Mother of trans son wants people to see the person beyond the pronouns

A local mother has written a guidebook for parents of transgender children

By Leanne Murray | June 21, 2022 |5:00 am

Local author Tammy Plunkett wants to help other parents whose children come out as trans.

Photo: Phil Crozier

Almost six years ago, Tammy Plunkett’s 11-year-old child came out as transgender.

That act of courage set in motion a series of events and a whirlwind of emotions for the Plunkett family.

Plunkett used to work as a registered nurse. However, she was always a writer at heart. She wrote and self-published a book many years ago and released a fictional novel during the pandemic.

So, when the child she had raised for 11 years as a girl came out as a trans boy, she says she started writing because that’s how she processes the world.

After penning an article for Today’s Parent in 2019 called “I’m not an amazing mom for accepting my transgender son”, Plunkett got a flood of emails, phone calls, and messages on social media from parents thanking her for voicing what they had been feeling.

She knew what she had to say was important and in January of 2020, Plunkett got the idea for her third book; something that could help other parents of transgender, non-binary, or genderfluid youth navigate through the first 100 days and beyond after their child comes out.

Plunkett got to work, and when she finally mustered up the courage to send her book to a publisher, they said yes right away. Today, Beyond Pronouns: The Essential Guide for Parents of Trans Children hits store shelves.

More rainbows than rain

Plunkett’s son Mitchell is celebrating his 17th birthday this week and Plunkett says things are great.

“He’s kind and excelling and doing well in school,” Plunkett says. “He has a part-time job and is about to get his driver’s licence and doing all the things that a regular 17-year-old kid does. Being transgender is just an afterthought now.”

Plunkett says the benefits outweighed the struggles after Mitchell came out and that there were a lot more rainbows than rain.

However, she did go through stages of grief.

“At first it was shock and disbelief and denial. And then there was some bargaining and some anger and a good amount of sadness,” Plunkett explains.

“But I did all of that in my own proverbial closet. I did my own processing away from my child because I knew I didn’t want my son to feel my emotions. He had enough to be dealing with to be brave enough to assert himself and say ‘this is who I am in the world.’”

A period of grief

Plunkett says she had to let herself grieve the child she thought she knew.

“He had a wonderful childhood and was giggly and happy and loved by all his peers and teachers,” she says.

“And then he went through this really dark period for about two years — right before coming out and right after coming out — where we were afraid that being transgender meant that he was just going to be that miserable for the rest of his life.”

Plunkett adds that the transition was labour-intensive. They had to change his name at places like school and the dentist’s office and ensure people were using his proper pronouns.

Almost everyone welcomed and accepted the change, and by affirming him, getting him the care he needed, and allowing him to be who he is in the world, Plunkett says Mitchell has flourished.

“We have that same amazing child again.”

Sending a message of acceptance

For those who still don’t accept trans people, Plunkett has a message.

“It’s hard to hate up close. I want people to see the human beings behind this concept that they like to debate on social media, or this letter and an acronym. And when they take the time to actually understand who we are and who my son is, they typically warm up and come around.”

For families who are going through a similar situation as her family, Plunkett says to take a deep breath and give yourself time.

“It is so easy to have a reaction as soon as you hear something. But my best advice is to just slow down and take a breath. Nothing has to be done immediately overnight,” she says.

“Love your child. Every parent loves their child. Love them enough to listen to them, and slow down and take care of yourself.”

She concludes using a metaphor usually heard via in-flight safety messages.

“You have to put your oxygen mask on first. Because this isn’t an overnight thing. This is a lifelong thing. And you want to have enough energy and gas in your tank so that you can take care of your child moving forward.”

Plunkett will be at Chapters Indigo at CrossIron Mills today, June 21, for a book signing from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and then at the Chinook Centre Chapters Indigo on June 30 from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

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Leanne Murray

Leanne is a Calgary Citizen reporter.

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