It was still dark when we woke this morning. I popped the english muffins in the toaster, fished our lunch bags out of the fridge, and then I took Jeremy’s back to school photo; they made sure to pose with their netbook.
“I put the letter and all the information for your teacher in your backpack,” I assured them. “Please make sure she gets it, I didn’t destroy an entire forest just so it could sit in your backpack unread.”
“I will,” they promised
I was showing Jeremy’s back to school photo to a coworker when I realized I’d never asked Jeremy what pronouns to use while I’m at work.
“They,” Jeremy said when I called them. They used as much scorn as a seventeen year old can muster, which is quite a bit.
Once again I discovered today that people don’t listen. I referred to Jeremy as “they” during my whole shift and no one noticed. I’d say “they” and my coworker would reply “he”. I wasn’t sure if I was relieved or disappointed; I think I was closer to both. At one point a relatively new coworker asked if I have a son.
“Umm… kind of… not really,” I replied awkwardly. “I’ve got two kids, Emma and Jeremy.”
She gave me a look that said she’d always suspected I was insane and I’d finally proven it.
“Is Jeremy in grade 12?” she asked. I nodded and she grinned. “So’s my Jeremy. Was he excited to go back?”
“No, they weren’t,” I said. “They were happy at home this summer.”
“Oh, my son was happy to go back. He was bored at home and…”
The conversation moved on and then another crowd of people came through the door.
I’d hoped to make it through the whole first day of school without a phone call then the phone rang five minutes before the end of my shift. At first I was relieved it was simply Jeremy. One of the educational assistants discovered a partially disassembled battery operated scooter in a school closet and figured Jeremy would love it. She was right, they did, but it wasn’t allowed on the bus. Could they walk home with the scooter instead? I gave my permission both to Jeremy and their teacher.
I figured she’d mention the letter, instead she talked about the scooter and how unsafe it was. Which was understandable but as she talked I wondered if the information I’d printed was resting under Jeremy’s (hopefully) empty lunchbag.
“I sent some information with Jeremy. Did you get a chance to read any of it?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” she said awkwardly. “I got the impression it had to do with a meeting so I put it all in the office.”
Wait… what? She saw a letter addressed to her by one of her student’s parents and placed the whole thing into the office without reading it? That made no sense.
“Did you at least read the letter?” I asked. “It was only one page.”
I leaned against one of the storage racks. I hadn’t hung around there since last spring when I was on the phone with Jeremy’s teacher.
“I skimmed it,” she replied. “I just want you to know I don’t agree with what you wrote. I talked about transgendered all last year.”
I bit my tongue. Hard.
“And we discussed this last year. I talked to the principal and explained everything to you. I just don’t feel…” My mind filled in comfortable. She obviously had second thoughts about that sentence and scrapped it entirely. “Our school guidelines do not require us to use invented pronouns in the classroom. I went over this with our principal and he would know. He helped write that information.”
“That’s not what it says on the district website,” I replied. “That’s not what it says in the Canadian guidelines either. I printed information from both the school board’s website and the government of Canada’s website and underlined all the relevant sections.”
“I don’t think we’re on the same page here,” she commented and I sighed.
“I don’t think so either,” I agreed.
“This is something meant to be discussed when there’s a transgendered student in the class-”
“There is now,” I said bluntly. “Jeremy is trans and they were very uncomfortable last year when you only taught binary pronouns.”
“You said in your letter that he hadn’t decided yet. When Jeremy decides what gender he’s choosing-”
“You mean when Jeremy tells you what gender they are. They’re not choosing anything and they already know their gender. I said they would tell you when they feel comfortable enough to use the pronoun ‘they’ at school. The information I printed was straight off the school board’s website. It’s easily available and I can email the links to anyone who is interested in reading it.”
She had to get off the phone then. I left work not knowing when a meeting would be arranged. If I don’t hear anything by Monday (my next weekday off) I’ll call the school and arrange a meeting myself.
I got home a couple of minutes before Jeremy then waited while they chugged a cup of orange juice. Apparently a scooter that’s supposed to be battery operated is not easy to push. Then I asked them how school was and, more specifically, what the teacher said about the letter.
“She said it was an insult and a slap in the face,” Jeremy replied. “She said she thinks about me the most out of all the students.”
She’s said this to me before too and I’m beginning to think she does. Unfortunately thinking about someone isn’t always positive.
Last year Jeremy was sent home multiple times for arguing with the teacher. Quite a few of the times were because they felt there needed to be more math. Jeremy loves math. This year, according to Jeremy, their teacher’s decided they’ve done enough math as a class. All this semester they’ll be working on science instead; science being growing plants. Which Jeremy loves… as a hobby.
I told Jeremy that today was a fresh start and to give their teacher a chance. Sadly, I think that chance has been blown.