Best Friend Are Awesome

Fabulous has a best friend, and we’ll call her Wonderful, because that is exactly what she is.  Being spring break where we live, Wonderful’s mother and I planned on making arrangements to get them together for a play date.  Now I had asked Fabulous if he had told any of his friends how he felt on the inside, as did his mother, and he said no.  Knowing this we felt it best to let Wonderful’s mother know that Fabulous was gender fluid, and we wanted to make sure she was OK with this before getting together.

As I brought it up over the phone, she laughed, and said, “Wonderful already told me that Fabulous feels like a girl on the inside.  We were having a sleepover with a couple other little girls, and Wonderful sighed and said she wished Fabulous could be there, and it would be ok because he already felt like a girl on the inside.”

Wonderful’s mama was awesome about it, and fully supports what we are doing with Fabulous.  We talked for a good while, and I found out that the only thing that makes Wonderful mad at Fabulous is that he has used all her purple and pink crayons.  I also found out that Wonderful thinks Fabulous has his own sparkle, and I kind of have to agree with her.

The conversation left me feeling energized and excited for Fabulous.  One of the great fears I think any parent has for a child is will he/she be liked, have friends, be loved.  Add to it concerns on if Fabulous will stay gender fluid or transition to living as a girl it simply does my heart good to know that his best friend won’t stop being his friend simply because of how he identifies.  It seems as adults we can learn a thing or two from Wonderful who already loves Fabulous for what is on the inside, and the outside doesn’t matter so much.

Can’t escape gender stereotypes

So the last time I blogged I ended talking about buying Fabulous a dress, leggings, shoes, etc.  Here’s the thing…while he likes dresses, he never seems to wear them.  He loves his nightgowns, and to him those are dresses, but at this point he is satisfied to know that he has pieces in his wardrobe that are from the girl section of the store.  Be it shirts, pants, shorts, socks, etc. he doesn’t care how girly they look, or even if they are girly.  This is enough for him.

So, the day after I purchased clothes for him he refused to wear his boy jeans, and was adamant about wearing his leggings, and glitter sneakers.  Paired with an over-sized sweatshirt he went off to school as happy as could be.  The boys made fun of him, the girls loved his style, and he couldn’t care less about how the boys felt.  All his friends are girls anyways, and so their opinions were all that mattered to him.

Fabulous loves girl stuff, but his gender doesn’t define him at 6 years of age.  He is a kid, and most happy doing things that kids do.  Gender identity is something he thinks about occasionally, but it isn’t his life’s obsession.  This differs greatly from what the media loves to focus on when it comes to trans-gendered people.  Whether it be Caitlyn Jenner or Jazz Jennings, the focus is on how girly they are, or at least that is how the media tries to portray it.  I get this, and while we are all happy that it raises positive awareness for transgender/nonconforming children, it also sends mixed signals to those of us new to the game, so to speak.

Fabulous is all about fabrics, the softer the better.  Today he rocked a pair of girl’s jean shorts with belt, a pink and white striped t-shirt, and polka dot socks.  He is still content to wear boys’ underwear, and we are happy to let that continue until he insists otherwise.  Yesterday, he wore skinny jeans, a boy t-shirt, and his glitter sneakers.  He’s content to flow back and forth, and for most children under ten this seems to be the case.  We’re also fine with this, because this kid knows how to get dirty when playing outside, and to me he is a throwback to when I was a kid, when boys and girls didn’t worry about fashion, etc at the age of 6 or 7 because it wasn’t an issue for any of us.

My point is that not all women are super feminine, and so it should stand to reason that not all transgender youth would be either.  Clothes do not define us as men or women, boys or girls.  They can serve as an indicator, but most of us know our truth, and that doesn’t change when were dressed or when we’re naked.  The same goes for Fabulous, and many other kids out there.



Beginning the Journey

Just like the last two times, the conversation that would change everything began in the car when Fabulous was alone with his mom.  As she was driving, he said, “Mommy, I want to be like you.”

My wife, eyes on the road, asked him “What do you mean?”

He responded, “I want to grow my hair long like yours, wear girl clothes, be like a girl.”

She kept it together for the ride home, but her world had been rocked to the core, because this time his tone had been different, his manner in telling her had been different.  When she got home we talked, and I went into Mr. Fixit mode.  I’m a man, and a dad, so that’s my job.  The thing in there was nothing to fix, just plans to be made, and things to be done to help Fabulous be who he wanted to be, with the understanding that he would move at his own pace.

Later that night, I talked to my son.  I told him that Mommy had told me what he said in the car, and I could tell he immediately got nervous.  I also told him that it was ok, and that he could grow out his hair if he wanted to (no big deal, plenty of boys have longer hair these days).  As to the rest, I told him that Mommy and I would talk, and there might be some things we could do.  I also asked him the following question.  “Buddy, do you want want to just dress and look like a girl, or do you feel like a girl on the inside?”

His words didn’t hit me as hard as his little watering eyes when he looked up at me to answer with three words, “On the inside.”

I thought a lot that night, read a lot, watched YouTube a lot.  It seemed that my youngest was hurting on the inside.  He hid it well, but there was a nervousness, a fear…and I knew that it had to do with his mom and I.  The nervousness of telling us, and the fear of how we would react to his words.  Not now or ever, do I want my kids, either of them, to fear me for being themselves.

