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For Trans Day of Visibility, a Mother, and an Ally Detail Her Experience

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By Kaitlin Corell

In recognition of Transgender Day of Visibility, I sat down with Remote Operations Command Technician Leah Rickert and mother to transgender son Nex. We talked candidly about balancing work and motherhood while navigating a lack of resources available for trans kids. Through our conversation, I discovered Leah is not only an incredible mother but an amazing ally.

Tell me about Nex, what is he like?
From a young age, I always wondered if Nex would be gender fluid. Kids are kids, so I didn’t think about it much. I just knew I would support him no matter what he chose in life. Nex is super interested in fashion, art, animation, and cooking. He’s a very passionate kiddo with big ideas and big dreams.

I had the opportunity to sit down in a separate conversation with Nex. He expressed his desire to own a pastry shop someday.
I’d consider myself passionate and strong (both physically and mentally). I love making art and hope to be a great baker one day or do cosplay commissions.

How did Nex approach you about transitioning?
When I took a job at Intel years ago, I found out that Nex was a victim of sexual assault right after starting. It broke my heart and, of course, his as well. At age nine, Nex expressed that he felt different from the other kids. I had always wondered if this was because of what happened to him. I approached the conversation cautiously but extremely supportive. I want to allow my child to be whoever they want to be. I’ll never tell him how to be, and it’s okay no matter how or what you feel.

Initially, Nex told me he was gay and attracted to girls. The thing I love most about our relationship is that he is super open and honest with me. Then around the age of 10, Nex said, “I feel like I’m a boy stuck in a girl’s body.” And it’s been that way ever since.

Nex is now 13, going on 14.

What questions did you have for Nex during this journey?
When Nex talks to me, he is very matter-of-fact, honest, and truthful. I trusted that Nex knew what was right, but as a mother, I wanted to ensure he started consistent therapy to confirm his feelings weren’t fear-based. How do you navigate a world that doesn’t have a handbook as a parent?  

The hardest thing throughout this journey is dealing with the emotions and finding support when you are faced with hate from the outside world. Nex’s first experience with hate was at an after-school arts and crafts class. Nex said something like, “I’m attracted to girls,” and the shop owner blew up in a verbally abusive tirade. This was nearly four years ago, but Nex visibly remembers the emotions he felt. How he couldn’t say or do anything to fix the situation. All he could do was cry in that moment.

We spent a lot of time talking about this situation afterward and navigating how to handle the next situation. We came up with a safe word for situations where he feels uncomfortable. I never want my child to feel unsafe in any situation. I gave Nex full authority to remove himself from any horrible situation.  

Now, he has found his own voice. He will correct people when they misgender him, regardless of how many attempts it takes. I happily step in and fight for him when I need to. It makes me incredibly proud to see his growth over the years.

What resources have you found useful?
Nex struggles mentally and has suffered from suicidal intent. I felt completely helpless and needed to talk to others to understand how to best support him. In speaking with the IGLOBE community, I discovered I wasn’t the only one that thought resources are lacking for young children like Nex. There aren’t nearly enough therapists, and kids 13 and under often are “too young” for intensive treatment.

There is so much good that the IGLOBE community can do for each other. I recently joined a group within IGLOBE for parents of trans children. I hope we can navigate this journey together and figure out lifesaving resources for our children. The focus for my child, and many others in the same boat, is the mental health aspect and the gap that exists.

My co-workers have been amazing. I’ve been able to talk openly with all of them and, in doing so, discovered several co-workers or peers who have trans children as well. They’ve accepted us with open arms and allowed me to ask questions as I navigate the unknown.

I’ve been so lucky that several of my co-workers have talked to Nex about their own experiences with transitioning, navigating hate, and how to press on. They’ll say to Nex, “you’ll be here, too, someday. It’s a tough journey, but it only gets better.”  Nex thought those conversations were valuable and have given him hope to get through it. I’m so grateful that my co-workers have made my kiddo feel validated and recognized.

What are your hopes and dreams for Nex?
I always feel like I’m holding my breath a little. I just want him to be happy. I don’t care what he does as far as a job, I just want him to be happy and have the freedom to explore the world and who he is safely and comfortably. If he chooses to be alone or have a partner, family or not, none of that matters. Happiness is all that matters. I want him to be fulfilled.

And finally, what are three words that describe your family?
Small, close-knit, and silly.

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