for so long. I wanted to follow my child’s pace. As a mother, I felt that was for the best.”


No one agrees with Sandra. “My parents dismissed it as a fad, my ex (his father) and new girlfriend disagreed. They thought it was ridiculous that I called him by his new name. He would always be a girl to them. I especially had to not go along with it and got angry texts that I was doing it all wrong.”

It doesn’t stop there. “Even at my work, my colleagues interfered with it on a weekly basis. If I told about my children, but about something completely different, that was the starting signal to rekindle that I was going way too fast with my child’s transition. Everyone had their own opinion, but no one had any personal experience with it. In fact, they didn’t even know my child.”

“Everyone had their opinion ready, but nobody had any experience with it themselves”


Because of all the opinions and judgments of others, Sandra feels increasingly lonely. “I didn’t have much trouble with the transition. It was the words of others that stung me. I felt so incredibly lonely and misunderstood in the process. You think you are doing well, as a mother you feel that you are doing well… but there is no one to support you. Of course I didn’t tell my child what I was going through or about all the comments I got. He was already having a hard time.”

“I felt very lonely”

Finally, Sandra seeks help from the GP’s practice nurse. “I had to talk to someone who wouldn’t judge me. Coincidentally, she had experienced exactly the same thing with her own child. She was the first who really understood me. When she said: you are doing well’, a weight was lifted from my shoulders. That was such an important moment. I realized again that all those shouting people had no idea at all about the situation, they also shouted something. I knew my child best and I did well. That gave me the confidence to continue with the course we had planned.”

Five years later, Sandra would do the same thing again. “Be first coming out my child was very timid: shoulders forward, quiet. He didn’t really have any friends. As Sem I have seen him blossom completely. He has a social life, goes out sometimes, feels good about himself. The operation is almost upon us, and we are all really looking forward to that now.”


Her environment has now become accustomed to the situation. “That took years. Yet I have never judged them on that. I never said: why is it taking so long? But I heard it the other way around: that I was going way too fast, time after time. No one has ever returned to it. No one ever said ‘you were right’ or ‘I shouldn’t have said that’.”

Sandra continues: “That touches me. Also because I don’t know if my child would still have been there if I had listened to all those others and not to my child and what he needed. The suicide rate among transgender people is very high. I’m sure my child would have hurt himself if his brother and I hadn’t been so supportive. He is happy with how it went and so am I. I have my child back and that is the most important thing.”

*The names Sandra and Sem are fictional. The names are known to the editors.

87% of mothers in the Netherlands have to deal with mom shaming, according to research by Kek Mama. The editors found this so shocking that they started a campaign: Kek Mama launches mombracing, the counterpart of momshaming, and calls on all mothers to support each other instead of criticizing from now on.

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