Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting

The Gift of Language: Learning What it Means to Be Transgender

I will never know what it’s like to be transgender.

I’m cisgender. Meaning, I am connected to the gender that the doctor assigned to me at birth, simply by looking at my body.

That word, cisgender, wasn’t even in my vocabulary 4 years ago. I was able to learn about the word, and now I’m passing it onto you.

That’s how education works, after all. But so many people seem to have a hard time absorbing knowledge about the trans community.

I knew I was a girl from a young age. As early as I can remember.

How did I know?

Well, yes, sure, I enjoyed things that our society labels as female- dresses, dolls, the color pink, but more so, I never had a misalignment between body and mind. I felt comfortable in my skin, with my name, being called “she”, being treated as a “girl” growing up, in the ways we are accustomed to. It was just an inherently known fact to me, that I was a girl, from a young age.

My transgender son knew he was a boy in a similar manner. It was inherent to him from a young age, because gender is a concept that science has proven that we grasp from about age 4.

Everything I’ve learned so far about being transgender is largely based on my son’s experience, what he tells me, what he chooses to share with me, and what I’m able to learn from other trans people, and other parents of trans kids, who are gracious enough to educate me through different mediums.

People often ask me, “How did your child know that he was transgender at such a young age?!”, which usually is delivered with an undertone that I somehow influenced him, or encouraged him, to become trans. Impossible, since I didn’t even know what being trans truly meant and impossible because you cannot make someone trans.

I digress.

The thing is, my son didn’t have the language for how he was feeling when he was really young. He came out at age 8…because we sought guidance from a professional that helped give him the language he needed.

It baffles me when people can’t understand this, or deny that being trans is “real”. Or when some say there’s some “trans trend”, or the “we didn’t have transgender people when I was growing up!”.

It baffles me because we’ve all had something in our lives that we went through that we needed assistance to gain the knowledge and understanding about, so we knew how to make our suffering better, or cure it altogether.

Yes, my son was suffering by age 7.

He was suffocated by the rigid rules of “you’re a girl because you have a vagina and that’s that”. He was uncomfortable in his skin. He was sad, shy, and hurting, because he was so misunderstood and unheard, even by me. Societal norms are a hell of a mute button and the more I forced gender norms on him, the quieter he was, (which seems to be why many trans folks don’t come out until later in life, just soaked in that shame, lacking the language).

My son just internalized the shame. And did as he was told. As kids tend to do.

Because I didn’t get it.

I wasn’t helping him find his solution to his pain. My ignorance was stifling him.

I don’t blame myself, necessarily, because we. just tend to trudge through parenting blindly, We mostly try to do what folks view as “normal”, or raise our kids similar to how we were raised, and we don’t take off our blinders until we have to. The path of least resistance, mostly. We just want normalcy and privilege and easiness for our kids.

So many of us as parents dismiss our children’s cries for help, call it “a phase”, or “growing pains”, mostly because their struggles look different from what our experiences were, since they are, indeed, different humans. We inadvertently cause so much pain in this way.

Haven’t we all been there, though? Can’t we empathize with this feeling on some level? Can’t we reflect to a point in our lives when we were being misunderstood, dismissed, or minimized?

I can.

For me, my unheard, misunderstood piece of my being is my good friend, anxiety.

When I was 7, I started having major panic attacks, social anxiety, and separation anxiety. Only, there wasn’t a name for any of those things in 1983, especially for kids. Literally no one discussed anxiety openly, at least not in my world. My parents had no idea what was wrong with me.

There was no solid language surrounding what I was experiencing.

I felt ashamed. I felt abnormal. I felt like I was the weird kid. I felt like an outcast, even though I had friends. I had this giant secret of the internal suffering that I was experiencing. I felt like the only one with this type of suffering. I felt like no one would understand if I tried to explain it, so I didn’t.

I just dealt with it.

It was crippling and scary at times, but I just kept going through life. I just accepted that this was the way my life had to be. It felt harder than it should be, but when I was told that I just had “stomach issues” or that I was just “a bit of a nervous kid”, I assumed this was just my life.

Much like my son thought before he came out. He was told he had to carry the label of being a girl, so he did. That was just how it had to be for him since the adults in his life told him so.

I didn’t have a name for anxiety until I was in my early 20’s, after I was honest with myself about how I was feeling. I sought some help of a professional and she gave me language:

“You are living with generalized anxiety”.

“But, headaches? Fatigue? Upset stomach? That’s not anxiety”, I remember saying.

“Yes. All anxiety. And so many people have anxiety. We will figure out how you can best manage it”, she said.

And the sense of relief I had was insurmountable. Just to have a sense of what I was feeling was…normal…and ok…and common. It all made more sense to me, all of my symptoms, what my body was reacting to.

It was a starting point of tackling how to make this better.

Much like my son when he was given the language to explain how he was feeling.

For my son, to hear the language, and to have someone, a professional, who validated him, was what he needed to make sense out of how he was feeling. For my son, a name and pronoun change was his magic. He’s happy, he’s thriving, he’s well-adjusted, living a normal kid life, much happier than he was before he came out, living his best life.

And that’s how he knew he was transgender. And that’s how I then learned what this all meant for him.

It was a process of learning, like most things that aren’t widely discussed or understood. Just like I learned about my anxiety.

When I tell people that I live with anxiety, and that sometimes I have to take medication to control it, no one tells me that it’s not real. No one tells me that there’s no such thing as anxiety.

So why do people say these things to trans people? Why are their feelings invalidated constantly?

It’s important to acknowledge here that I am not comparing being transgender to having a mental illness. The parallel only exists in the “I don’t know exactly how I’m feeling and I want to make it better”, of both scenarios.

For me, anxiety is something I live with, some bad wiring, something I manage.

For my son, being trans is a piece of who he is. In both situations, it just required a little bit of knowledge about how we deviate from the “norm”. There’s nothing wrong with us, nothing needing to be fixed. Just things about us that needed to be acknowledged so we knew what to do to be a better version of ourselves.

When we evolve enough to openly speak about topics that seem obscure or rare or different, we give others empowerment to own our feelings, to validate ourselves. When we are able to define our feelings and give language to them, we then have this tremendous gift of being able to pass on knowledge, come together in solidarity.

The more we give this gift of language to others about things we don’t understand, the more awareness we’re building. The more awareness, the more we normalize things that generally carry stigmas, the more we lift one another up.

This is how this all works.

Let’s continue to give the gift of passing on definitions and education and language for our trans community. Our entire lives are based off of education and learning and raising awareness. We can do this for our trans loved ones.

It’s up to us, allies, to share the language we’ve learned with others who are uninformed. The onus isn’t on the trans community to educate. It’s on us.

We know knowledge is power.

It was a gift to learn the language I needed to understand my transgender son.

I’m passing the gift onto you.

Pass it on.