The next day we talked again, and told him that we would get him some girl clothes if that was what he wanted, to wear around the house.  It seemed to make him happy.  I also asked him if he thought he should have boy parts or girl parts, and without hesitation he responded with, “girl ones.”

My wife brought him home some sparkly flats, and a nightgown.  It is all he sleeps in now, and most days upon getting home from school, he puts on his new sparkly Hello Kitty flats.  The clothes and shoes seemed to have a soothing effect on him, and he seemed happier to have them.

His brother, not understanding all the fuss, even decided to try on one of the nightgowns one night, only to look at my wife in horror as soon as he looked in the mirror, and started yelling at he to get it off of him.  Curiosity satiated, my oldest is back to maintaining his almost eight year old position that girls and girl things are not to be liked.

That brings us to this week, and the definite change in Fabulous’ outlook on things.  He wanted to wear a pair of black patent leather pumps with bows to gymnastics, and I managed to talk him out of it on the grounds that they would hurt his feet after practice, but my wife brought them with to pick him up, and as soon as he walked out the door, he put them on the ground and slipped them on, happy to have them on out in the open, rather than only in the car.

The next night my wife took our eldest to soccer practice, and Fabulous and myself went out to eat, and to the mall (see first post about dress).  He picked out a summer dress, leggings, socks, and sparkly silver sneakers.  Thinking he might wear them this weekend little did we know he was about to jump in with both feet.

Ignoring the Messages

“I just bought my son a dress…and it wasn’t so bad.”  This thought went through my mind the other night as I walked out of a store at the local mall hand in hand with my 6 year old son who was beaming from ear to ear.

See, my youngest (we’ll call him Fabulous to protect his identity) has never been what people might call normal by conventional standards, but that is part of what makes him so lovable.  By the age of four his favorite color was pink, his favorite toys were what most would call “girl” toys, and his favorite shows were not the super-hero and ninja shows his older brother favored.  My wife and I talked as married couples do, and agreed that it would surprise neither of us if Fabulous ended up being gay when he was older, and if not, then we would have some great stories to pull out when the girlfriends started coming around.

Fabulous had started to give us indications that there was more to what was going on, but at the time we ignored it, or simply thought he didn’t know what he was talking about.  Around the age of four he made a comment to my wife about when he grew up he would be a girl.  We laughed it off, and didn’t say much to him, and he didn’t bring it up again for a while.  He started to linger in the traditionally girl toy aisles at stores, and finally started picking out said toys when I told him it was OK, picked up what he wanted and bought it for him..  He was a kitty for Halloween just before turning five, and his kitty was far more feminine than masculine, but still fit into that gender neutral area.  Up until five Fabulous hadn’t rocked the boat, or expressed his own identity much.  He had already learned to hide things, and to keep things to himself, but all that would begin to change shortly before the start of kindergarten.

During the months leading up to kindergarten we noticed that whenever he and his brother would play make believe that he would always play a female character, whether it be a mom, Wonder Woman, a police woman, etc…he was never a boy when playing pretend.  His favorite characters in shows were all female as well.  He also started rocking the color pink, his mom having bought him a few t-shirts in his favorite color, and finally getting him a pair of Hello Kitty Crocs, because at five years of age Fabulous fell in love with Hello Kitty.

It was at summer camp that he met with his first ridicule.  “Why are you wearing those?  Those are girl shoes!”  The boys teased him, his brother stood up for him, and when he got home we talked about the fact some boys might tease him, or make fun of him, but it was his choice what to wear.  He didn’t wear the Crocs again to summer camp that summer.

School would start, and he would begin making friends quickly.  Ever self conscious Fabulous chose to use his Paw Patrol backpack instead of his Hello Kitty one because he didn’t want to be made fun of.  He chose to be a police man for Halloween, but had mentioned wanting to be a kitty again, but this time one that was pink all over.  He also began to make friends, and another sign emerged as all his friends were girls. We also found out he was always on the girls’ team when playing games at school, and he was the only boy to do so.

Having played soccer, and not showing a real interest to continue in a team sport, he switched to gymnastics and took to it like a fish in water.  Fabulous also began to wear his pink Crocs on a regular basis at home and outside of the house.  I picked up a pair of pink shorts for him to wear at gymnastics, and they became a part of his favorite practice gear.  He also dealt with a little bullying from a couple boys at practice, but the coaches acted fast and that was put to an end.  Fabulous was a little different, and I think some of the older boys sensed it.

Around this past Thanksgiving, the girl thing came up again.  This time while riding in the car with his mom, Fabulous told her, “Mommy, when it’s just you and me, not my daddy and brother I want you to call me by a girl name, and treat me like a girl.”  My wife asked him what name he wanted to use, he told her Wonder Woman.  A little more concerned this time, I talked to him, nodded at all the right times, and then we changed nothing, and he let it go, at least from an outward perspective.

On a vacation early this year to Disney World, we began to notice how he would pose for pictures, and enviously eye little girls dressed up as princesses, or one particular girl dressed in a pink pirate costume to which he leaned in to his mom, and said enthusiastically, “I want that!”  He also picked out a pair of Disney princess sunglasses while on the trip and we were fine with that.  Again, we explained it away as his love of all things pink, and went about life as usual.

Little did we know that everything was about to change less than a month later.