The interwebs are swarming with discussions about gender identity issues, aren’t they? Gender fluid, transgender, gender confusion, gender identity disorder, gender non-conforming … any other common phrases I missed? Thanks largely to big-name celebrities transitioning their gender, or gender-fluid models that are making some of us question our own sexuality, we are all talking about it, sharing our approval or our dismay.
And then there are the kids, even the young children, whose parents have decided to come forward and discuss their stories, to talk about the struggles of raising children with gender identity issues, to talk about being supportive, to help normalize this for the masses. There are now television series dedicated to the subject of children struggling with gender identity.
OK, so, we get it. It’s a hot debate point. And we also get that every.single.living.person. on the Internet has an opinion. Rightfully so. It is, overall, a weird concept to many of us.
But not to me.
I am living it, as a parent. I am parenting a child who does not conform to gender roles. I am one of those parents trying to normalize it for our hate-filled society, but I’m also not here to blow smoke up your ass about it.
When I was pregnant, I knew I was having a girl before the “big” ultrasound. I just knew. Some of us had that intuition as expecting moms. But, as weird as this is going to sound, I also knew she wasn’t going to be a typical girl. So much so that I requested nothing pink at her baby shower. It really wasn’t because I didn’t care for pink; it was just … a feeling. I went with purples and greens. It just made more sense to me, for her. I never chose a lot of pink things for her as an infant or toddler, but certainly I dressed her as a girl and bought her toys and such that were marketed for females.
I can pinpoint her rejection of girl-related anything to the age of two. She hated dolls. As in, would not even touch them. She gravitated towards cars and trucks. She started rebelling against dresses around the same age. I would have to bribe her to wear them on holidays, and after a few pictures were snapped, off they came.
“OK,” I told myself, “lots of little girls don’t like dresses and dolls. No worries here. She will be a typical girl soon.”
Now let me clarify at this point: I have NEVER taken issue with transgender individuals, homosexuality, or anything of the like. I see no difference between them and me. None. However, when you’re facing it as a parent, it’s scary as shit. It’s scary because, in a nutshell, people suck. Hard. People are mean, hateful, judgmental, and for the love of God, it would just be easier to have a child who conformed to society’s expectations, wouldn’t it? Easier for the child, easier for the parent. It’s a fact.
As my daughter was then approaching the ages of 3-4, we were still dressing her in girlish clothes, but things were really starting to change as she wanted to make the decisions on what she would wear. Blue. She always chose blue. Blue everything. She started to discuss her dislike for her purple colored walls; she never once graced the girl toy aisles of Target; she would always pick the boy character of any given show or movie as her favorite; princesses were not even close to her realm of likes. It was becoming more and more clear that she was, indeed, different. Different from society’s version of a girl.
By the age of 5, she was making all of her own clothing choices, which only included boys’ clothing, including underwear. Her favorite shows were Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. Her friends at school were all boys, with the exception of one girl who really thought she was cool for liking boy stuff.
Now, we’re at the age of 6. Now, she is being called a boy by people in public. Now, she asks if she can change her name to Kai or Jace. Now, she carries herself like a boy, her mannerisms are more masculine. Now she asks, “Mom, can I turn into a boy?” and says she “feels like she’s a boy.” Yes, indeed, she is different.
Last night, a store cashier called her “buddy” and asked me if “he” wanted the chocolate milk that I had just purchased. You know what my child did? She smiled and said, “It doesn’t hurt my feelings when people call me a boy. I like it.” She likes it. It feels right to her.
So, to those of you saying this is a choice and no one is born this way, tell me, do you think my 6-year-old is choosing this? Do you think she likes being different and an outcast from her classmates at the tender age of six? I am educating you right now, in this moment. She is not choosing this; this has chosen her.
I had no hand in this, her dad had no hand in this. She was born this way. I am here to tell you that firsthand. This is not made up. I do not want my child to struggle with identity. I do not want her to be so different that she’s already struggling to fit in. But here’s something else I want people to know: this is not a phase and she is not a tomboy, so please stop saying these well-intentioned things. You’re not softening any blow with either of those sentiments. She hates sports, including riding a bike, she doesn’t like to be dirty, she isn’t rough and tough and adventurous. And if this is a phase, whew, there’s sure no end in sight.
I am not saying she is transgender. I am not labeling my child. She is 6. I am firmly planted in the “no way is she transitioning until she goes through puberty” camp, if this is even still a topic of discussion then. At best, she might just be a masculine lesbian and we will call it a day.
Is that harsh to say, “At best she’s a lesbian”? It probably is to the trans community, but again, this is scary shit and I am being real here. Parents do not want their children to struggle, and the biggest struggle when you’re young is simply being different, right? I’m sure we can all agree on that. Kids are dicks. Period. The suicide rate for young trans individuals is astronomical. I am fucking terrified if she is transgender. Terrified.
A lot of my friends and family say I’m looking too far ahead, things could change, she’s only six, etc., etc. But listen, I am her mom and I just know. She’s different; sans any additional label, she is just different. And what I’m preparing myself for right now is these next couple of years when she will learn more and more every day just how different she is. As it is, she plays alone frequently at summer camp, unaccepted by the boys because she’s not rough and tough, and strange to the girls for not liking princesses and Barbies. It’s heartbreaking to see my child already struggling. Life shouldn’t be so tough at the age of six.
I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss how I feel on the subject further.
I’m sad about it quite a bit. I am.
I’m sad that I didn’t get to play dress-up with my daughter with princess dresses, I’m sad dolls were never coddled by her, I’m sad that she doesn’t like glitter and cute tutus. I’m sad that I probably will never have a girl who will want to go make-up shopping with me or wear a prom dress or a wedding dress. I’m sad that she doesn’t, and won’t, want her hair braided or collect Barbies. Yes, I admit, I’m sad that a stereotypical girl is not what I was given. Admitting this makes me a hypocrite, because I’m constantly trying to advocate for a society filled with less gender-specific roles and more equality, but you know what? I like make-up and I wish my girl did, too.
That’s the hard part for me, in combination with my fear of society not accepting my daughter, but you know what isn’t difficult at all?
Loving her and accepting who she is.
Loving how unique she is and loving how she’s proud of what makes her different. She is proud of herself, and I am oh so proud of her. My child gravitates to kids with special needs, and my theory is that she knows she is different and she knows they are different and she wants to be a nurturer and she wants to be different together. I couldn’t be more proud of that.
We have an amazing support system of people who all celebrate my daughter. Her very best friend in the world is a 5-year-old boy, and he has never once questioned why she likes “boy stuff” or why she isn’t a typical girl. Isn’t that amazing? If only we can teach the rest of society to have the exact same mindset as a 5-year-old. If only it were that simple.
My plea to all of you: practice acceptance, practice tolerance of differences, practice an open mind, teach your children these practices. My daughter will thank you, as will millions of other kids struggling with this very same issue. My daughter isn’t weird; there isn’t anything wrong with her. She is my daughter and I’m here to advocate for her, but I am also advocating for all of those different children, because yes, there are so many.
Practice love and be kind. It’s that simple.