Raising a Trans Child, Ranting

Dear Jo,

Today, I’m sharing a letter that a fellow mama bear wrote to JK Rowling in response to Rowling’s raging transphobia. It was once speculated by some previous comments she’s made, now its confirmed.

(If you’re not familiar with how transphobic the billionaire author of the Harry Potter series is, please read here.)

This letter was written by this mama almost a year ago when rumors were circulating about Rowling’s transphobia. And I just thought this to be too sweet of a note not to share.

Rowling wrote her way into so many lives. She’s resonated with so many with her underlying themes of magic and “be who you are” and all of the things that we needed to hear.

Yet.

Here she is.

Excluding.

Perpetuating narratives that are a danger to our trans community.

She’s breaking hearts.

Please read sweet Georgia’s plea to Jo. I think this will hit many of you in the heart.

 *******

Dear Jo,

I hope it’s ok to call you Jo? You don’t know me, and while it’s true that I don’t know you, I’ve spent so many years in one form or another of your company that I feel a familiarity. We all know there’s an illusion of intimacy that celebrity can bring and I’m mindful of that, but I think it’s fair to say that I might know at least some things about you. That you are compassionate, that you value friendship and loyalty. That in your ideal world, we are all given a fair go, and that respect and recognition should be things that everyone has a chance to earn. That all children are deserving of unconditional, unlimited love.

People sometimes ask which three people, living or not, you would choose to have dinner with. For many years now my answer to that question has been my grandmothers, who both died when I was quite young, and you.

Unlike some of your fans, I didn’t grow up reading your books. At 43, I’m afraid I missed that boat. I discovered Harry Potter at age 23 in 2000, when I was pregnant with my first child. A friend lent me the first, and I quickly devoured the next three. I then eagerly awaited each book as it came out; I joined queues on release days and dressed my then-toddler in his cloak and wand. I spent hours speculating on forums and was sorted into my house (a proud Ravenclaw). In 2006, I saw you read at Radio City Music Hall, and it remains to this day one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I don’t give too much thought to celebrities in general, I doubt there’s a singer or actor who could elicit much of a response from me. But when you sat on the stage and read to us, I wept.

My second child was born earlier that year, betwixt Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows, and my third and fourth were born in 2009 and 2011, when these were released as movies.

So while I can’t claim that you or your books influenced my childhood, in many ways they did influence my motherhood. Partly as a refuge from study and work while jugglingpregnancies and small children, partly as a reward at the end of a long day or a quiet pleasure to indulge in during nap time. But most importantly, as a joy I was able to share with my children. These were no tedious bedtime stories, no tiresome trips to the movies as a reluctant supervisor. These were something we loved, and we loved them together. We still do. I thank you so much for that.

I suppose I need to get to the point. There’s always one of those, isn’t there? I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry I didn’t ever write before without an agenda, but these things often only happen when something strikes a certain chord, and I’ve recently felt compelled to address something important to me.

As well as a librarian, book nerd, killer of indoor plants, lover of handbags, and Harry Potter tragic, I’m mum to a transgender daughter. In many ways, your stories embrace and affirm a daughter like mine. They are filled with children who have the courage and conviction to follow their hearts, and who sometimes face great odds to live life as they know they should. They are filled with messages about bravery, equality, and hope in the face of adversity. They are filled with characters who do not always do what is easiest, but what is right.

It’s so hard for me, then, to reconcile this with recent views on transgender people. Part of me wants to give you the benefit of the doubt, that part of me that has loved, treasured, hung off every word you wrote for so many years. But yet another part of me, the part that faces and fights discrimination, hatred, and bigotry against children like my daughter almost every day, has to recognise that perhaps, for once, your words have lost their magic for me.

I know it’s of no actual consequence to you, but my first thought was “Well, that’s Jo off my fantasy dinner list. Who on earth can I replace her with?”

But I’ve had a little time to think, and I’ve changed my mind. I’d like to keep you there. My grandmothers are on this list because I’d dearly love to know them as an adult, and for them to meet my children. And I’d like you to meet my children too. I’d like you to meet my beautiful daughter, and understand her for the brave, kind, and compassionate person she is. After all you’ve taught us, I’d like to give you the chance to learn from her.

Alas, no such dinner will ever occur. There’s no resurrection stone to bring back my grandmothers, and no “Accio Jo” spell to summon you to my home. But there are other children you could learn these same lessons from. For all the joy and wisdom you’ve given me, I’d like to give one small gift of advice to you: know one transgender child and their family, and I promise that your world will be the more magical for it.

 

Always,

Georgia

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Social Media, Uncategorized

When Will We Listen to Trans People?

Isn’t it amazing how many advances we make in society?

Science, technology, research, medicine. Our world changes every single day. We are literally smarter than we were yesterday. We are evolving as we speak.

I mean, I sit here, typing on this invention called a computer and a keyboard, utilizing this invention called reading glasses for my aging eyes. We hold actual computers in our hands all day long. We can rule the world from our phones, y’all.
And just look at modern medicine. We have robots doing surgical procedures and tests that show radioactivity in our bodies and pharmaceuticals for anything and everything.

All of these advancements. All of this progression. Amazing, right?

Yet, here I am, just having finished defending transgender people, yet again, on social media. Responding to the “YOU CANNOT CHANGE YOUR GENDER WITH MEDICINE AND SURGERY”, and the “BEING TRANSGENDER ISN’T A REAL THING”, arguments.

Why is it so difficult for us to evolve socially?
How do we get so stuck in these specific ways?
Why are people so quick to pick up the new diet fad supplement that isn’t FDA approved, but condemn someone’s mere existence simply because they’re trans?
Is it religion? Fear of being wrong? Patriarchal?
What is everyone so goddamn afraid of?

Many people don’t understand why I bother engaging in these online arguments. And the answer: because allies have to.
We have to speak up more.
It’s our duty to elevate the existence of trans people.

What rocks me to my core is the hypocrisy of these folks who care so much about other people’s genitals and how others identify. This one topic, that has absolutely no bearing of their lives, that holds no weight for them, that affects them in literally zero ways, it ignites this fire in them to actively fight against and oppress and entire community of people.

All while they…

…get their hair dyed to the color of their liking.

…take medicine to cure their ailments.

…wear braces to fix their teeth.

…get Botox to fight signs of aging.

…use Viagra to get their dick up.

…surgically put silicone in the boobs to make them bigger.

…use birth control pills to prevent pregnancy or to lessen heavy periods.

…use hormone replacement therapy for menopause.

…replace their knee joint because of osteoarthritis.

I could sit here all day and list the things we do as cisgender people that “go against nature”, or doing something that “God didn’t intend”.

But, holy shit.
Someone wants to live their truth?
Someone wants to live their life in a way that makes them whole?
Someone wants to save their own life by changing their name, switching to their pronouns, maybe begin hormone therapies or have gender affirmation surgery?

Brains explode all over the place.

