“I think I am pretty.” – Jessie 6/6/13
She said it without provocation, fanfare or defense (read: there was no emphasis on the first “I”). In fact, it was a complete non-sequitur. As we were taking the three-minute drive home from school she just kind of mentioned it, with a follow-up peek at (and smile into) the visor mirror. She had exactly zero interest in me agreeing (or disagreeing, for that matter) in her announcement, rather it was a sentiment which she uttered as matter-of-factly as stating the time of day.
Moments before, when she spotted my car parked alongside all the other parents, she was walking with an eighth grader (she is in fifth) who was chatting with her in a manner no different from any two girls with three grades between them would interact. Upon noticing my car, they stopped to say hello, Jess radiating joy not only in the fact that she was walking with an older girl, but having been spotted doing so. No sooner had I noticed the glow when another eighth grade girl walked by, but not without stopping to give Jess a hug. It was, I suppose, a not all together unusual interaction between girls, but for me, it was a little bit earth-shattering.
Despite the ease with which the transition from George to Jessie occurred, it has not been without its challenges. For five years at school she had been known (and, to be clear, everybody knew her) as a boy named George and, as such, she would (attempt to) associate with the boys. When Jessie emerged, both the boys and the girls were as accepting as one could ever hope for, but not quite sure what to make of her or the change. Was she now one of the girls or was she still one of the boys? Funky, right?
Her social maneuvering has been interesting to watch. So, too, her struggles with appearing too masculine or, for that matter, too feminine. Her hair, which happens to have just the right amount of wave, no frizz and a beautiful color, is now past her shoulders. That, for a transgirl, is huge. (Oh, who am I kidding, her hair would be the envy of anyone: male, female, gay, straight, trans…) I am still adjusting to finding ponytail holders, bobby pins and headbands strewn throughout the house, but now I know that she feels pretty which makes it (just a little bit) less annoying.
As the mother of boys (for a while, anyway) I never focused much on building their self-esteem. As males, they seemed to come about it a bit easier than the girls so I, instead, leaned hard on the building up of behaviors aimed at molding them into good husbands and fathers. I frankly never gave much thought to them feeling attractive (they were so darned cute, though) but I knew that all that changed when Jessie moved in. I was, if you want the truth, worried about her feeling attractive, looking the part. (Pretty would be great, but I would have settled for attractive.) She, however, seems to have found her pretty which, as her mom, makes me joyful.
This weekend we will be celebrating both my niece’s Bat Mitzvah (complete with a nighttime dance party) and Harrison’s high school graduation. Jess has three new dresses hanging in wait in her closet: one for each event. She has put thought into how she will wear her hair. She has laid out the necessary accessories and promised to at least attempt to get a good night’s sleep. And, now I know, she will think she is pretty.