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Paria Hassouri: An Immigrant Mother’s Journey in Radical Acceptance

Paria Hassouri's family. Photo by Sanaz Riggio.

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.”

Paria Hassouri, Paria Hassouri M.D., Found in Transition, teen gender change
Paria Hassouri, M.D. Photo by Sanaz Riggio.

“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.  

The Moth

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. 

Paria Hassouri, Paria Hassouri, M.D., Found in Transition
Paria Hassouri’s family. Photo by Sanaz Riggio.

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.” 

Paria Hassouri, Paria Hassouri MD, Found in Transition
Mother and Daughter. Credit: Paria Hassouri.

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.

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7 comments

  1. This article was a great read. It is so interesting that Hassouri herself experienced life on the outside growing up, and was later able to use her experience to ensure her children do not face the same lonely situations she did. It’s amazing how the TCK experience can translate to a better understanding of other groups of people with entirely different life experiences but shared sentiments and hardships.

  2. I think it was very interesting how many unique things are going on here, particularly being an immigrant mother, an Iranian-American, and having a transgender child. I really admire Dr. Hassouri’s openness and ultimate acceptance in the journey she took to a child being transgender. I like that she even took it a step further and drop a book to share what she has learned to other families.

  3. This article was honestly really refreshing to read because I feel like it’s easy for parents to be so rooted in their beliefs that they shut down anything that falls outside of them. However, this article proves that no matter what your initial feelings are, there’s always room for growth and a change in mindset. It makes me happy that Paria was able to come around to her daughters true identity and learn to accept this new reality.

  4. Reading this article, its easy to understand why Paria would have her apprehensions about her daughter transitioning due to her own hardships growing up. However, I’m so happy to hear that Paria has taken an inward look at what she went through and ultimately become an advocate for her daughter and other trans people. This article is truly inspiring and displays so much bravery from both Paria and her daughter.

  5. I can see why there would be apprehension with her daughter transitioning and comparing that to what she was raised around and taught to believe culturally and socially. Parents ideally wish for the best for their children and only want their children to be safe and have the best. With this contradicting idea from what they have been strongly taught, there is resistance and a learning cure to understand and come to accept their daughter fully. Growing and learning from those deeply rooted beliefs allows for their daughter to feel accepted and happy with who she is at her core.

  6. I felt hope and power from the story of Paria. As a TCK, she grew in a discriminal environment. However, she managed to overcome the dilemma that she had never met before. When she found that her daughter is a transgender person, she knows well about what does it mean to be outside. Nevertheless, she did not retrieve but actively react to help those she loved. In the beginning, she resorts to others with similar experiences. With their support and advice, she overcame and in turn help others who are in need. I guess it is the most power react to the bias and discrimination against the marginalized group. Paria was once hurt by the discrimination, but now she was powerful enough to fight back. This article demonstrates one of the most positive attitudes towards discrimination against our beloved ones.

  7. This is the sort of story you want to see, where things turn out better than they could have because someone was willing to listen, self-reflect, and connect with others about their very different views. From Paria’s rather isolated TCK experience, it makes sense that she wouldn’t want the same ostracization to happen to her child — she was well-meaning, if in the wrong way. With the help of other parents and individuals in this community, Paria’s bad experience as an “outsider” made her more understanding and supportive of not only her daughter’s identity, but her own, as well. This seems like a wonderful example of marginalized communities coming together and sharing their stories to create better understanding and acceptance.

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