It defies all logic, this hypocrisy.

I will never understand why others are so overly obsessed with how people live their lives.

How many studies, reports, and medical organizations’ statements have to be released in order for people to listen to the needs of trans individuals? When will it be enough to validate their existence?

This dissonance results in such a lack of resources for the trans community, especially in more rural areas.

I cannot find a pediatrician for my son who is versed in caring for a transgender child, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics stance on the issue is clear. And by “caring for”, I simply mean the right and wrong things to say while examining my child for a sprained wrist; an office staff who have been trained on trans inclusiveness. I have to drive almost an hour for him to see a pediatric endocrinologist that has some semblance of a clue on how to care for trans kids. There is only one mental health practitioner in my county who specializes in LGBTQ+ issues.

It boggles my mind how we can be simultaneously progressed and regressed at the same time.

I’m in sales so I drive a lot, spanning about 180 mile radius. Last week, as I was driving, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of clinics in my area advertising for low testosterone/erectile dysfunction treatments. I counted 4 clinics and 4 billboards, in just one county. Just so old men can have sex.

Imagine if we treated transgender healthcare with that same respect and enthusiasm as a flaccid penis? Can you imagine the protests and backlash if there were advertisements of this sort, along the lines of “Transgender Healthcare Given Here! We Want To Help You Live Your Best Life!”…to save the lives and the emotional health of transgender people by giving them affirming care?

Flaccid penises? Can’t have that! Old men deserve sex!!!!
Emotional well being of trans people? Validate their existence and listen to them? Hard pass.

Weird parallel to draw, I know, but…problematic, skewed thinking here, isn’t it?

We are continually failing the transgender community socially and medically, therefore, emotionally. It is archaic thoughts and beliefs that continue to assault trans people. And they deserve so much more. We are a country so determined to raise mental health awareness, yet, ignore and oppress and entire community time and time again when they tell us their needs.

Progress takes time, yes. Of course. We’ve come a long way, and I’m so thankful my son was able to come out in a time when we’re talking about this more and more.

But, this work, this fight, has been going on for decades.

And here we sit, while the Supreme Court of the United States deliberates over the livelihoods of gay and trans citizens. While Obama-era protections for our trans kids are being rolled back. While the privatization of public schools is taking over, where LGBTQ+ students aren’t welcome. While teens message me everyday, telling me their parents kicked them out because they’re trans. While hate crimes are at an all time high. While trans women of color are being murdered at a disproportionate rate.

When do we listen?

When do we evolve?

When do we advance?

When do we truly evolve our minds and our hearts?

We need to get more comfortable with what makes us uncomfortable.

Be the person who looks back on your 5-year-ago self and says, “Wow. I’m so glad I’m not that person anymore. I’m so glad I evolved my thinking and challenged what I thought to be true”.

Not recognizing and validating the transgender community is as archaic as a Nokia 3310, or that believing that smoking while pregnant is healthy. The trans community desperately needs you to move on, open your minds, and see them. Their lives are depending on it.

Evolve. In all ways. You can do it.

 

 

 

 

 

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

Parents Don’t Have a Right to Know Their Child is LGBT

I’ve been a strong advocate and activist for the transgender community for only two years now, since my young son came out.

It’s been such a journey.

I went from complete ignorance about what it means to be transgender, to shouting loud and proud about what our transgender youth needs are, in a very short amount of time. It became apparent to me very quickly that LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk for emotional trauma, self-harm, suicide, bullying, assaults, homelessness, and drop-outs. The statistics don’t lie.

My son was a statistic before he came out. He was hurting. He was self-harming. At the young age of 8. Talk about a wake-up call. It was a scary time.

Trans folks suffer widely due to how society perceives them and how they’re treated, specifically how their family responds and reacts to them.

These kids need ears that listen. And they need validation. And they need to be met with compassion, understanding, and affirmation. They need protection.

Their needs are simple: basic human rights, respect and dignity.

Once I realized how simple this was, did my research, and learned, it came quite easy for me, especially to save my child’s life and ensure he’s happy. What we are afraid of, as parents of transgender kids, is all of the hate that our children face, all of the ignorance, all of the fighting.

The bigoted stay rooted in their beliefs, unwilling to learn, assuming that their way is the only way, that the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t deserve “special rights”, as they call it, and that others’ lived experiences, their own identities even, aren’t valid.

And with that comes the fight for equality.

I’m still new here, still green to advocacy and activism, still learning. Allies can only listen, learn, act, help educate- lather, rinse, repeat. So, that’s what I do.

The Role Of The School

A big piece of my advocacy has been in our local school system since my child is in elementary school.

Ensuring that trans students have the same rights as every other student has been a national discussion and progress is all over the spectrum. Gavin Grimm pioneered this discussion in the now well-known lawsuit, which was won by Grimm just last week. We are seeing more and more courts siding with our students in these cases across the United States, which is resulting in many school districts reacting by implementing some version of inclusive policies to protect trans students.

Our small, conservative area of southwest Florida is one such county district that chose to be on the right side of history with this conversation.

Last November, after local advocates fought for over two years, the battle was won. Shortly after Drew Adams’ case, (heard in Jacksonville, Florida) was settled, followed by many of us speaking out {again} at a school board meeting, our superintendent implemented the policy to allow trans students to use their name, new pronouns, as well as use the bathroom that they feel the most safe.

{Our school board meeting, November 2018. That’s me in the Free Mom Hugs shirt, trying to hold my shit together after all of the hate being spewed from my son’s classmates’ families.}

{Lots of media ensued.}

Parental Rights Are A Fallacy Within This Discussion

What dog-whistled the media most about our county’s new guidelines, outside of the ridiculous bathroom debate, was the “parental rights” discussion, as you see above. Two of our school board members honed in on how these new guidelines “strip parents of their rights”.

In the guidelines, developed by a task force comprised of students, teachers, parents, counselors, advocates, and administrators, it states that parents do not have to be notified of any discussion surrounding their child’s request at school to go by their new name and pronouns, or any LGBTQ+ information brought forth from a student to school officials.

And everyone lost their damn minds over this piece.

I continue to see and hear this argued constantly and it seems to be something widely misunderstood.

It seems as though everyone has forgotten that children are humans, independent of their parents, and they too have their own rights. Rights that are scared to them, rights that keep them safe.

Because, not all parents are accepting. Not only are they not all accepting, home can be downright dangerous for them if they were to come out as LGBT. Sometimes school is their only safe place, a place to be themselves, a place that creates a safe environment to learn.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) deemed it illegal for schools to relay such info to parents for these exact reasons. Outing an LGBT student to anyone is illegal.

Ideally, parents are creating a safe space for their kids at home in every single way, including if their kiddo comes out as gay or trans. And if parents are creating this safe space, then no one should be discussing this fallacy of parental rights because their child will trust their parents with this proprietary information. We all hope for this. We all hope for parents to be involved in these aspects of their child’s life.

