Kids are amazing creatures. They lack the inhibition which can prove so burdensome for adults. They live in the here and now and follow their guts with a vigor that seems to narrow with age. Their innate acceptance of people and things that are different from themselves is a joy to watch. No matter what their particular eccentricity may be, they embrace and go for it, with nary a care for what other people might think or say. It seems that they are better at honoring what they know to be their reality, no matter how others might perceive them which is a good thing, right?
I know a girl who is now twelve. For what had to have been at least a year, she wore tights on her head (to simulate long hair, I suspect?) every single day. She was never apart from, and would only relinquish them for the duration of a wash/dry cycle which, if memory serves me correctly, was only sanctioned when she was asleep for the night. She was in possession of a couple of pairs which were exclusively reserved for her head and which she rotated as she saw fit. No matter the weather, the time of year or the occasion, she always had them on. To her parents’ and teachers’ credit, they allowed (embraced, even) her fashion statement and let it run its course. When the day finally came that she shed the tights, she actually looked strange to me. I missed those tights which had become so integral to her very being (so much so that they ceased being noticed long before she shed them). Every once in a while I will remind her of them. She gives only a sweet smile in return.
Another girl I know had a special affinity for a Spiderman costume. She was seldom seen without it. She was indiscriminate as to where she wore it, and behaved in precisely the same manner she would have had she been costume-less. Like the girl with the tights, it became so much a part of her that the first time I saw her without it, I had to do a double take. Her mother recently told me that when she was reminded of her proclivity for all things Spiderman she not only did not recall it, but wondered aloud why she would do something like that. Her parents, too, allowed her to make that decision and she, like the tight-clad girl, came out on the other side unscathed.
Granted, a boy choosing to live as a girl is hardly the same thing…or is it? These girls, with no compunction at all, lived their lives in a manner that felt comfortable and “right” to them. The span of time was significant and each costume gave the girls a certain comfort that they required. Both thrived and are normal, well-adjusted kids – donning neither tights on their heads nor Spiderman costumes on their backs. They were as lucky as everyone keeps telling me that Jessie is: they had parents who respected their children enough to know that sometimes kids know what they need. I’m not sure that is any different from what we are doing with our child.
People have gone after me for allowing a ten-year old to drive this train. They have accused me of pushing my own agenda (whatever that means) and of having wanted a girl (something I certainly could have done more easily than this!), but fail to consider that I am only supporting a child who, like the girl with the tights, or the girl with the costume, is more comfortable in something that is less socially acceptable and understood, but no less powerful. I knew both of these little girls from the time they were born, and have a new appreciation for the intensity of their need for their respective costumes. They got funny looks. Their parents got funny looks. But, at the end of the day, they weren’t hurting anybody. In fact, they were doing what most adults are too afraid to do: be themselves.
Jessie’s decision is far more controversial, far-reaching and life altering than the girls and their tights/Spiderman-dom. Having heard from many transgender folks over the past several months, I have an even greater respect for her having the gumption to do what she needed to do. She may well do as my tights-bearing and Spiderman donning friends did before her and take off her guise someday but if or when she does, it will be for the most authentic of reasons. Given the level of comfort she has demonstrated thus far, I suspect hers will be a vigor that grows, rather than diminishes, with age.