It was just a baby monkey, but it might be off my back…

January 10, 2012

As I have told many of you, Jessie has been dying to take a gymnastics class. I have been in knots about it knowing that after the age of 5, all gymnastics classes are divided boy/girl. Jessie, as I am sure you have surmised, wanted to be in the girls’ class. What to do?

After much obsessing, nocturnal waking and general angst, I finally mustered up the courage/energy/nerve to stop over at Exxcel and just lay it out and see where we land. The moment I walked in the building I felt my body temperature rising. Two very nice middle aged women (it somehow made me feel better that they were at least my age) asked if I needed help with anything. I resisted the urge to tell them just how many things I indeed need help with and just came right out and said it, “I have a transgender child (male to female) who is dying to take gymnastics…can you help me?” They exchanged glances (read: (and I say this with no judgement) “phew, thank God it’s not me) and started into thinking. Off to the side was a young coach who was aware not of the details of the conversation, but of the hushed tones. One of the first women turned to the coach and said, “any thoughts?”. The coach, after being brought up to speed, and without batting an eye or hesitating for a moment said, “put her in the girls’ class” as though it was the least controversial thing she had to face all day. I literally felt my shoulders drop. I’m not sure, but I may have thrown myself over the desk and hugged her, but, again, the memory is hazy.

We found a class that works for everyone and are going to do the trial class tomorrow. But wait, there is more.

As I drove off, headed to Modell’s to properly outfit Jessie (imagine my relief when they told me that shorts and a tank are the outfit of choice in this group. I was a more than a little concerned about the leotard issue. For obvious reasons. You know, the whole penis thing) when a new concern thudded down on me: what if there was a kid in the class who knows George, but doesn’t go to his school and, therefore, doesn’t know that he is now Jessie? I had visions of needing to call very peripheral people in our lives to share the transformation in an effort to avoid any issues on the mats. I called back and managed to persuade them to break the rules of confidentiality and tell me who was in the class. Not a single name I recognized. Score!

I then did a little damage at Modell’s which was woefully understocked with items that it seems are in abundance every single other time I have ever been there – like Sofee shorts and ribbed tanks. Okay, I threw in some really cute socks which Jessie and I can share, too. (Let the games begin)

I think this is what is considered a small victory. For me, however, it was a huge hurdle.

Thanks for your unending support and let me know if I am barraging you with more information than you care to hear.



Friday, January 6, 2012

6:30 a.m.
My alarm goes off. Damn. Not ready to get up.

6:45 a.m.
Alarm won’t stop, so I drag myself out of bed and start rousing the troops.

7:10 a.m.
Jessie finally gets up upon hearing my threat of not helping fix her hair which is painfully growing out.
Harrison, rolls out of bed, brushes his teeth and is out the door.

7:45 a.m.
I, being the generous person that I am, give Jessie a ride to school despite the fact that there is no rain, snow, sleet or particularly cold temperatures.

8:00 a.m.
I arrive at the gym and spend the next 75 minutes walking in circles on the track. Thankfully I had some chatting companions.

9:15 a.m.
(This is when it starts getting interesting). I walk to the car, check my phone and notice a missed call from what I refer to as “an 879 number”. An 879 number, for the uninformed, is the prefix for school. It is not usually a call to just say hi. The following is a very close to verbatim recap of the message:
“Hi, Julie. I know you are at the gym, but when you are done, could you please come by the school? Everything is okay, but we need to talk to the 4th graders. ASAP. Nothing happened, but it is time and we need your input. Take your time. Go home, shower and put on masacara (something I have told most people that, if I am seen without it, I have officially given up on life and should be committed right then and there) and we will be here.” (Aside: why don’t they ever call Rich?)

Sensing an unspoken urgency, I go directly to school with apologies for my appearance, lack of mascara, and possible B.O.

9:20 a.m. – 11:20 a.m.
I am immediately ushered into the otherwise closed door of the principal and am greeted by the principal, the vice principal and the school nurse. Nothing terrible has happened, but the confusion and chatter has gotten deeper and louder and it is time to tell the fourth graders (and their parents) what is going on. A letter has been drafted and approved by the superintendent, the town attorney and the head of the school committee and now just needs our sign off. I spent the next two hours making changes (the letter was pretty rockin’ by the time I was done with it which was pleasing to me primarily because it proved to me that my cognitive functions, although seriously depleted, are not altogether gone.) We then need to determine which of the administrators will run the meetings with the kids and which will be the observer to make note of how the kids are truly absorbing the information. Their initial thinking was that the nurse present and the principal observe but that felt to me as though the presentation was of a “sick” child and I did not like how that felt. (Read: no fuckin’ way). They agreed and wound up having the principal speak and the vice principal observe. At 11:20 I went home to shower only to return immediately afterward to sign off on the new letter which, before I could sign off on, had to be signed off on by the superintendent. (Follow that?) So home I went to shower. (And, just to add a dose of reality to this, I drove home thinking not solely of this correspondence but also grateful that I had recently enough washed my hair so I didn’t need too much time to become presentable.)

11:50 a.m. – 12:50 p.m.
Arrive back at school. (Contrary to anything you might have heard or suspected, I can pull myself together very quickly). I walked into the office to see the final letter and try, for the 10th time, to reach Rich for his okay. Finally success and he, too, okayed the letter. Now the rush was on. I had requested/suggested/demanded that there be a line in the letter telling how the kids reacted to the meetings and, obviously, that piece of information was unavailable until the meetings had occurred. School would be dismissed in an hour and a half so the race was on. We communally decided that I would take Jessie out of school at the point and they would go about the business of spreadin’ the word.

1:00 p.m. – 2:20 p.m.
They managed to hold the meetings (one for each of the fourth grade sections), get the letters printed, sealed and delivered while Jessie and I enjoyed a decadent middle of the day ice cream.

3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Jessie and I hit the Natick Mall. This is now one well outfitted 10 year old. While there I received two lovely, caring and supportive emails from fourth grade parents. Ones I will keep forever.

6:00 p.m.
Get a call from the principal with feedback from the meetings. “They could not have gone better”. Kids were respectful, attentive and listened carefully. One kid repeated a line I had inserted into their “script”: different name, different clothes, same person. She further told me that she has received two emails from parents thus far. One said that the letter “brought tears to her eyes” and “she appreciated the approach” and the second commented that “it was a tricky subject and had been handled very professionally.” I agree with both sentiments.

The principal and I have come to appreciate one another (which we, um, didn’t always) and even joked about hitting the talk show circuit together when we collaborate on a book about how to handle this situation at the elementary school level.

Jessie is thrilled. I am exhausted. I know this is just one more step on what is going to be a very long journey, but feeling okay. For now.

Last night, when I thought Jessie was asleep she was actually reading a book and made a xerox of a poem that says it all:

The Voice by Shel Silverstein

There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you – just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.