But it just isn’t the case.

Because I’m a public advocate, especially on social media, I receive a lot of messages. Some filled with hate from bigots, some filled with threats, some filled with accusations of child abuse.

But, those messages don’t phase me.

The messages that gut me are the ones from trans youth:

You’re everything I wish my mom was. I’m 17 and I don’t live with or speak to my mom anymore. I had to find my chosen family and live with my friends”.

“You inspire me and you give me hope that maybe someday my parents will understand. I’m not allowed to talk about being trans in my house or my dad said he will kick me out”.

“I’m 17 and my parents don’t accept me. They’re very unsupportive and said that I can’t make this decision to change my name and pronouns, let along start hormones, until I’m 21, and that even then, I won’t be considered their child anymore”.

“I’ve attempted suicide 3 times in the past 7 months and my mom knows why. She knows its because she won’t let me out of the closet. She doesn’t care. She would rather have a dead child than a transgender one. Every time I feel like cutting or attempting suicide again, I read your message of hope”.

“Sometimes I wish I could have the confidence to actually strip down and show the extent of self-injury scares I have all over my body. It started as a habit to deal with the sheer fact that my parents wouldn’t let me be myself…”

If those messages don’t rock you to your core, I have dozens and dozens more that I could share of similar content.

These examples of rejection are why parents don’t have the right to know everything about their children.

These examples of rejection tell some of the story as to why our trans youth struggle emotionally and why they need a person to trust with their secret. Sometimes, that person, or people, are teachers, administrators, coaches, counselors, and friends at school. If my son would have come out to someone at school before he came out to me, I would have been so grateful that he had someone he trusted with that information.

They need that space. They deserve that space. To be exactly who they are. To be free. To be themselves. To be safe. To be safe while they learn.

When I see and hear parents arguing over their “rights being stripped” by these policies, I have to wonder what these parents are so afraid of?

Children aren’t property. They’re not to be thought-controlled. They’re not to be molded into what we believe they should be. They’re not to be designed by their parents. They’re their own people, their own individuals who should be free to exercise their uniqueness and show all of their colors.

So, what is this fear about?

My guess is that it’s about bigotry.
The parents that are screaming and yelling about their rights being stripped are the same ones exampled above in the heartbreaking messages I receive on the daily from their kids. They’re the ones rejecting their children, telling them they don’t know themselves, insisting that they’re something they’re not, just to make themselves comfortable in the terrible information that’s been handed down to them.

And they’re scared to learn, accept, and embrace something new. They’re afraid to face the fact that everything they’ve learned…might be…wrong.

Parental rights in relation to knowing that their child is LGBTQ do not exist. It isn’t a right to know how your child identifies.

It is a privilege. 

If you’re a parent worried about what your child tells someone other than you in relation to their gender or sexual identity, please ask yourself if you’re doing everything in your power to make sure you’re a safe haven for them. Be prepared. Arm yourself with the knowledge as if they’ll come out to you tomorrow. Unravel your biases, your hangups, and all of the outdated, archaic information that was passed down to you.

Because you never know.

And to all of the teachers, coaches, counselors, and administrators who have had a student trust you enough to come out to you, thank you for being that student’s person. Thank you for keeping them safe. They’ll never forget you.

And to every district who has adopted inclusive guidelines, or even gone a step further and incorporates LGBTQ+ information and history into your curriculum: you’re saving so many lives. Thank you for seeing and affirming our children.

LGBTQ youth are sacred. They’re everyday heroes.

And their rights matter.

 

Life Lessons, Parenting, Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

Listening Harder

Over the last few years, I’ve really tried to focus on learning about the realities of marginalized communities.

I’ve chosen my books wisely, follow people on social media with intent- people of color, black activists, authors, LGBTQ folks. I’m thirsty for knowledge on experiences that I haven’t lived, trying my best to learn how to make things better, using my privilege the best I know how.

I’ve listened harder.
I absorb more information everyday. I volunteer when I can, I donate what I can, I attend rallies when I’m able.

I try not to be one-issue focused, but of course I’m partial to advocating for trans rights because this is my son’s reality. This is his life.

It took our lived experiences to truly wake me up. (And I say “our” because my son is young and I’ve had to do a lot of advocating on his behalf.)

Of course I’ve known discrimination, racism, and bigotry have existed. But my privilege tended to always allow me to look at society through rose colored glasses. So much so that when then Black Lives Matter movement began, I was one of the ignorant white people who just didn’t get it.

I had to listen harder. I had to read stories and recounts, look at statistics, absorb. Quietly, without the “but not all white people” interjection.

I was called out on Twitter once by the amazing Bishop Swan for appropriating the BLM movement by saying women should “take a knee” in protest to Kavanaugh last year. It was a humbling experience.

I listened. I learned. I didn’t respond in defense, but with humility and willingness to do better.

I do my best to teach Dylan about real history, the history that schools refuse to teach. I do my best to not recreate the ignorance I lived in for so long.

No ally is perfect. I’m far from it. But if we are going to change society, it’s the allies that need to do the work.

As a public advocate, it can be even more tricky because I’m always concerned with stepping on toes or somehow powering over voices who matter more.

Ally-ship is a verb and it’s a constant evolution.

And what I’m receiving on this end of advocacy in response to many of my posts are messages such as “Protect ALL kids, not JUST trans kids”, or, “Oh, SO MANY kids are bullied. It’s just part of growing up”, or, “Medical care can’t be that difficult to find”, or, “You’re being dramatic”.

Similar to what folks in marginalized communities hear every.single.day, and have for decades.

Here’s some wisdom to those sit in that camp, who make negating statements:

You’re not listening hard enough.
And you’re not an ally if you’re making these statements.

You’re dismissing every trial and tribulation of marginalized people.

When you tell me, “Protect ALL kids”, you’re not hearing me. You’re not listening to trans people. You’re not doing the work.

You’re not hearing that I had to sit through 3 hours of a school board meeting where I was called a child abuser, where my child was compared to a mass shooter, where my child was called a pedophile, where people spewed their hatred, all endured just so my child could have equal access to bathrooms, so his correct name and pronouns would be used in school.

You’re not hearing that we have to drive over an hour to find a doctor who is trained in caring for trans kids, and when I say trained, I mean willing to use his name and pronouns so they can treat my kid for a cold or a sinus infection or a sprained wrist.

You’re not hearing that every move I make as a parent, whether it’s traveling for the weekend, planning a move to another city, choosing a school for my child, etc., has to be decided and executed based on the fact that my child is trans.

You’re not hearing the stats on bullying, that approximately 90% of LGBTQ kids have been assaulted or harassed in school.

You’re not hearing that my child cannot serve in our United States military for no good reason at all.

You’re not hearing that homeless trans people are now forbidden to utilize pubic shelter, and that 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ.

