The first day of school. It’s always embarrassing. Embarrassing for me, that is. Normally, I’m the too cynical, too loud mom, who curses too much. But on the first day of school my internal chant of “You are not going to cry” starts before we are even into the car. There is no precedent to excuse this. Nothing particularly horrible has ever happened on a first day of school. It just turns me into emo-mom extraordinaire.
And this year was worse. Not only was it my oldest son’s first day of middle school, but I wasn’t going to be there. I had back surgery a couple of weeks ago (I’m going to be fine), and I am not yet supposed to do things as exciting as leaving the house for major emotional events. This was the first year I was going to miss. It sucked. For me. My son was totally cool about it and absolutely blase about my inner turmoil.
All day I waited. And I worried. And scenes of bullies in John Hughes movies kept scrolling through my head, and I just knew there was some barely pubescent little hellion who would be totally deserving of my wrath before the day was out. It didn’t matter how carefully we had picked his school as somewhere that would embrace and celebrate who my kid is, the awful scenes of bathroom swirlies and kids being bashed against lockers kept rolling. And by 3pm, I was mess.
My son went on to tell me that his new friend’s parents want her to be a boy and not a girl. “So I told her my parent’s will like her a lot.”
I leaned over and kissed his forehead and both of his cheeks. “I am sure we will, baby.”
“Mom!” he swatted my hands away. “Just stop.”
(I am going to stop here and take a moment. I don’t have a trans kid. My gay kid is about as gender conforming as you can get. I have no experience having a transgender or gender nonconforming child. But if you are a parent with transgender or genderqueer kid, it’s time to get with the program. Your kid needs you to love who they are, and not who you think they should be.)
I really wish I had been a fly on the wall at the school that day, but instead I just tried to get the story out of my son of how this conversation had transpired. I just couldn’t imagine some 11-year-old transgender girl announcing her gender identity to my kid out of the blue.
So from the details I can piece together from my 11-year-old (who thinks his mother is ridiculous) here’s what happened:
My son was lost and couldn’t find his next class, so he found someone who looked like they were lost too.
He walked up to this other student and said, “Hey guy, what’s up?”
The other student said, “I’m not a guy. I’m a girl.”
“Oh,” said my kid. “Hey girl, what’s up? Are you transgender?” The girl looked at him for a minute and then nodded. “That’s cool,” he continued. “I’m not transgender, but I’m gay.”
“That’s cool,” she said back. “I have some gay friends who go here too.” My son was very excited to hear this. It turns out they were both lost and looking for the same classroom.
Then they walked past the bathrooms, and the girl explained she needed to go, but wanted to go into the girls’ room because that was her real bathroom. My son said he would stand outside the door while she was inside and wait until she was done, and then they could find their class together.
After that was completed, they continued through the halls and she asked him how his parents felt about him being gay. He just shrugged. “It’s fine. We know a lot of gay people. A lot.” She told him about her parents, and things went from there.
They found their classroom, and afterwards promised they would find each other the next day.
And now I feel like my kid really is in some 80s movie, but the 2016 version. Because come on!? For real? I am 40 years old, and the idea of two lgbt kids just happening to randomly find each other both looking for the same class just seems too perfect a set up, too unreal. If I watched a movie or a TV show where a conversation like that happened, I would probably roll my eyes at the too-perfectness, the fakeness, of it all.
But it did happen, and it made my kid’s first day of middle school awesome.
So, maybe it is time to put emo-mom away for awhile, and just let his life happen. Because we are in a new age, a new world, a new reality. Will there be assholes and homophobes? Yes, always. But there will also be two LGBTQ kids who find each other randomly walking down the hall. And that is pretty fantastic.
In yet another case where trans students have to fight for their right to fulfill basic human needs, a federal appeals court has ruled that a transgender 11-year-old girl can continue to use the girls’ bathroom at her school.
The move is the latest in a series of lawsuits and other actions over the question of whether existing civil rights laws — here, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 — protect against anti-transgender discrimination through their bans on sex discrimination. The Obama administration has backed the view that transgender people are protected by the current laws.
Highland’s request for a stay was considered by Judges Damon Keith, Jeff Sutton, and Bernice Donald.
“[T]he record establishes that Doe, a vulnerable eleven year old with special needs, will suffer irreparable harm if prohibited from using the girls’ restroom,” according to the court unsigned order. “The district court issued the injunction to protect Doe’s constitutional and civil rights, a purpose that is always in the public interest. … Thus, a stay is improper in this case.”
Every decision matters. This is shaping up to be a long fight, and we need all the support we can get.
Is it normal for a kid to find out that their Transgender/Transsexual at a young age? I have a 11-year-old niece who is 100% convinced that they are not a girl, the gender they were born with, but a boy. They seemed to be a girl only not to long ago, but only these past few weeks, they have just started "coming out of their shell." They keep on saying something about "body dysphoria." I'm not sure whether to be worried, relieved, angry, or anything. Help ??? Btw: I found you because a friend ^^
Some kids know that they are trans far younger than 11. In fact age 3-4 is not an uncommon time-period for some trans kids to have a firmly held gender identity. But while there are some exceptions to the rule, I would bet that most trans people (and it certainly holds true for the ones I know well) have at least some inkling of their gender stuff once they are in the midst of puberty. Because of physical changes around puberty that is often when body dysphoria - or disconnection/disgust/unease with primary/secondary sex characteristics often begins.
Age 10/11 was when I started acutely feeling my own gender dysphoria (even though I did not have the words for it), so it does not shock me at all that your 11 year old nibling would be experiencing it at that age. Like most trans kids I hid my gender variance pretty well for fear of being shamed or punished, so I am not at all surprised that it is something that seems totally new to you or others. It may all seem sudden, complex, and even a little scary, but luckily for him there are far more resources out there for trans kids then when I was that age and better awareness around trans needs/issues in general to help navigate this stuff.
No need to be angry, though you have every right to be worried - being trans can be a challenging thing, especially in middle school/high school years. But I would focus on the positive. You should be relieved, celebratory, even proud of this kid for taking such a courageous step! With family support and positive advocates he is going to be in the best position possible to lead a happy life.
For starters I would keep talking with this kid and their parents. Figure out the best way to respect their preferred name, pronoun choices, gender presentation and identity, and then see what you can do to support that in their wider life. Do your reading, keep asking good questions like this, and make yourself an ally. Just knowing that they have someone in their extended family who “gets” them is a big deal.