Raising North Dakota: Raising a transgender child

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It’s not uncommon for our kids to say something that takes us by surprise from time to time, but it’s when they share something completely unexpected that we should be prepared.

For Kristie Miller, Gabriela Balf, and Dave Williams, it was hearing their children tell them for the first time that they no longer identified as the gender they were assigned at birth, that they were transgender.

“I was angry at first,” explains Kristie Miller, Bismarck mom. “And then I was confused, like ‘what is this?’ Then I was scared, my kid is thinking this? I need to get my kid help. I didn’t sleep much at night.”

“We all thought our son’s future was this bright college bound, change the world kind of future,” says Dr. Gabriela Balf, Bismarck mom and psychiatrist. “So all of a sudden to have someone giving up these white boy privileges was unheard of.”

“Basically where’d I screw up? Where’d I go wrong? So kind of this guilt trip you shoulder saying I did something here and allowed them to make decisions that they’re not qualified to make,” says Dave Williams, Bismarck dad.

But as time went on, and they became more educated, the situation evolved, and the parents started to evolve.

“The counselor had said this is a sort of death because I gave birth to a son, and that son will no longer be in my life as a son, so you’re saying goodbye to one, but you’re also welcoming and embracing the girl you have,” Miller shares.

And reflecting back, Kristie saw her daughter from a different perspective as a young child.

You could see if you reflect back how uncomfortable she was in her own skin. She was very feminine as a youngster, but I just thought maybe she’s gay, and I’m okay with that,” reflects Miller. “It’s taken a lot of educating, seeking out people and now she is very very happy!”

Dave says he and his spouse would talk for countless hours trying to find the answers.

“Nothing we’ve done has been a snap decision, we’ve had to grapple with education and grapple with our own preconceived idea of things you know,” explains Williams. “So it’s been a journey and it was once we understood that, and therapies and that because we wanted to be sure that was the right course.”

It is Gabriela’s daughter who’s been educating her from the first day she shared the news.

“She’s a brilliant person who’s taught us pretty much everything,” Balf states. “Since it’s been like a roller coaster.”

Over time, Dave continued to see changes in his child, but the sparkle returned to his child’s eye when the healing began.

“We were seeing the disfunction and and dysphoria coming on,” says Williams, “then we saw the result of letting that psychological change and physical change start to happen and see that easing, kind of like somebody not feeling well, then they get something and they feel good. You know when your child feels good, it’s apparent on their face, apparent in their demeanor, apparent how they looked at life.”

Kristie knew there was no other option but to help her child find the tools to succeed.

“I was going to do the best I could for her because you know what, the alternative was death, suicide, running away, getting involved with drugs and alcohol and self harming,” says Miller, “and to me that’s out of the question. It was the fact that my daughter had to feel comfortable in her own skin, I had to deal and come to terms with it, because she was born this way.”

“It just comes down to what’s best for your child,” Miller. “I’m a mom and I love my child no matter what.”

Reporting for KX News in Bismarck, I’m Alysia Huck.

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