You’re not hearing that most medical care for trans teens isn’t covered by insurance, even though it literally saves their lives.

You’re not hearing that the majority of states in our country do not have anti discrimination laws for LGBTQ people, so the likelihood of Dylan being fired or denied housing because he’s trans is real.

You’re not hearing that 51% of trans teen boys have attempted or thought about suicide…because society treats them like shit.

You’re not understanding that your cisgender (non trans) child, does not need protection from any of these things.

You’re not listening.

And just because society is talking more about equality and trans rights, “better” does not translate into “equal”. At all.
And “better” doesn’t translate into safety or acceptance, either.

There will always be work to do as an ally. There never space for complacency or sitting idle. And there’s certainly never space for dismissive statements such as “All Lives Matter” or “Protect ALL Kids”.

Are you really listening? Are you listening as hard as you can?

Listen until you’re uncomfortable. Until you’re pushed to rethink everything you every believed. Listen to the anger, to the impatience, to the rawness, to the the exhaustion of marginalized communities.

They don’t owe you patience or kindness or an explanation of their existence or validation of their experiences.

But as a fellow human being, they’re owed equality, equal access, and safety.

Stop negating. Those rose colored glasses are lying to you everyday. And you’re believing the lies…because you can.

Listen harder.

Protect Trans Kids. I didn’t stutter.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Relationships, Uncategorized

“But Not All Christians Are This Way…”

I didn’t grow up in a diverse environment.

Going from the very white suburbs of Chicago to a very white area of southwest Florida certainly didn’t expose me to much in my young life.

When I went to college, majoring in Social Work at Florida State University in Tallahassee, that experience was really my introduction to how colorful the world can be.

The majority of my classmates were black women of color. I remember one very vivid conversation during a group project in a class called Family Dynamics. We had to discuss all of the cultural differences between the 4 of us in the group, what our traditions looked like, how our heritage brought us to our norms, etc.

One of the women of color in my group, Stacy, said, “I wasn’t allowed to play with white kids when I was growing up”… and I don’t think I had ever been more shocked.

“What?? Why??”, I begged.
“Because my mom was afraid we would get hurt or hear terrible things about ourselves!”, she patiently exclaimed.
“But…what? Not all white people are racist! I was taught to love everyone and not see color of their skin!”, I defended, {saying the thing you’re not supposed to say}.
“Vanessa. You need to learn some real history and open your eyes. Especially if you’re going to work with diverse groups of people”, she said with pity and a bit of anger in her eyes.

I shut up.

Because I didn’t know what to say. But truth be told, I was angry, and hurt, and offended. I didn’t understand how an entire race of people could be deemed as a danger or a threat. I mean, how dare their decades of oppression, slavery, and discrimination that black people experienced, {and still experience}, at the hands of white people dictate such…reverse racism! {I hope my sarcasm is noted.}

It wasn’t until many years later that I would learn that lesson. The lesson Stacy was trying to teach me that day in that class when I was 19 and unwilling to learn:

That being a true ally isn’t about me or my feelings or my reality. It is about doing for the greater good, listening to experiences, and fighting against oppressive systems every single day. Oh, and hey, I also don’t get a pat on the back for any or all of the above. It’s just the right thing to do.

I talk about how parenting a transgender child has been the greatest gift of my life. And I say that with deep meaning; it isn’t just something nice to say. He has made me a far better ally to every marginalized group, a true ally who learns something new almost everyday. I no longer have the luxury of making allyship a choice, or some hobby I pick up every now and then. I now realize it is a lifelong process.

And that is the gift he has given me. He woke me up. He taught me how to show up for people, for humanity.

My son has given me the gift of examining my white, cisgender, straight female privilege.  He has taught me how to use that privilege to fight for those who need warriors marching next to them.

{And for those not in the know, the word privilege doesn’t mean I had an easy life, it doesn’t mean I grew up wealthy, it doesn’t mean I haven’t had hardships. It means that the color of my skin, my gender identity, and my sexual orientation did not cause any of my hardships, they afforded me opportunities.}

I was well on the road to becoming a better ally before my son came out as trans simply because I wanted to grow as a human. I matured and I chose to listen and learn when people spoke to me about marginalized communities. I asked questions, I sought information, I volunteered for organizations, voted for candidates that value equality, but the real work has been within the last year or two while raising a son who will live in a marginalized community for the rest of his life.

A community that is told every single day that they don’t exist, that they’re not real, not valid, not worthy. A community where the teen attempted suicide rate is hovering around 51% because of lack of acceptance. A community where they have to live in fear because they might be murdered just because they’re who they are. A community where medical care isn’t easily accessible. A community where certain religious organizations, therefore certain religious people, have deemed them unlovable, so much so that families reject their own flesh and blood completely.

I’ve never been overly involved in organized religion. I went to church with my grandmother as a kid, I dabbled with church in my adult life, I’ve studied numerous religions on my own, but organized religion never felt good to me for reasons I won’t dive into here. But it’s safe to say that I have my own spirituality that does not include attending church. Organized religion has hurt me more than it’s helped me, personally, and now it’s hurting my son.

I’ve been on the receiving end of many a tongue lashings from numerous Christians over this past year.

I’ve been disowned by family members in the name of religion.
I’ve been sent hate mail to my home address by strangers citing Bible verses from Christian journals.
I withstood 2 hours of a school board meeting where I listened to people that I know, parents and grandparents of children that my child goes to school with, call me a child abuser and compare my child to a school shooter, all while citing the Bible.
I’ve received countless messages and emails telling me I’m going to hell and so is my child.
I’ve been told that my son would be better off if I died so he has a “chance to go to heaven”.
I’ve had face to face conversations with strangers who have told me my child is mentally ill and that him and I are going to hell.

This is all in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. This is my reality.

And If I’m hearing this as a mother of a transgender child, just imagine what trans people are hearing every.single.day.of.their.lives.

Just imagine the invalidation. Only, you can’t imagine. Because you’re not living it. But I implore you to try. Try to visualize what that would look like, to have religion used against your being, against your very existence.

I have too many stories to count where religion has been used as a weapon.

When I share these stories on social media, I receive messages now and then from friends who say, “I hope you realize that not all Christians are this way”.

Yes. I know. I understand.
And I know these messages are well intended.

But you must understand that religion has been what’s harmed the LGBTQ community the most. It is why so many people are broken. It is why 41% of homeless youth are LGBTQ. It is why our kids are swallowing bullets, taking their own lives, because they are told that they’re not loved or seen in the eyes of God.

Just because you aren’t one of the “bad Christians” doesn’t mean this isn’t true.

I know many Christians who love my son and who love me. I know they do. And I know there are so many Christians who are true allies. I know many Christians with LGBTQ kids and I also know many pastors that are in the LGBTQ community themselves!

I’m so glad you put feet to your faith. You live it and don’t just say it. I believe you’re doing exactly what Jesus would want you to do.

