We bought Fab a dream catcher tonight, to chase away the nightmares that seem to plague her sleep almost every night. This is a side to her transition that I haven’t really touched upon, but it something that I’ve come to understand many transgender kids suffer from. That is not to say that they have nightmares every night, but rather it is the subject of Fab’s dreams that she has in common with many kids like herself.
Fab’s nightmares center around her family being killed, and in violent ways, but isn’t them dying that makes her dreams nightmares, rather it is that with our deaths she will be left alone. Loneliness, the fear of being alone is what has had her sleeping on the floor of our bedroom for the past two weeks. She is still adjusting to her new normal, and with it she is coming to grips with her place in the world, and how navigate within it.
Loneliness isn’t just about losing people that love her, but also the loneliness of feeling different, solitary, or unique. Pick your adjective, it really doesn’t matter, she knows she is different from all the other kids she knows, and it is something we know she thinks about. We have told her that she isn’t the only little girl like herself, and that there are others. We have already planned a meetup with other families that have daughters like Fab, but still in the concrete world of a seven year old, she won’t truly believe it until she sees it.
Yesterday we tried to tell her she needed to go back to her room, and try to sleep. We try to keep it real with her and her brother. We want them to be independent, take no prisoner adults who attack the world as they go out to face it. To us, this is the greatest gift we could give to both of them, and in some ways she already possesses this attitude. In other ways, she is still just a little girl. The little girl told us that she needed to sleep with us until we found someone to talk to her about her nightmares, and she did it without missing a beat. We hadn’t talked about that with her, but it seems she already has things she needs to talk about, and hearing the stress in her voice…well, she is still sleeping in our room.
When family ask how she is doing, I tell them when she wakes in the morning she straps on her armor to go off to school. Within it she is safe, and happier than before, when she was living a lie, but still I think to myself it has to be exhausting for her to be on guard all day long. To her credit, she is doing a great job. She gets asked on a daily basis, “why do you want to be a girl?” Coming from kids her age, it is an honest and curious question, but it can still be stressful. We’ve told her to tell them, “because it is who I am” or to simply say “because I want to.” Often she doesn’t say anything, because she has already developed her own defense mechanism, and she doesn’t owe anyone an explanation for who she is. Still…these are stresses you never want to see your young child dealing with.
Take a moment, how annoying would it be for any of us if we were asked on a daily basis why do we want to be the gender we know we are, or why do we wear the clothes we wear? It’s like asking the couple who can’t get pregnant, “why haven’t you had babies yet?” or the single person “Are you ever going to get married and settle down?” How would it be if people who used to see you one way now stared at you as you walked down a hallway? She is my brave little girl, chin held high, she has taken on a sassy persona to cope. As parents we show patience, knowing this is a mechanism she uses to deal with the ugliness she knows she might face on a daily basis.
We know this will get better for her. We believe therapy will help, and every new day that she gets to be her true self is another day she becomes more comfortable with who she is and her place within the world. We haven’t talked too much about what “transgender” is, other than having read I am Jazz once. We don’t think it is necessary yet, or that it’s something she needs to grapple with at the moment. That is a talk that has to come, but it can wait for now.
We still think things couldn’t have gone much better with her social transition, and we aren’t so naive to to think there weren’t going to be issues that would need to be dealt with. Luckily, she has adults and children at school who have her back, and a family, nuclear and extended, who are proud of her, and happy that she can be herself. These are blessings that many children don’t have, but simple things that, as adults, we can easily give our children.
It is so easy to love a child, and yet there are some who can’t, which brings me back to her nightmares. Feelings of loneliness often can lead to suicide in adolescents, because, by extension, they feel as if they matter to no one. This is our greatest fear for her, and something that we will always work at to make sure she knows just how much we value and love her. We can all do this for our kids. It is a parent’s job to leave ego behind and simply love their child.
I want my little girl to grow up to be a bad ass chick, and for the life ahead, I think that attitude will serve her well. In the meantime, she can go on being mommy and daddy’s little girl. After all, she’s only really enjoyed that status for two weeks now. She can also go on sleeping in her tee-pee in our bedroom, where there is now a new rainbow dream catcher with pink feathers hanging from the tee-pee ceiling…waiting to catch and take her nightmares away…and if it doesn’t work, then we are right there, and for now that is enough to ease her mind.