“Finn!” my son’s teacher says—loudly—at the beginning of one of his enrichment classes. “I hear you’re transgender. I had no idea! Does your sister have it too?”
My 12-year-old son stares at the older woman, dumbfounded. He’s silent so long she repeats the question.
“Does your sister have transgenderism too?”
“It’s not a disease,” my son replied. “And no, she’s not transgender.”
Finn’s discomfort must have communicated itself to the teacher because she lowered her voice. “Should I not have said anything?” she asked.
“No, it’s okay.”
Although my son had entered the school as non-disclosing, or “stealth,” he had shared the fact that he was transgender with a couple friends. Inevitably, some other kids heard it through the grapevine, and they had a few questions.
“So, you used to be a girl?”
“No, I was never a girl,” Finn replied.
“So you want to be a girl?”
“Do you have a penis?”
“None of your business.”
His classmates pretty much lost interest in the whole topic after that. He sometimes gets questions but his peers have mostly taken the fact that he’s trans in stride. My theory is that since they’ve known him as Finn, a boy, from the moment they met a couple of years ago, seeing him as different/other/female isn’t really possible.
He fields many of these same questions—and more—with the teacher.
“Did you get the shot?” the teacher asks.
“There’s more than one shot,” my son says.
“So you haven’t gone through puberty yet?”
“You feel uncomfortable, don’t you?”
When my son relays this conversation to me, he can tell I’m livid. He should not have to give the “Trans 101” talk to adults at his school—or to anyone, for that matter.
“Mom, please don’t say anything to the school. I like the teacher; she’s nice. She wasn’t ignorant, just curious.”
My son has role-played a lot of these questions with his therapist, and with my husband and me at home. He knows he doesn’t have to answer personal questions. “Do you have a penis?” “What was your old name?” “Are you going to have the surgery?” I just never imagined that the person asking him those kinds of questions would be a teacher at his school.
A few weeks after this transpires, a woman I know who runs a non-profit to support transgender families calls about an unrelated issue. She asks me if I think the school has done an adequate job educating the staff about transgender children.
I laugh out loud.
I tell her about the fact that the avatar for my son’s iPad is still female, despite a legal name and gender marker change.
I tell her about the cafeteria computer that defaulted to his old photograph and name for much of the year. One cashier turned the monitor to face my son, and everyone in line behind him, saying, “Is this you?” He denied it and got out of line. He didn’t eat that day and he wouldn’t buy lunch until I could guarantee it wouldn’t happen again.
Then I tell her about the conversation with the teacher.
“Sounds like they need a lot more education,” she says with a sigh.
I’m thankful for her and all the people who are advocating for my son and other transgender individuals and their families. I’m thankful for his therapist for giving him the tools to deal with the incredibly personal—and frequently invasive—questions people ask him about being trans.
Most of all, I’m grateful for a well-adjusted, happy kid who focuses on the goodness in people.
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