And no one is asking you to defend Christianity. It’s your faith and yours alone.

But until our trans kids stop killing themselves because of rejection, what we are all doing as allies is not enough.

So, my ask is this- instead of messaging me that good Christians exist, just be that good Christian everyday. Don’t show me, show my son. Don’t be a closeted ally…because that’s not how allyship works. Show him by being a true ally, whether you’re Christian or Jewish or Atheist or Catholic or Buddhist or whatever.

Ask if your church is affirming, and when I say affirming, I mean they love and accept the LGBTQ community and recognize that these humans are born this way.
Call people out on their transphobic, homophobic bullshit.
Call people out on transphobic and homophobic “jokes”.
Open conversations about trans people, bring some education and data and research and medical facts to the table.
Seek information. Research. Read. Follow people on social media that are influencers in marginalized communities.
Speak up.

Additionally, as allies, we cannot make anything about us. We will hear truths that will make us uncomfortable. We will. And we will want to defend ourselves. But nothing is learned when we say things such as, “I’m sorry that happened to you BUT I don’t do that, blah blah blah”.
Get rid of that “But, I“. Stop it.

Instead, try, “I’m sorry that happened to you. What can I do to help make a difference?”

And as allies, we will screw up. I certainly have {even recently} and I will again. But we have to be committed to learning. Every fucking day.

Show. Up. For all marginalized communities. Show the fuck up.

Open your mind to the possibility that there’s more to life than your reality. And that although you don’t believe you’re doing anything harmful, there’s always something else you can be doing to be helpful.

Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

In This Climate of Attempted Erasure: Parenting a Trans Child

I’ve had such a difficult time finding my words within this past week. But I need to do some processing here.

Last Monday, I woke up to the news of the Trump administration’s attempt to erase trans people out of existence. 

Like many parents of trans kids, I felt as though I was living in an alternate universe when the news went viral. This couldn’t possibly be real. This couldn’t possibly be something that could materialize. These are our kids, our flesh and blood, that we are already fighting like hell to be seen and acknowledged and affirmed.

This made it heavier.

I’ve sat through the past 18 months with my mouth agape, unable to truly accept what this administration has managed to rollback not only for the trans community but across the political, lawful board. Nothing ceases to amaze me these days.

Yet, I had to work pretty hard to wrap my mind around the reality that yes, this might certainly happen. That my child’s whole life might have just become a hell of a lot more challenging.

As if the trans community needed this on their shoulders. As if their life isn’t already a warrior march.

This redefining of gender, as they aim to do which would be based on genitalia only, would limit my son’s entire life, no exaggeration. It would require him to live his life as female, as assigned at birth, completely undermining the scientific advancements, the medical bodies affirming this community, the insurmountable research that’s been collected in support of this community, and then most obvious – that trans people simply know who they are.

Several policy rollbacks for the trans community had already been implemented since Trump has been president.  But this move is bold. And it’s inhumane. And its void of any compassion, to say the least.

And its frightening.

There are an estimated 2 million transgender Americans. And they are being told they aren’t real, that their lived experiences aren’t viable.

And here I sit looking at my child, talking with him, living with him, raising him to the best of my ability, seeing him through so many challenges already…he couldn’t be any more real, tangible, worthy, and valid.

Yet, here we are. It’s surreal.
I’m not sure what happened to empathetic, rational beings. Do they even exist in this climate?

And in the same week that this federal news floated down, our local school board did something amazing and finally set forth guidelines to support our trans kiddos. A battle that been fought for well over a year in our district.

This was a big win.

However.
The backlash has been overwhelming. An entire community of parents are largely digging their heels in, protesting and fighting to rescind the new guidelines. Because BATHROOMS. And because of the constant irrational, illogical vilification of trans people.

And because I’m a public advocate (that’s me in that news link above), I’ve fielded an unfathomable amount of hate.

I’ve been told by local people that:
My child is mentally ill.
My child would be better off if I were dead.
Trans kids should be completely segregated.
“Normal kids” shouldn’t be around or exposed to my child.

Amongst other vile things.

The response has been far more terrible than that of anything community advocates have ever seen. Citizens are more concerned about this than issues that are far more problematic such as school shootings, forced testing, budget woes, or anything else related to our public schools. Even though our trans kids do not pose any threat whatsoever, that they are the ones at risk. And that’s based on facts that are being widely ignored.

Yet, here we are. It’s surreal.

It’s exhausting. It’s defeating. It’s lonely. It’s scary. It’s isolating.
And that fight-or-flight response in the depths of my being is palpable.

I’ve considered Canada. I’ve considered Costa Rica. Both countries protect and affirm my child far more than this “Land of the Free”.

But then I take a breath and I look around.
I look at so many amazing trans friends that we’ve made. I look at all of these beautiful lives. These beautiful faces. These souls that simply cannot be erased. These souls that need our advocacy, need our activism, need our voices, need allies standing next to them on the front lines.

Parenting a transgender child in this climate of attempted erasure feels like we are on the brink of an all out mutiny. It feels like the dog whistle for social justice warriors, for additional allies, is loud and permeable, leaking into the universe for the most giant call to action.

It feels like equality is never found riding in the center of neutrality.
And we must march far off course to rally and assert the need for justice.

It feels like resistance rising.

This is my child. This is my whole world whose life is being threatened.
This feels like the fight of my life.

And I will remain in this fight not only for my son, but for those who have lost their lives to suicide because they weren’t accepted, for those who struggle everyday to been heard, to be seen, for those who are in the closet, for those living loud, for those who can’t fight, for those who are afraid, for those with no other support, and for those who aren’t even born yet.

This administration has completely underestimated the resilience of this entire community.

Erasure is quite literally impossible.

Parenting, Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting

Why Parents of Trans Kids Are A Special Kind of Tired

Yes. All parents walking the earth are tired.

We are all absolutely in solidarity with that fact.

We could all use about a week on a deserted island without any children, technology, or responsibilities of any kind.

But I feel the need to tell you about the special kind of tired that parents of transgender kids are experiencing.

It’s different than most versions of tired.

And this isn’t to “one-up”. And this certainly isn’t to take away from an LGBTQIA child themselves, their own struggles and hardships. This isn’t to take away from, or distract from… anyone.

This isn’t a competition.

This is just to simply explain and shed light on how we’re feeling, since it’s of my belief that we, the parents of trans youth, are living in our own marginalized community.

Unless we happen to live in some uber progressive area, we are all acutely aware of the discrimination that the trans community faces. We see it everyday, especially on social media. We hear it on the news, we see how the current administration is rolling back Obama-era LGBTQIA protections.

Or maybe we all aren’t as aware as I hope we are. Maybe that’s utopian of me. Because it doesn’t matter to most if it’s not personal, if it doesn’t hit your heart.

I’m not sure.

I digress.

