When Paria Hassouri, MD’s teenager came out as transgender in 2017, her first reaction was “no.”
The author of Found in Transition: A Mother’s Evolution During Her Child’s Gender Change reveals that fear for what her child might face overpowered the ability to be lovingly present in the moment for this life-changing news.
Life On the Outside
“When you’ve spent your entire life on the outside, that’s the last thing you want for your child. Being transgender in the U.S. [United States] at this time was the ultimate kind of being outside, and I could not help but project my own experiences and fears onto [her].”
As an Iranian-American immigrant, Paria was often ostracized by her peers. At school, taunting children would call her “dark and dirty” and told her to “go back to where you came from.”
“I was only one of a handful of brown kids in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, desperately wanting not to be different…I spent every recess and lunch period in hiding. At night I begged my parents to send me back home, but I didn’t tell them what was happening at school. I’d just say I missed my friends and family.”
In adulthood, Paria would become a pediatrician, marry a loving husband, and decide that she would raise her children in Los Angeles, Calif., one of the most diverse cities in the U.S..
A determination came through, one meant to protect her children from the loneliness and exile she experienced, and it paid off in the comfortable life she, her husband, and her three children were living.
A Mother’s Evolution
“Don’t underestimate your capacity to evolve. What seems like the hardest thing can be an enriching experience.”
“Found in Transition” covers a 17-month portion of Paria’s daughter’s transition, a monumental time that proved to be transformative as well for this doctor, blogger and run-enthusiast. The deep love for and ultimate acceptance of her child’s experience compelled her to look inward and heal lingering wounds from childhood around self-worth and the value of her voice and message.
An advocate and activist emerged, and Paria credits others who were out there before her, willing to share their family’s stories and provide support to others.
Although Paria found community in support group, she didn’t see anyone with stories of children who didn’t present as transgender until their teenage years. That was, until she encountered Cybele Abbett’s presentation for The Moth.
“I needed to hear a story like my own…(the) video was the first time that I really heard a story of a parent finding out when their child is a teen that I 100% connected with.”
Feeling understood for the first time, Paria reached out to Cybele.
“…this beautiful stranger spent forty-five minutes on the phone with me….talking to me, years after this video was made, was an incredibly generous thing to do -— although I know that I would take the time to talk to any parent going through the same thing.”
The Book and Beyond
“As I came to my own acceptance and understanding of what was going on with Ava, I went from being the one crying and seeking advice to the one listening and offering advice to other new parents.”
The Moth exposure compelled Paria to write her own family’s story so that she could do for others what Cybele did for her. Encouraged by Toni Morrison’s quote, “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” She did just that.
Paria has taken to dropping “Found in Transition” off at Little Free Libraries around the country, advocating for transgender education in the medical field and answering messages from other families who aren’t as far along in the journey as she is, becoming a leader and valuable resource for the transgender community.
The Power of Community
“When my daughter came out as transgender, I was fortunate enough to have friends and family that were supportive and understanding, but I did not have any relationships with trans individuals or parents of trans children and young adults. Joining a support group of families of transgender kids and young adults is what ultimately lead to me not only accepting my daughter’s trans identity but starting to be optimistic about her future and celebrating her trans identity. Now, I have a large community of parents of trans kids, along with some trans adults, whom I consider my friends. My life has been truly enriched because of their presence, and I am so grateful that because of my daughter, I am embraced by this community that I would not have otherwise known.”
To hear more of Dr. Hassouri’s story, listen to Episode 227 of Lighthouse Conversations with Chelley Canales, a podcast available on all major platforms.