This is our gender fluid experience. Fabulous will readily tell you whether happy or sad that his girl heart and his boy heart are always fighting. On a particularly bad day, he first shared that his “boy heart is bullying his girl heart and won’t stop.” This is what it is like to be him on an everyday basis, and yet he finds a way to get through most days happy and exuberant about life. I’d like to think part of his outlook on life has to do with they way his mother, brother, and myself support and love him. In the home he can be whoever he wants to be. Sundays when many go to church, Fabulous usually has a “girl day” where he slips into a dress and asks us to use female pronouns. Sometimes, he seems a little happier, always a little sassier, and there are times he seems a little more confrontational, especially with his mom.
Mondays begin the school week, and walking along the cliff’s edge of the line between boy and girl. He will quickly tell you that he is part boy and part girl, but if he could choose it would be all girl. He doesn’t understand yet, or isn’t ready to take the step towards saying “I am a girl.” Instead, he still says, “I want to be a girl.” However, I can see that the urgency is growing, but I also think there are some “boy” things he isn’t ready to let go of, and that he will not be able to keep once he decides to step over the transition line.
He is a competitive gymnast, and is quite good for his age. Most questions you ask him will favor the feminine or girl side of him, but if asked about gymnastics he will say that he wants to do boy’s gymnastics, because he loves it. He already spends nine hours practicing a week, and would practice more if he could. I don’t know if the thought of doing girl’s gymnastics has crossed his mind, but he does understand the apparatus are different, and that he still has a boy’s body. See, even though we’ve discussed girls who were born boys, and even though we’ve read “I am Jazz,” and watched videos, he still thinks one day he will just wake up and be a girl.
There are mixed schools of thought in regards to what we share with our children. There are parents who share everything early on, and for some kids they might understand some of it, but probably not all of it. We choose to share with Fabulous what we think he needs to know. He’s a little kid, and legal issues, etc. hold no interest for him, nor should they. We prefer to let him dictate what he needs to keep him happy. A doctor friend of mine used a well known phrase that says:
“Do the least amount you can to alleviate distress”
To date this has worked well for him. When he expresses a desire for something that would ease his heart, we meet that desire. However, there are some things we are powerless to fix, and other events that we can only react to after the fact. The first two months of school saw him bullied by boys who thought his fairly gender neutral kitten backpack was too girly…never mind his girl tennis shoes and socks. Mom witnessed one incident of the boys yelling at him that he had a “girl backpack, and so he must be a girl.” The adults with the boy just stared and did nothing. Fabulous held his head high like he had no fucks to give and kept walking. Mom addressed it with the principal and the bullying stopped in after school. One month later we found out it never stopped, but simply continued in school, until it culminated with the boys cornering him in the bathroom with all of them taking turns slapping his arm as he tried to exit the bathroom. This time when the principal found out she went ballistic, making all the boys apologize, and then calling their parents to inform them what their sons had done. Their parents, thankfully, were horrified and in the time that has passed since, the boys have been far better with one even having eaten lunch with Fabulous. This is the life of a gender fluid boy. He doesn’t fit in with the boys, and yet he doesn’t fully fit in with the girls.
So what about the girls? They’ve been great. His best friends, really his only friends are all girls. He has a posse of three, with Wonderful still his best friend. They keep him in a safe zone, complement his clothes, and treat him mostly as one of them. He even had a sleepover at Wonderful’s house with another little girl, but that even ended badly because the morning saw him reminded that he wasn’t a girl, and so he lashed out at his friends who were. Luckily, being his best friends they forgave him, and things have moved on. Before that event, only his brother, mother, and myself have felt the sting of that lash, which means he feels really close to Wonderful, and is a complement to her love of him.
What my son has taught me so far:
There are people who say parents push this on their kids, or it’s a phase, or they’re choosing to be this way and can snap out of it. Perhaps if you read this, you’ve dealt with those comments from friends, family, or strangers. When I hear this, I think of my son, and the daily struggle within. There is no way in hell he would choose to be this way, to feel his heart is constantly at war with itself. As a three year old he picked toys his brother liked, because he was a boy and his brother was his image of what a little boy was. It took me telling him to get what he wanted, and then buying it for him to open the flood gate of girl toys that we have bought for him since then. It’s been this way for every step he has taken, always worried what others will think, or if his next choice will make his mom or me love him a little less. It breaks my heart, brings me to tears thinking of how hard it must be to be him, and yet through it all he marches to his own beat, and finds joy in the world around him.
If you have a child, a grandson, or a friend who is going through this, then know that the greatest thing you can do is to love them and listen to them. You aren’t going through what they are, and you don’t have to live their life. If you struggle to understand or accept then you need to ask yourself, “What are you afraid of? Embarrassment?” What are you embarrassed of? Were they rude? Disrespectful? Did they insult someone? If all they’re doing is living their truth then you should be embarrassed of yourself, not them. Life is hard enough without making up shit to be embarrassed about.
Some parents say they decided to accept their child because they could either have a “dead son, or a living daughter.” While I understand the sentiment, this isn’t why I accept and cheer on Fabulous. I push for him and cheer him on, because like any good parent…I want him to be happy. Mom and I hope that if we do our job right that we can minimize depression, and give him the confidence to hold his head high as he moves forward in life.
In closing, I can say that it would certainly be easier if tomorrow he decided he was all boy or all girl, because we could better game plan our next steps, but that wouldn’t be his truth. As parents, the hardest thing for many to accept is that, it isn’t about you. It isn’t about making them adhere to what you want, or to be their best friend. You are their parent. You’re job is to love them unconditionally, teach them about life, and how to be independent adults when they grow up. If you can do that, then you’ve done your job. Mom and I do our best, and while doing that we love the shit out of both of our boys.
Next Blog Post:
Is this a teaser? Sort of…Actually, I have a great idea for a post, and this will serve to remind me when I go to write it. Next post, I’ll talk about extended family…how the grandparents, aunts and uncles who are in the know have handled it so far, and navigating the questions that come from older generations who want to understand but struggle to do so. BTW, Fabulous has received nothing but love and affection from all who have been clued in to his fabulous ways.