Although the conversation about trans folks is seemingly becoming more expansive, even a bit more accepted amongst the general public, (especially with headlines such as the American Academy of Pediatrics recent policy statement on how to care for trans youth best is by affirming them), we still have such a long way to go overall.

And who is leading the fight for trans youth?

Parents. {Mostly. But not ever to slight or dishonor our trans warriors themselves.}

And it is indeed a fight.

The pioneer parents in this fight have been visibly on the scene for less than a decade. True publicity and awareness for trans youth has really only been discussed for the last 3-5 years. And amazing strides have been made in many ways.

I, myself, just joined the fight within the last 9 months.

And I. Am. Tired.

In the short amount of time I’ve been on a mama bear, warrior path, yes, I’m a special kind of tired.

Because we are the advocates, the fierce allies, the public speakers, the meeting schedulers, the school board meeting attendees, the researchers, the therapist seekers, the medical professional seekers.

We are the ones out in front of our kids with swords and shields, fighting like hell for equality and basic human rights.

We are fighting for our kids to be heard. To be seen. To be viewed the same as every other child.

We are fighting for policy changes, locally and globally.

We are fighting for bullying protections, for bathroom spaces, for name changes, for gender marker revisions, for medical care.

We are thinking about our children nonstop while they’re at school, wondering if others are being kind, if the correct name and pronouns are being used, if teachers are abiding by our requests, if our kids are being bullied, assaulted, chastised, outcasted.

We are wiping our kids’ tears for far different reasons than that of any other parents, fielding emotional meltdowns, especially when dysphoria hits our kids, when they loathe their bodies, when they’re frustrated.

We are navigating emotional issues when their peers reject them, when they can’t find jobs, when they can’t participate in sports with the rest of their cisgender peers, when others refuse to use their chosen name or intentionally misgender them, when adults harass them, when people tell them God hates them and they’re going to hell. When their classmates tell them they should kill themselves.

We are running to doctors to treat urinary tract infections because they held their pee all day so they didn’t have to use the bathroom in which they feel unsafe.

We are sometimes not even the biological parents fighting this fight. We are the amazingly unselfish, loving adoptive parents, accepting and affirming someone else’s child who was rejected by their own family, by their own blood. Just for living their truth.

All the while, we are simultaneously defending ourselves from hate.

We are falsely accused of pushing agendas, of having some sort of “liberal” brainwashing scheme that we are somehow instilling in our children and poisoning every other child within a 100 mile radius.

We are falsely accused of administering hormones and “mutilating” our children at the young ages of 7, 8, 9, and 10.

We are falsely accused of being crazy, of making our children mentally ill, of abusing our children, of allowing them to be transgender.

We are told we are wrong.

We are told that our children are confused, sick, misguided.

We are fighting false claims coming from anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups, Christian extremists, politicians, none of whom base their claims on facts or research. We fight the ignorance and dismissiveness of the general public.

We are the educators, the question fielders, the soundboards.

We are losing friends and families, fighting battles that our children might know nothing about.

We are fighting online trolls, personal attacks, worrying about safety for our families, especially since trans women are being murdered at alarming rates.

We are also having to pack away the child we thought we birthed, the assigned gender of our child, the hopes and dreams we had tied up in that little human. Some of us are even grieving a loss of sorts that’s very difficult for others to understand. We are grappling, struggling to understand what’s happening, how our child is feeling, how best to help them.

We are putting old pictures away that are hurtful to our kids, literally packing away our memories, careful to not use their birth name, vigilant about using the correct pronouns even though it might feel profoundly unnatural to us.

We are doing an unbelievable amount of emotional work.

And we are tired.

Because none of this is for us. This isn’t about us.

Because when we have children, nothing is about us, our needs, our wants.

Because this is about loving fiercely, loving unconditionally, and loving unapologetically.

Because this is about paving the very best path for our children that we possibly can, leading with love and acceptance, working with what we’re given in our hate-filled society.

Because that’s what makes our tired a different kind of tired: our tired involves fighting hate, discrimination, prejudice, erasure, and bigotry.

Unfounded, unacceptable, misaligned hate is pervasive in our lives. Just because our kids are trying to live their lives as who they really are, without hurting anyone or interfering with anyone else’s life.

They just want to live. And we just want them to live.

This isn’t an attention grab. This isn’t a post for accolades. This isn’t for praise.

This is for knowledge sake.

This is for awareness.

Because we are tired.

And we just want our kids to be able to have the same rights, the same opportunities, as every other human.

And we won’t rest until that’s real.

———————–

Edit: I had no idea this post would resonate with so many and make it around the internet. Thank you for reading.

I’ve upset some wonderful people and I’m so sorry if you’re one of them. Please click here if you’re a trans teen.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

Gender Best Guess Parties

I hate gender reveal parties.

There. I said it.

I’m not aiming to change thoughts on these parties, because, at the end of the day, you do you, but just hear me out.

Around 2010-2011-ish, a year or two after I birthed my child, these gender reveal parties started popping up everywhere.

And I was so confused.

I mean, I saw couples go all out for these events. Fireworks, and smoke, and balloons, and surprise cake filling, all filled with the color that supposedly suggests the sex of the baby. Sometimes, like, super over the top shit goes down at these parties. This is a big deal for a whole lot of people these days. Over the past decade, this trend has grown into a full fledged expectation before birthing the child.

But. What’s the purpose?

When these parties surfaced, I wasn’t some warrior on a path to dissolve the gender construct, because it was before my kiddo came out as trans, therefore before I put much thought to gender roles, and it wasn’t because I’m a feminist who thought them to be inappropriate since they perpetuate the gender bias and ultimately the patriarchy.

I just simply thought they were silly.

Aside from feeling that they’re a bit lavish since baby showers are where we’ve historically celebrated the impending arrival, it quickly occurred to me that these parties are literally celebrating genitals.

And that’s weird.

It’s a very uncomfortable concept for a party. I don’t understand why so many people have gotten behind the hype.

As expecting parents, typically, many of us can’t wait for that 20-week big ultrasound, for the tech to exclaim “It’s a boy/girl!”. And they do that solely by looking at…genitals. So, these parties feel a lot like, “Hey, come and guess what kind of genitalia my baby has!!”. You might as well have penis or vagina shaped cookies on the table, too.

Ew.

And I know some are pushing back, arguing that it’s a celebration of the gender itself, right? But is it? And if so, why?

Turns out, for me, I became the mom of a transgender son. I was one of the thousands who thought that I had birthed a gender, a girl in my case, one that would love to go shopping with me, love to braid her hair, share make-up and maybe love gymnastics or cheerleading… only to be oh so very wrong. I had the nursery painted purple, donned my child in all pink at his first birthday, complete with a tutu and headband, tried to shove him into that gender conforming box.

And he would have none of it.

