Fifteen years ago my oldest daughter Kat entrusted her child to my care.
Kat had just started college at a Christian university when she found out she was pregnant. The birth father was never in the picture. Kat’s father and I adopted the child so that she would have insurance, two parents, a stable home
Our names are on her birth certificate. She is legally our daughter.
Keely grew up calling Kat “Sis”. Keely knew that Kat was her birth mom. She knew she was loved by all of us.
I moved to Colorado. Keely came with me.
Kat married Mike, moved to Kentucky and found her path. Today she is completing a PhD program at the University of Louisville.
As she grew up Keely became aware that she was different. I saw it, but I didn’t really SEE it. I just called her my unique child. My quirky, independent, different drum beat child.
She struggled at school, was bullied because she was different. She never was interested in makeup or hair. She took rocket making in fifth grade while all the other fifth grade girls took a hair and makeup class.
She hated pink, and bling. The word “bra” would make her leave the room.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that Keely was able to start to put a name to that difference. It wasn’t until more recently that the name became more specific.
Non binary. A-sexual. A-romantic. Gender neutral. Transgender.
Keely prefers gender neutral pronouns that describe that they do not identify as either male or female.
They. Them. Their. Not she or her. Not him or his.
So that is how I will refer to Keely. Them. They. Their. Themselves.
The social aspect and academic pressures of high school were intense. There was anxiety. Anger. Insomnia. Stress. Health issues. They were pulled out of class for unwanted “counseling”. Called names by people that used to be their friends. Ridiculed for being different.
Keely has a wonderful tribe of friends that recognize who they are and are respectful and loving. Those friends are why they able to stay strong in spite of the tremendous pressure they must have felt.
It got so bad we decided to do online school from home this, their Sophomore year. While they still had their tribe of friends, they were removed from everyday connection. While incredibly intelligent, they struggled with their grades. They developed severe insomnia, sometimes only sleeping for two to three hours a night, but still trying to complete school work, write papers, research, take exams. By the time the weekend came around, they only wanted to sleep. And try to catch up because they were always behind.
More isolation from friends. Isolation from us, their family. They retreated downstairs into a dark lonely place.
I was so concerned. I would wake up at night worried. I was only sleeping a few hours a night. How do I help them at school? How do I help with friends? How do I save this child of mine? I’d go down at 3am, not able to sleep. They would be awake also.
We found a therapist and they started counseling.
Spring break came around and Keely went to Kentucky to stay with Kat for the week. Keely had decided that they wanted to attend U of L and Kat arranged a college tour. Kat worked with them on their school work. Kat is very tied into the LGBTQ community and introduced Keely to the group at U of L.
Towards the end of the week we decided that Keely could stay a few more weeks so that Kat could help them get completely caught up. Then the conversation morphed. And morphed again.
Until the realization became very apparent that the best place for Keely to be was in Louisville. With their sister. Who is their birth mother.
Kat is uniquely qualified to help and support Keely through this phase of their life. Kat teaches at the college that Keely will attend. Kat has her own unique drumbeat thing going on, and if anyone in the whole world is going to be accepting of being “different” it is Kat and her household and friends. They all love Keely and accept them as who they are. Kat has put them in contact with teenagers that they can identify with. The cultural environment at the University of Louisville, and the City of Louisville, is head and shoulders more liberal and open to gender difference than where we live in small town Colorado.
Keely agonized over leaving their friends behind. They are stepping into uncharted territory which is scary at any age, but especially for a teenager. But during the weeks that they have been in Kentucky, I think they have seen that there is a bright, light filled world out there. A world they were not able to see here in Penrose. A world that I cannot give them.
As I realized how right this decision is, I tried to express to Kat what a gift and an honor it has been to be entrusted with Keely. How inadequate I feel I have been. How I wished that I had seen sooner. Done something different. And how blown away I have been at how Kat has stepped up to the plate. That is another story, but let me tell you, there is no doubt in my mind that Kat is qualified and fiercely prepared to do whatever she has to do for Keely.
Kat told me that my support of her journey allowed her to become the person she is today. The person that can take Keely through this next stage of life in a way that I never could. A beautiful circle of love and support.
I look at this as a story of love. Love for this precious, unique, strong person that is Keely Ray. A story of sisters who are mother and daughter. Circles of love with my two children who are both so unique and special and I love with all my heart. And the recognition that our most important responsibility as a parent is to do the best thing for our child.
After a lot of tears, which still rise up when I talk about this, I am passing the care of Keely to Kat. I know with all my heart that this is the right thing to do. This is a lot of responsibility for Kat, huge changes in her life as well as that of her family. I am so impressed with the love and the wisdom I see. Just in awe really.
Keely is in exactly the right place at the right time now. Their world is going to open in ways I can only imagine. They will have the freedom and light to grow as they were meant to grow, to be who they were created to be.