Bump In The Road?

We’ve all had them: those conversations with our children in the car that start out simply enough and invariably result in a far more loaded thought process than anticipated or, frankly, desired.  You know, like when your six-year-old asks you from the booster seat how babies are made.  Or when your eight year old learns the word “asshole” as you spew it at the driver of the car that cut you off.  Stuck in the tight quarters that are one’s car, uncomfortable, unplanned and perhaps undesired follow-through on said queries is a sure bet.

Such was the situation I found myself in earlier this afternoon whilst I was chauffeuring Jessie to her art lesson which, while totally fabulous, is located in the most headache inducing part of town you could possibly imagine.  Add to that the fact that I had worked all morning, rushed to get her at school and had to further hurry to make it to an appointment I had, it is fair to say that I was not quite in the mood for anything heavy. I had dutifully greeted her at school with a snack and a bottle of chocolate milk and hoped that she would chatter about the events of the day or maybe even her excitement for her lesson.  At first, all was going to plan.  She sucked down the milk, turned her nose up at the (yummy, delicious, fresh from the oven) chocolate chip bagel I lovingly brought her and chastised me for not remembering that it was me, not her, who likes them (yeah, I ate it…don’t judge me).  We chatted a bit about the traffic and how insanely cold it was.  All was fine.  Until, as things go in these parts, they weren’t.

“Do I look like a girl?” she asked, very matter-of-factly,  with no bravado or particular intensity.  Really?  Today?  The same day that I happened to  look at you and think to myself that you looked more like a boy than you had just last week?  (I was quite sure I hadn’t said it aloud, but I will admit to wondering if perhaps I had.) I am not sure what it was about her appearance that felt so, well, masculine.  She was in a simple outfit: jeans, sneakers and a white Disney World hoodie (which, admittedly, was purchased for George upon getting caught in a torrential downpour several years ago).  She had put particular care into her hair this morning, rising early to flat-iron it to within an inch of its life resulting in a coiffure reminiscent of the Japanese straightening technique favored by curly tops like myself.  (Note: Jessie’s hair is not curly.) Yeah, one would think that would “feminize” her, but alas, it seems to have yielded the opposite result.  Bump.


As we were side by side in the car, sitting in traffic, there was little to distract from the question.  I was forced into an honest answer: “sometimes you look very much like a girl, other times you look more like a boy” I replied.  No sooner were the words out of my mouth than I wished I could have suctioned them back in.  I wanted to be honest, but not mean.  I wanted to support and protect her.  I wanted to turn the radio to top volume to drown out any further conversation.  Damn, can nothing be easy?

Not content to leave well enough alone (or not quite well enough, as the case may be) she inquired as to a time when she looked particularly “girlish”.  That was easy.  Just a week or so ago she was in an adorable (age appropriate) dress, her hair blown out (by me) with the bangs pulled back in an assemblage of about fifteen bobby pins, her behavior demur.  She was all girl.   But I could just as easily point out a decidedly less feminine presentation when she was in Levi’s, a plain navy zip front sweatshirt, her hair a hot mess of knots, crooked parts (yes, there were more than one) and about two days past the point where it should have been washed.  I am willing to bet that there were some farts thrown in for good measure, too.

It is all okay, though.  It is all part of this ever-increasing foray into gender fluidity.  And, I will admit, it all throws me a little off kilter.  Just when I stop stumbling over the pronouns and calling her Jessie, she oozes into another sphere of gender and leaves me scratching my head.  Just when I think, “I’ve got this” I start to wonder if I really do.  And just when I think we are on a straight trajectory, I am reminded that we definitely are not.

“Do I look like a girl” she asked.  I am beginning to think that there is no correct answer to that question.  Bump.

24 thoughts on “Bump In The Road?

  1. May tomorrow be bump-free.
    (speaking of bumps, I have a 41 year old friend with a biological freshman in college, two adopted girls from China ages 11 and 6 who is PREGNANT and calling the baby “bump” due to the bump in her belly, how’s that for a bump in the road?)

