There is no agenda…

Anti-trans people seem convinced there is an agenda to make kids transgender. That a little boy picked up a Barbie just once and his Mom (it’s always the Mom) immediately stuffed him into a dress and decided he was trans. Or that she wanted a little boy so badly she made her girl act like one. These people have never actually talked to the parent of a trans child and especially have never listened to one.

Jeremy picked up a Barbie when he was a toddler. I didn’t think he was trans and I certainly didn’t put him into a dress or pick out a girl’s name. I simply figured he liked Barbies. When he was six, he stole one of his sister’s nighties and wore it for months. It stayed in his dresser for several years after he outgrew it. I still didn’t think he was trans. I figured he just liked the way it swirled. He started playing online games around eight years old and played as a girl every single time. I figured it was a novelty for him. It took one thing to convince me he was trans and that was him saying, “Mom, I feel like I’m a boy on the outside and a girl on the inside. I’m half boy and half girl.”

The fact is, every narrative I know has started with the child (no matter how young). The child repeatedly wants to know when her penis is going to fall off, or if he can crawl back into Mommy’s tummy to get his boy parts, or when God is going to fix them so their insides match their outsides. Almost every narrative has confused and bewildered parents wondering what is going on and why their child is asking these questions. What can they do? How can they help? Is it all right to mourn the child they thought they had?

Parents do not want or choose this for their child. They don’t want the risks of violence and sexual assault. They don’t want the misgendering, the misinformation, the teasing, the legal loopholes, and bathroom headaches. They don’t want to argue with doctors and insurance for reasonable health care. They don’t want the potential of being ostracized from their religious community. They don’t want to lose family support. They plow through anyhow because this is their child but this isn’t what they sought.

Then there’s the fear people have of “what if the child changes their mind?” that’s brought about by misinformation or simply fabricated from a wild imagination. No one is “chopping the dick” off of any child. Children don’t get hormones either. If a child changes their mind, they simply change their clothes, pronouns, and name back. That’s it.

That’s what’s happening with Jeremy right now. He’s always been on the feminine side of the gender spectrum and, over the past year, he’s slowly drifted closer to the male side. His perfume sits unused, he wanted (and got) his hair buzzed short, he’s drifted to darker and plain clothing instead of bright colours and silky material. And none of this would make him cis. What makes him cis is that he came up to me and said, “Mom, I feel mostly male and only a little bit female. I think I’m cis now and I want to be called he and him.”

There isn’t an agenda with raising a trans youth. There are no awards, no medals, no ticker tape parades. It’s just like any other child. There’s Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and, if you’re lucky, someone will wash the dishes and remember to shower without prompting. For all people complain that kids are forced to be trans, I’m living proof that’s not the case.

I don’t have a crystal ball. I have no idea if he’ll stay cis or if he’ll end up gender fluid and, honestly, it doesn’t matter. I’m not raising the Jeremy of the future or the past. I’m raising him now and right now he’s cisgender. We’ll deal with tomorrow when it gets here. Either way he’s fabulous just as he is.

the-new-drone

Jeremy and his new drone from his grandparents

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My speech on gender diversity and raising a trans kid…

Wow that’s a long title.

Since I’m nowhere near talented enough to change Jeremy’s real name in a video, I’m just going to post the transcript here. Pretend I’m talking quietly at a podium while I shift nervously and fiddle with my hair. I was wearing turquoise if that helps 🙂

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There’s so much I didn’t know when my kids were growing up, especially when it came to gender. I look back at Jeremy when zie was little. Jeremy was equally happy with dinky cars and Polly Pockets, which was fine with me. I grew up in a family which believed toys were for all kids. When Jeremy was four, zie got a little toy shaving kit for Christmas and the first thing zie did was hop into the bathtub to shave zir legs. I figured that was because zie didn’t have a Dad at home and explained that boys shave their faces, not their legs. Jeremy looked a bit surprised but followed my instructions. Actually, the first time Jeremy shaved once puberty hit, Jeremy shaved zir legs but by then zie wasn’t using a Bob the Builder kit. Zie borrowed my razor instead; I quickly got zir one of zir own. And there was dress up time, which always consisted of Jeremy getting dressed up in Emma’s clothes, never the reverse. Emma would refer to zir as Jemmy and would pick out the clothes she thought would suit zir the best. Both kids loved this game.

I think Jeremy was around eight or nine years old when zie saw some words written on the bus shelter wall and wanted to know what they meant. The words were:

I wish I was a girl.

I had no idea what to say let alone where to start. It was a big topic that I didn’t understand very well. And Jeremy was standing there watching me expectantly, positive I had the answer. I decided to start with empathy so I said, “You know how you look like boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside…” then stopped when I saw Jeremy’s confused expression. Zie shook zir head and said “no”.

I look back now and marvel at how blind I was but then I simply figured I’d screwed up my explanation. I went on to explain that most people look like a boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside or look like a girl on the outside and feel like a girl on the inside but sometimes it’s the opposite. When people look like a boy on the outside and feel like a girl on the inside, or vice versa, it’s called transgender. Jeremy listened intently then was heartbroken that we couldn’t find the person who wrote the words so they’d know they weren’t alone.

Throughout this time, Jeremy would ask how I knew that zie would grow up to be a man. I knew zie’d been bullied at school with kids calling zir a he-she and I was well aware that grown adults were telling Jeremy zie needed to “be a man” so I chalked zir questions up to bullying. I assured Jeremy that zie didn’t need to do anything special in order to be a man, zie just needed to grow up. That zie could be a man and still love the colour pink and long hair and glitter. Each time Jeremy seemed reassured by my response.

A couple of years ago I became Facebook friends with Lenny. One of the first things Lenny told me is zie’s transgender and identifies between male and female, using the pronouns zie and zir. I’d had no idea people could be anything but male or female so this was a surprise. Lenny lives in England so zie’d never know if I was using the right pronouns or not but it didn’t seem fair to use the wrong ones. I insisted the kids use zir pronouns as well.

It wasn’t until last year that Jeremy began to show signs of discomfort with using male pronouns. Zie got sent home from school one day for arguing with zir teacher about the words boy and girl being opposites. Jeremy insisted they weren’t because you could feel like both a boy and a girl. The teacher argued she was talking about language and not gender then persisted in telling Jeremy zie was wrong. In the spring, Jeremy asked for the teacher to explain more pronouns than male and female and the teacher refused, claiming that she could only teach “invented” pronouns if there was a trans student in the class and then only the pronouns that student was using. Jeremy wasn’t out so I backed down. Zie didn’t come out until the end of summer.

Fifty-seven percent of unsupported trans youths attempt suicide. That statistic drops down to four percent when youths have a supportive family. I’ll do anything to make Jeremy feel supported, up to and including waving pom poms. Jeremy assures me that’s not necessary.

The hard part is how often and regularly Jeremy gets misgendered. When I talked to Jeremy’s school, their biggest concern was whether Jeremy’s gender identity and pronouns were going to be a distraction in the classroom. They use zir pronouns in official documents but call Jeremy he and him. And I can count on one hand the number of people in real life who consistently use zir pronouns. It’s so frustrating because people just don’t seem to understand how important this is to Jeremy. If they’d use the right pronouns in front of zir, even once, they’d see what a difference it makes. Give it a try, they’re not hard to use.

Thank you.