Who do you grieve for, Mother?

A transgender son’s desperate plea to his mother


Cassie Brighter

Photo by Xavier Mouton Photographie

I heard you on the phone with Grandma, Mom.
You said you “needed time to grieve her.”

And now I’m sitting here in my room, listening to Spotify, and Stormzy comes on with “Disappointed” and it’s just fucking perfect.


Why would you grieve me, Mom? I’m right here. I’m right fucking here.
I’ve been trying to get you to see me for a lifetime.
Crying, now.

Grownups are always scared of how angry we teens get.
It’s the hormones,” you say.

The hormones.
The hormones.
The hormones.

At Lara’s wedding you dressed me as a flower girl. I told you I wanted the tuxedo. I would’ve rocked that tuxedo.
I looked ridiculous.

“She’s adorable!” “She’s such a cutie!” “You have such a pretty daughter!”
Fuck. Fuck. Fuuuuuuuuuck.

Family vacation. San Diego. La Jolla Cove. Do you remember?
I did not want to wear that. I. Did. Not. Want. To. Wear. That.
“But you LOVE blue!”


I had gone out of my way to buy those swim trunks. With MY OWN MONEY.
No trouble at all. No trouble for anyone. Planned in advance.
“For God’s sake Tara, just put on the swimming suit!” Father. Furious. Father furious. Fathurious.

“Be a good girl, honey.”
Fuck. Fuck. Fuuuuuuuuuck.

Post Malone in my airbuds now, and still on point. “Why don’t you take what you want from me, take what you want from me, take what you want and go?”

Why would you grieve me? I’m alive, Mother. I’ve been right here, waving my arms at you, my whole life.

… And the stupid-looking girl walked into the waves, didn’t she Mom. Wearing the blue one-piece you bought at Target. And she HATED it. And she hated you. And she hated herself.

I just can’t do it anymore, Mother. I can’t be a good girl for you.
Look, I tried. I do love you, Mom. But the very idea of that stupid blue one-piece makes me nauseous.

I’m not trying to ruin your life. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m truly, really, so, so sorry I can’t do it. I wish I could. I wish I could be less trouble. I wish Father wouldn’t be furious. I wish I could be a good…


But why would you grieve me? Why are you grieving, Mother?
Mom! Mom! Mom! What are you grieving? I. AM. RIGHT. HERE.

I used to like Zelda, and roller coasters, and Steven Universe and extra butter on my popcorn at the movies, and the music too loud during car rides. And Dad’s little Matchbox cars. That’s what I like now. That’s what I like still. It’s still me, Mother. I still like the color blue, and the waves. I still think penguins are cute, and I still think Simon Cowell is a blowhard.

The girl in the blue one-piece. The one who took gymnastics. The one whose Sweet Sixteen you’ve been planning for years. The one who would look like a younger you.

And I get it. She’s darling, Mom. She’s fine. She’s precious.
She’s this fiction, this dream you dreamed up, Mom. All of the things you didn’t get to do, maybe? All of the things you hoped to do better? All of the things you want to live again?

I’m not even against you, Mother. I don’t hate you. I’m not trying to make life hard for you. I just can’t. I can’t do it anymore. The thought of wearing a bra makes me gag.

Do you know why I quit gymnastics, Mom? The girls changing in the locker rooms made me hella uncomfortable. I shouldn’t have been there. I didn’t belong there. “Did you get your period yet?” “I’m bleeding so much today!” “Do you have a pad?” I had no place to hide.

I CAN’T explain, Mother. How can I show you this thing that doesn’t exist?
How can I show you my invisible body? How can I show you YOUR SON?

But you don’t want a son, do you Mom.
You want the girl in the blue one-piece.
And it’s breaking my heart, Mom.
Because you could’ve loved me.

And you love her, instead.

I’m worthy of your love.
I could be a good son for you.
I could make you proud.
And instead, you grieve her.
Your imaginary darling daughter.


I still think Dad is too angry too often. And I still love you, Mom. I’m still me.

Who do you grieve for, Mother?

Crying, again.
Because I get it.

Because you’re NOT grieving me. You’re grieving her, aren’t you Mom

Author’s Note: This is a fiction piece — inspired by conversations in a parent’s support group over the natural emotional reaction of the parent to ‘grieve’ over the image of the child they thought they had, as they struggle to accept the child the DO have. This piece is not intended as a judgment on parents. As a parent myself, I empathize. I wrote this piece to give you a visceral look inside your child’s mind. My hope is that this will expand your viewpoint, give you food for thought. Your child is still your child, and needs your love.