January 31, 2012
Now that we have gone from letting the cat out of the bag (George (n.c.i.*) sharing “the secret” with his teacher) to freeing the horses from the barn to going, well, viral, I feel simultaneously lighter and more weighed down. The burden of carrying any secret gets old and lonely very quickly. While we were only officially underground for ten weeks or so the weight we needed to support was nothing in comparison to that which Jessie (n.c.i.) dragged around for most of her life. The moment that she went wide she became a different person. And so did I. (Only now that I have told you that I am writing about this, the pressure is on…thus the “more weighed down”.)
In hindsight, this should not have come as a big surprise. This was not your standard issue little boy. Ever. With a love of dolls, wigs, dresses and a penchant for pink, purple and polka dots, George (n.c.i.) was, if nothing else, unique. Physically “all boy”, with a husky voice and a slightly lumbering gait, effeminate is never a word one would have used to describe him. Quirky, artistic, hilarious, rambunctious, impulsive and articulate: yes. Effeminate: no. Was he gay? (See Q&A below) Maybe. But give me a break – he was just a little kid. But he was always different from the other boys, including his older brother, Harrison.
I knew the word transgender, but that was pretty much the extent of my understanding. I had no reason to know. It was a phenomenon reserved for other people, not me and certainly not my child. I was never against it conceptually, nor was I in active or outward support of people who identified as such. I was completely indifferent to it. Until, that is, my kid told me, with tears running down his face that his whole life he had wanted to be a girl. He (g.c.i*) was considerate enough of his mom to share this news in the company of his therapist who helped to clarify what exactly he meant and whether he wanted to be a girl or thought he was a girl. The answer was definitive: he was a girl. Let the games begin.
As with any anomaly in life, once it is thrust upon you one commences to researching. Whether you casually google words like “transgender”, “transkids” and “is it just a phase?” (all while secretly praying that anything you find will prove this untrue) or if you scour the internet, bookstores and libraries for anything you can get your hands on, it is time to learn something new. Something that probably wasn’t on your short (or even bucket) list. Yet here you are. And while I consider myself woefully undereducated, I have learned, since going viral, that just like Dr. Spock says at the opening of his baby care book, “I know more than I think I do”. Here are my answers to some of the many, many great questions that people have asked me. (Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting I am an authority on this, rather I know enough to be dangerous. There are other trans-parents out there that may feel differently…these are just my experiences and thoughts.)
Q: Were you shocked by this?
A: No. And yes. See above.
Q: How do you now he isn’t “just gay”?
A: Gay is who you are attracted to. Gender is who you are. Could Jessie grow up to be a transgender lesbian? Yup. But I don’t think so. She wants a husband. One who will love her for who she is and not be “freaked out” by her having been born a boy. (Her words). Besides, can you think of any good reason a little boy would ever announce that he wanted to be a girl unless it was so deep inside that is simply had to come out?
Q: How has school been?
A: Incredible. Jessie’s (n.c.i.) therapist had beaten into my head that I am just a passenger on this trip. Jessie is the navigator. So when she was ready, she confided in a teacher at school. The teacher, in turn called me. (Aside: I have asked this before and will ask it again: why do they always call me?? Rich has a phone, too, ya know!) Within the hour we were meeting with the school principal and starting to formulate a plan. At the beginning we let things happen organically (Jessie went to pajama day the following morning wearing the entire sleepwear collection from Target)(and she entered the building with her head held high and not the slightest bit of fear or trepidation). A meeting was held for all faculty and staff and, about ten days later the principal and vice principal met with each fourth grade class to tell them the deal. The kids were sent home with a sealed envelope containing a letter for their parents which the administration happily worked with me to wordsmith to perfection. To date, there has been not one single negative reaction. In fact, both the administration and I have received numerous emails of support. Go Brookline!
Q: What happens with the bathrooms?
A: This is one of the trickier ones. At school, Jessie is using either the faculty or one of the two unisex bathrooms. When we are out in public she uses the ladies’ room and I remind her to sit. After she puts paper down on the seat.
Q: How are Rich and Harrison doing?
A: They have both been nothing but supportive. Being the mom is different from being the dad and I cannot imagine how I would feel if my same sex child had decided to transition. Rich got over the ridiculousness of the situation about three years ago when he took George (n.c.i.) to The American Girl Store. On a Saturday afternoon. Game over. Harrison’s first response was to tell Jessie that she would fit right in at the high school and has even been attending GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) meetings at school. I knew things were going to be okay the first time after “the announcement” that Harrison called Jessie a butthead. (It was probably not quite such a chaste word choice, but I’m going with it.)
Q: Are you going to blog?
A: I considered but decided against it. While my distribution list here has grown exponentially since going wide, I am still among safe people. People who are not going to judge, hate or criticize. That is where we need to be right now.
Q: So, if I see you out with Jessie, what should I expect?
A: Expect a delicious, brave, chatty little girl with hair that is not growing fast enough, two pierced ears with different earrings in each and, in all likelihood, wearing something pink. And you can tell her that you think she rocks. She kinda knows that she does.
Q: Are you going to do the whole hormone thing?
A: The protocol for the hormone therapy is four pronged. We have “passed” the first two levels: we have insurance and the social worker on staff thinks we are worthy of being passed along to their psychiatrist, which is level three and is scheduled for the end of February. If we “pass” that level, we will meet with the endocrinologists and take it from there. Jessie only wants to know if we can go to CVS and get the hormones already.
Q: Well, more of a statement: “you are amazing” or “you are my idol” or various other accolades.
A: As much as I relish the idolatry, I bristle at it, too. To a person, there is not one I can think of or imagine would not do the same for their child. You would be amazed what you can pull out of your hat.
I am sure that there were other questions, but my head nearly exploded when the responses starting coming in after the announcement. It was truly overwhelming. This is the first (to some of you, about a dozen of you have been with this from the start) of what will be many conversation starters on Jessie’s journey. And while it is, indeed, her journey, I suspect it will change all of you, too.
*n.c.i. = name choice intended
*g.c.i. = gender choice intended