  2. I sure hope you and your advisors have a plan for puberty all worked out.It would be a shame for her to get into doubting herself and all the sadness that would bring.I feel for her..

  3. A few years ago, my niece (maybe about 7 years old) asked me, “Are you a boy or a girl?” I told her I was a girl (I’m 60 years old and female born but don’t go in for girly clothes or girly ways). I think the term gender queer applies to me, but I only know that from watching vlogs. Anyway, my niece said to me, “Are you sure?” So I asked her what she thought. She said, “I think you’re both.” I told her she was probably right. That satisfied her, mystery solved. It seems she was thinking of me as more that merely a physical being, and there was no judgement involved.

  4. That’s a tough one to handle; kind of like “Do these jeans make my butt look fat? You really want to hear the truth, but do you?
    Did you ask her what made her ask that question? Confidence plays a huge part in gender transition and maybe Jessie’s was wavering a bit but questions like that are usually just the tip of the iceberg. Jessie is learning and testing the waters, there is bound to be bumps but passing is a huge deal, in fact its everything. It can be really painful, (really, really painful) for a trans-person to hear that they don’t pass. Not only does it hurt but it stomps on one’s confidence and grinds it to dust. (trust me I know from experience) Did someone say something at school? Are some kids using that antagonize her? Just a thought from someone who’s been there.
    Anyway just wishing you both the best and hoping that there’s nothing hiding behind her simple question.

    • I am sure there is always something hiding behind everything she ever says or does. I did ask if something had happened and got a satisfactory “no”. Confidence is a challenge for every person I know, some more than others, for sure.

  5. Hmmm, honesty is not always the best policy? We girls don’t like to be lied to, however we don’t want an “honest” answer when we ask if our jeans make our butts look too big, either! Not that I have that problem. I’d gladly like to see a couple extra “bumps” back there, myself. 😉

  6. When I was a little girl, my mother thought short hair on me was just adorable. Consequently, I often had short hair! Nothing was more mortifying to me than being mistaken for a boy. And here I have a daughter with the most beautiful curly hair, who keeps it chopped off as short as possible and is absolutely mortified if people think she IS a girl! All I can do at this point is smile and shake my head slowly back and forth and wonder what the next chapter will bring.

  7. Today was the first day that I was able to put my child’s hair back in a ponytail. It was barely long enough and there was still lots of it hanging out. This was so important to her, to me it was a PITA as she immediately starts screaming as soon as I take a brush out:).

    As I did it, I missed the little boy with the adorable short hair cut. I remember the last time she got a boy cut and thinking that it was probably the last time we would be doing this. Sure enough, less than 2 months later we started growing her hair out preemptively knowing that she might transition (I’m just sticking to the female pronouns here), and 6 months after that, we made the social transition.

    Sine she is 5 1/2 it is quite easy for her to pass as a girl, but I can’t help but wonder what nature has in store for her and the challenges that we will face.

    Your blog gives me so much insight into what’s in store for us and helps me to prepare. Honestly, it also scares the crap out of me too.

    I appreciate your willingness to give us insight into yours and Jesse’s life. It is so helpful (and hopeful) to us.

  8. Oddly enough, I wonder if its just part of the pre-adolescent/adolescent search for identity (and oddly enough, nothing to do with being transgendered)? I wish I had greater words of wisdom for you, but that’s its. 😦

    I’ve made it through life lately with a “just go with it” attitude, I think you mentioned something about her saying that once. Maybe that’s what we both need right now? 🙂

  9. Hi Julie, I love reading your blog. I’m wondering if maybe something came up in health or science class that might have triggered Jessie’s question. I know that there are many children who start experiencing puberty at her age, and maybe she’s noticing it in herself or her friends?

    • Thank you, Amy. I don’t think anything came up (I asked) and the puberty issue is indeed beginning to kick in. She’s not said anything else since, but, as they say, the day is still young…

  10. You know, dealing with the “regular” issues kids come up with is hard enough (e.g. where do babies come from and does god exist…), so i can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like having to deal with such complex issues.
    You are without a doubt, one brave mom

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