This is the story of Kimberly Shappley—a mom of four sons—until one of them claimed to be a girl. As early as only 18 months old, Kai showed signs of feminism. Kimberly was a devout Christian and couldn’t come to terms with the fact that her child was transgender.
The family lived in Texas, which can be unforgiving and unsafe for people who are “different”. Kimberly didn’t approve of the LGBT lifestyle—it’s the way she was raised and her religious beliefs. She was struggling in conflict with herself daily about letting Kai being herself and be happy, versus thwarting all that she had been taught from childhood. Kimberly was worried about how people would react to their parenting skills and the way they chose to respond.
Kai took off a pair of panties from one of the dolls and put it on. Her mom found her bed with her legs cold. The undersized panties had constricted her blood circulation. She would pull her T-shirt down and wrap them around herself to make it into a skirt. To pretend that she had long hair, she would tie full-sleeved shirts around her head. In spite of forcing her to wear camouflage pants and a flat-top haircut, Kai still continued to show her femininity.
After Kai turned 2, others started to notice how “he” was showing signs of femininity. Kimberley was asked by family members if the kid was gay and she found it very disturbing. Kai played only with girls’ toys and with other girls.
The struggle went on for some time until some family members advised Kimberly it was time to realize that Kai was transgender. The mother tried her best to force on Kai that “he was a boy”. She tried everything to make him “understand” by doing everything—yelling at Kai, spanking “him”, having all the girly toys removed from the daycare center Kai was attending, and praying. But nothing worked.
Kimberly sought the advice of a psychiatrist. The doctor helped her realize that she was afraid of what other people would think, not what God thought.
The strong realization forced Kimberly to face her own demons. She wanted Kai to be happy and she had to take the first step to ensure that. She started with buying panties from Walmart for Kai. Although it took great effort and some aborted shopping plans, she could finally bring herself to do what she had intended to.
Kimberly was inspired by a story she read online about how a transgender child committed suicide before leaving a note. The child’s note which said that people may not like transgenders, but they should never say that to their transgender child as it would only make them hate themselves. She was in pain when she heard Kai praying that she could be with Jesus.
The next thing Kimberly did was she took to reading about Jesus and his teachings. She learned the lesson that Jesus taught everyone—love the person. She joined an online community of Christian moms with transgender kids and saw that she wasn’t alone. Kimberly learned compassion from others and found solace.
When Kai turned 4, Kimberly finally allowed her the transition she had been yearning for. Kimberly tasted the freedom of accepting Kai as her daughter. Kai put on her first dress from a wizard’s robe she had received as a birthday gift. Looking at pictures of Kai in her first dress, Kimberly regrets that she had suppressed the child’s natural instincts for so long. She also feels pride that Kai was a tough, persistent child.
Kai has blossomed and is very happy when she finds princess panties in her wardrobe. She no longer had problems of bed wetting, lying to her mom, or nightmares.
Through Kai, Kimberly learned to love a person unconditionally. Although they have been almost ostracized by other Christian families and community members, Kimberly moves on. Her family surrounds themselves with transgender men and women. They bask in the joy, happiness, and brightness that Kai brings to their lives every day. Kimberly has realized that while it has been a huge mental challenge for her, she would rather go through it than let her transgender child go through it alone. She hopes other parents of transgender children allow their kids to transition so that they can have a happy, fulfilling life like everyone else. Kai has no problem accepting the way she is and thanks to her persistent spirit, she has taught her own family what it’s like to be more accepting and loving.
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