I am super stoked! Two amazing moments have come up directly because I decided to be visible when Rachel came out. I’ve always said that if I can just help one person or if I can change just one opinion then I am making a difference and being visible is worth it. I know that my position as an open and affirming parent is not always a popular position. I understand that by openly talking about Rachel and talking about being an advocate for the LGBT could and often does ostracize myself. We have to live with the effects of our decisions and I am willing to take the bad with the good. When good things happen they are amazing, no matter how little. When bad things happen, instead of looking at them as bad, I look at them as missed opportunities to provide teachable moments. At least I tried. I won’t ever have to look back and wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t.
First and foremost, I started a new job this week! YEAH! This leads me to the first amazing moment(s) this week.
So, day one of my new job- where are the bathrooms? I’m told they are down the hall. So down the hall I go and I see the tried and true on the wall next to the door. Anticipating the standard single stall toilet associated with said sign, I walked in and was surprised to see two fully enclosed stalls with doors and one sink. WHAT?! Do my eyes forsake me? Did I just walk into a utopia? Is there a unicorn in one of those stalls? I casually ask about the bathroom on break to one of my new coworkers : So, I noticed that the bathroom on our floor is gender neutral… Yep, says my new co-worker. All staff bathrooms on all three floors are that way. Some people are a little uncomfortable about it, but you get used to it.
You get used to it… mind blown!
My heart is singing HALLELUJAH! My desire to help write a public policy making single stall bathrooms into gender neutral spaces is not only an achievable goal but here is in practice the concept of gender neutral bathrooms. It can be done successfully.
Later that day, I am asked to introduce myself and tell everyone something unique about myself to a room of about forty new co-workers– Hi, my youngest child is transgender.
The next day– a supervisor approached me, “Do you really have a transgender child?” Yes! She’s 7 “You know, we’ve been getting more clients who are transgender and personally, I would like to know more about how to be sensitive and respectful to these clients– maybe this spring, would you be interested in doing a training class? I don’t want to put you on the spot or anything.” That sounds like an amazing idea! I’d be happy to. I’m actually an advocate in the community. You know a real quick take away– when you are meeting with a client start by asking them their prefered pronouns and what gender they identify as instead of just assuming visually. (we are doing social service stuff so gender comes up all the time) “You mean you can just ask? That’s not offensive?” Nope, it’s actually respectful. If you get into the habit of asking everyone, you won’t feel weird. People who aren’t transgender will look at you a little funny, but when you have a trans or genderqueer client they will feel empowered. Remember, sometimes their documentation will not always lineup with how they visually present. “Wow, I’ll have to try to incorporate that; huh, just ask what is your prefered pronoun and gender; that’s an easy question.”
WOW– You’re right, it really is that easy. I was so impressed with the way that conversation went. If I hadn’t shared that I’m raising a trans child to that room of forty people, that conversation wouldn’t have occurred. I was unknowingly creating a teachable moment. A supervisor none the less! They have the authority to ask the staff they oversee to do the same thing, causing a ripple effect.
Today was the another one of those amazing moments. I had a teacher come up to me today at the kid’s school and asked me if I would be willing to talk to a parent and help them with some support and networking. She said that she felt confident that I would be the perfect resource in the school’s community to start a dialog with this parent. I guess the parent heard about Rachel and the advocacy work I’ve been doing and has been trying to connect with me. Being protective of my confidentiality, the school couldn’t give the parent my phone number (even though they did ask) so the parent tried asking the school to give me theirs’. Which is what initiated the conversation– would I be okay with talking to this parent?
The parent in question has an older elementary aged child who has consistently, persistently and insistently been questioning their gender identity for some time now. The parent is scared and confused but wants to support their child and wants to know what to do.
YES!!! ABSOLUTELY!!! Please tell them I’d love to talk to them!!!
I will admit that when Rachel first came out I was scared too about what the future looked like. I was confused too on what it was my child was saying. It’s actually a little ironic that I am now raising a trans child. Looking back at my friends I had in high school; especially the guys, I would say that about 90% of them identify as LGB as adults. I’ve always considered myself an ally of the LGBT community; even as a teenager. Where they irony comes into play is I had no clue what T stood for, I’d never knowingly known a trans person yet here I am raising a trans child. I went from being just an ally to something so much more.
When your child is questioning their gender and or sexuality it is perfectly natural to be scared and confused. The cornerstone for trans youth is consistent, persistent and insistent.
Transgender children typically consistently, persistently, and insistently express a cross-gender identity and feel that their gender is different from their assigned sex. They may begin talking about their gender as soon as they begin to speak and some may express dissatisfaction with their genitals. Transgender children are more likely to experience gender dysphoria (i.e., discomfort related to their bodies not matching their internal sense of gender) then gender diverse children, although some transgender children are comfortable with their bodies. Transgender children may state that they are really the other gender, or that someone (e.g., the doctor or a religious authority) made a mistake in their gender assignment.
Whether a child is transgender or gender diverse may not be readily apparent. Transgender and gender diverse children may exhibit similar preferences, may both desire to have another gender than the one they were assigned and may draw themselves as another gender in self portraits.
A consistent, persistent and insistent sense of being the other gender and some degree of gender dysphoria are unique characteristics of transgender children. Although there is more recent awareness of gender diverse and transgender children in our society today, these children are not part of a “new” phenomenon. Cross-gender behavior has existed throughout history in every continent and within a wide range of cultures for thousands of years.