As soon as he could assert his opinions and his choices, around the age of 2-4, he was all boy. For him, his gender identity didn’t match his genitals. And that does happen more than you probably realize. So, it would have been a complete waste of good pink unicorn poop shooting out of a cannon, had I celebrated that way.

Not to mention that one out of every 1500 babies are born intersex, meaning with some form of both genitalia. And this shouldn’t be shamed by celebrating some archaic form of gender roles based on what’s in a child’s pants.

It’s weird.

But aside from that, what I’ve learned is that gender is nothing more than a social construct. If you don’t believe me, dig into history and read up on how gender roles have changed over time, how that up until the 1920’s, little boys wore dresses and kept long hair until they were between the ages of 6-8. That these pink and blue boxes that we all like to put almost everything in life into didn’t really surface until the last century. Girls like pink, and make-up, and princesses. And boys like dirt, and sports, and trucks. That’s what we’ve been groomed to believe in modern day society.

It seems narrow to celebrate these gender roles and societal norms for girls and boys. Especially since you have no idea what your child will gravitate towards and what they’re going to capable of. It might not fit into the box that you’re hoping for.

And if you’re saying “No, no, no! My child can like whatever they want! My girl can love sports and the color blue and my son can dance if he wants!”…then what on earth are we celebrating at a gender reveal party if that were true?

And here’s my final thought: Oftentimes, we hear “I don’t care what the gender is, as long as they’re healthy”, and if we mean that, why have a party to reveal the gender? What significance does it truly hold? I can’t think of anything worthy or reasonable to answer those questions.

I’m looking for answers here: what are these parties about? Please answer that for yourself if you’ve bought into them. What ideology are we perpetuating with them?

I’m all for a good, fun party, for sure, but this is one party theme that has always made me scratch my head, even before I knew my son was trans.

When I’m scrolling my feed and I see pictures or videos of pink or blue sky writings announcing the sex of babies, I have relabeled them as “Gender Best Guess Parties” in my head.

And then I imagine a rainbow of colors shooting out of that firework, or oozing out of that cupcake.

Because our kids are so much more than just pink or blue.

Let them be fluid. Let them be colorful.

Why not let them teach you if they’re pink or blue or somewhere in between?

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Social Media

The Bullies Have Arrived. And I’m Ready To Use My Words.

My daughter was bullied for the first time two weeks ago.

Unfortunately , I’m not surprised. But that doesn’t mean it hurts any less as a mom.

When you’re a little girl that appears to be a boy, when you don’t fit into a perfect little societal norm box in this hateful world, bullies will find you.

She was on a play date in a different neighborhood. Her and her friends went to the community’s playground and met two boys around the ages of 10-12.

All started out well and fine, they all played together, until they didn’t.

The two boys began picking on my daughter, before even knowing she was a girl, making fun of her clothes, her shoes, her hair. When she corrected one of them for calling her an “ugly boy”, telling them she was a girl, they then called her a “tranny”, a freak, a fag, and gay. None of such terms were even understood by my child. Because she’s 8 and ignorant to such slurs and hatred.

She handled it well enough. She talked it out with me when I picked her up. She asked a lot of questions about the words they used and just seemed overall confused, but not overly sad.

She is the type to stuff emotions a little bit so I’m not sure the validity to her dismissive attitude but I was proud of her strength. We keep open communication about the incident and I made sure to tell her that these boys were just mean because they didn’t understand her and that they must have felt bad and ugly inside to do that to someone else, to which she responded well.

As for me? I didn’t handle it quite as gracefully.

I was so sad. I am so sad.

This is a tough pill to swallow for a parent. This bullying epidemic is some scary shit, especially when you bring the notion of social media into the conversation. It’s fucking terrifying.

I analyzed the incident for days. And by analyzed , I mean obsessed over it. And by obsessed over it, I mean I lost sleep, I cried and I thought about running away with my child somewhere it feels safer than this. Anywhere that posed promise for more open mindedness.

Because I know this won’t be the last bullying incident. I knew this was coming and it was the day I dreaded for years.

When my daughter’s gender identity adventures began at a very young age, of course I was hoping it was a phase. Of course I was.

Who would want their child to have a more difficult life? Who would want their child to be different, to stand out, to struggle? No one. Absolutely not one parent on the face of the earth.

But alas, she continued to express herself in the same patterns: “boy” toys, “boy” clothes, “boy” haircut, all with a bit of a masculine nuance to her mannerisms since age 4.

I’ve never labeled her transgender, as I’ve written and talked about publicly. Let me be clear here and interject- I would label her transgender, and let her socially transition, if she asserted herself that way, if she affirmed that in her heart she feels like a boy, if she ever went into depression or anxiety over it, or if she attempted suicide over it as many young children do when they’re trans. Because I now know that being trans a science based fact, because I’ve done my research, because I know families that have had a suicidal 7 year old because their brain doesn’t match their genitalia.

But thus far, that hasn’t been the case. We keep an open dialogue and yes, she sees someone that specializes in gender issues. Because it’s confusing as fuck, for her and more so for me. This is not a made up thing.

So, for now, she’s a girl with a very feminine name who looks like a boy and confuses so many strangers.

Which is where the bullies will continue to dive in. Because they’re afraid. Because whether you’re a child, a teen, a young adult, or full grown, fear breeds ignorance and ignorance breeds terrible behavior, as we have all been privileged to witnessing.

People are afraid of things and issues and other people that they don’t understand. They’re afraid and they react out of that fear. And the bullies aren’t taught to filter that out by their parents. Ignorance is perpetuated in their homes, it’s learned behavior. And that behavior translates into hatefulness. Just look around social media. Adults are the absolute worst offenders.

People ask me all of the time. “why do you write about this? Why do you put this information out to the universe to get scrutinized?”.

And all of this analysis of this first bullying incident solidified my answer- to preach the word of kindness. To maybe, just maybe, educate one person on what it is that makes my child different. To advocate for all differences.

I posted a little blurb about this incident on my personal Facebook page, trying to spread a message of kindness and teaching children to not say anything if they don’t have anything nice to say.

I received a private message from a person I knew from high school who stated that I set my child up for this bullying, that this is my fault, because I “let her dress like a boy”. To which I replied, I simply will not shove my child’s wants and needs aside, force her into a box, for the comfort of everyone else. No way. That would certainly make it better for everyone else wouldn’t it? But that is not allowing my child room to be who she is. That is not setting her up on a solid foundation.

She is who she is.

And that’s why I write.

For her.

To create a better world for her the only way I know how.

And to those that believe writing about this topic is over exposing her- that’s a fair concern but listen, she will grow up knowing her mother is a fighter for equality. And I hope that makes her proud. I will absolutely stop writing about this the moment she asks me to.

But in the meantime, I will fight for a better place for her to exist just how she is. Her authentic self. I will use my writing as a super power of education and plea for kindness.

And hope for a day where acceptance is commonplace and bullies have no place in the world.

A mama can hope. A mama will fight.