Merrin and Jax’s story
When her youngest child was 10 years old, Merrin was already having discussions about gender. “Jax would describe himself as gender not-sure,” she remembers.
However, Merrin didn’t realise the seriousness of the situation until she received a distressing phone call.
“I was rung by a parent of a friend of his, saying there’d been some correspondence during the school day, and that Jax was feeling like he didn’t want to be here anymore. That life was just too hard.”
Merrin gently approached her child, who was assigned female at birth. “I asked why he was feeling that way and he said, Mum, I’m a boy. I hugged him, told him he’s our child and we love him no matter what, and then asked him what was going to come next.”
Merrin says Jax is the kind of person you can leave alone with a bit of information, and he’ll come back to you in a matter of hours with a response. Sure enough, two hours later, Merrin found a PowerPoint presentation emailed to her inbox with a list of things that needed to change immediately.
“One was a haircut, with a picture off the internet,” she remembers. “Pronouns were to be ‘he’ and ‘him’; and there was a name.”
Jax asked Merrin if she understood that he was transgender. She said yes, she did. Next, Jax asked a question that stumped his mother: Tomorrow when I go to school, will people call me Jax?
“I remember this huge weight of fear overwhelming me,” says Merrin. “I said, Hang on mate, this is too quick. There’s admin around this. It was a stupid thing to say, but fear completely took over.”
With hindsight, Merrin wishes she had taken her fears elsewhere, rather than displaying them to her son.
“I never wanted Jax to feel like he might be ‘too much’ for his family,” she reflects. “During that initial conversation, he was ready to get on with it, but I reduced who he was to what people outside might feel about him.
“I actually wanted him to know he was amazing and incredible and loved in that moment.”
So began Merrin’s journey to learn how to be the best ally for her son, and to navigate his needs alongside her own fears as a parent. She immersed herself in LGBTIQ+ communities to learn more, and endeavoured to help her son feel more at home with people who understood him.
“Being an ally is about understanding language, identity, and listening to whatever community you’re based around – really hearing what they’re saying, and not talking.”
At the same time, Merrin believes it should never be her son’s responsibility to teach her. “Talk to other people, not your child – even if they’re older. Look for peer support to learn,” she says.
“Jax is the most fierce, loud advocate you’ll find, but it’s important that he doesn’t have to have that fight all the time.”