Fabulous and Facebook

pink-justiceShopping for dresses on Sunday, Fab picked up her first “real” purse…because all fabulous girls must have one.  This is the exact purse she has, except for the letter on front, which matches the first initial of her real name.  The purse is covered in sequins, and being bright pink…she had to have it, and being a doting father I couldn’t say no to this “first.”

Because I share…here is a link where the purse can be picked up.  Holiday season is upon us, and I know there are other little girls out there that I’m sure would love it as much as Fab loves her.  For now she is content using it as a carrier for a special stuffed animal and her wallet.

Justice Pink Sequin Initial Purse, $18.90

Now…On to our regularly scheduled program!

However, the more we’re out in public, and with the shocker of Trump coming into the White House it does give me pause to think about our privacy, and especially that of my daughter.  We fostered both Fab and her brother before adopting them, and so we have played the careful game in the past when it comes to sharing information.  As time goes by you stop worrying so much, and yet with recent events new concerns have emerged which have forced me to rethink Facebook, with Fab in mind.

I think this is a hot topic right now for many parents of transgender kids.  Who do we trust?

Can we trust family?   This is a hard one, because we’d all like to say yes, but I doubt all extended family will be on board for everyone.  I have real concerns about mine.  On one side of the family, we don’t talk to anyone anymore.  After my grandmother died there was a split, and it’s probably not a bad thing as that is the most bigoted part of my entire family (mother’s or father’s side).  This also means I don’t need to worry about them on Facebook, or anywhere for that matter.  Aside from the cousins from one aunt, all my cousins are very supportive of Fab being herself.  My aunts and uncles who have been told are also completely supportive of Fab, and wish her nothing but the best.  I do have one uncle that concerns me at times.  An outspoken Trump supporter, he doesn’t mind trolling family on Facebook, but I also think there is enough decency there that he would never make Fab feel bad for who she is.  It’s a judgement call that I hope I don’t screw up, but as his wife supports Fab fully, and as I know my cousins will…I think it will be enough to keep him decent.

Family is that rough question, because it is also the hurtful one if responses and reactions are not what you hope they will be.  I feel as if that information needs to be shared verbally or in person when it comes to those closest to your nuclear family, but rarely do people say negative things in person.  However, if nervous usually Facebook can give a snapshot into a person’s leanings or beliefs.  If your gut tells you something, you are probably going to be right, and while you may tell your family, it doesn’t mean you need to maintain negative Facebook friendships or any with family who cannot accept your child for who he or she is.

Can we trust friends?  This becomes a harder question, unless we break it up and make it easier to deal with.  I don’t live near my oldest friends.  We moved to a new state in our twenties, and so my friendships with my “lifelong” friends has been maintained over Facebook in many cases.  These are the people I knew back when.  People I always saw eye to eye with, and I have shared with some, but not all, about Fab’s transition.  Those I have shared with I reached out to, and others I haven’t shared with yet.  For some it is due to laziness (they may never meet Fab, so no rush.), and others out of trepidation of how they might react, and the hurt I know I would feel as a result.  All of that said, most of these friends will accept with open arms.  After all, they were my face to face friends, my peeps.  They got me back then, and they still get me today.  So if my face to face friends are good, then what about my Facebook friends?

Facebook friends are the tricky ones, and I’m coming to the realization that I’m going to have to cut some of them out of my life, for my sanity and for Fab’s sake.  Typically, I have never been one to drop people, but if I wish to continue to use Facebook it may become necessary, especially as my advocacy grows, as do my friendships with other parents of transgender youth.  Eventually, I will out myself, or be required to have conversations with some people I’d rather not.  I think if you read my blog, or if you know me from any FB groups, you know I’m not afraid to talk, but it also isn’t my place to out Fab…that is her call, and at seven it really isn’t a call she is fully equipped to make in all situations.

So…Facebook Friend List?  I think most of us can break up our friend list along the following lines on Facebook:

  • Family – actual family members who you have found, or have found you on Facebook.  For me these tend to be the safest people when it comes to Fab.
  • Face to Face Friends – People that you are currently or in the past that you met outside of Facebook and became really good friends in person.  Most of these people I feel like I can trust, because we cultivated real world friendships where common interests and beliefs are important.  Still provides a need for care, as some people can change over time, and you need to know who those people are.
  • Face to Face Acquaintances – These could run the table from former classmates, students, work colleagues, sports enthusiasts, hobby enthusiasts, etc.  These are people you have met in person, and may have a point of interest in common.  Maybe you played on sports team together, or maybe you shared a cubicle row.  You never really hung out with them, and you probably never will.  There may be a few here that you might share with, but these are also people that, while they may like playing basketball with you, they may be ardent Trump supporters or against your child’s right to exist as his or her authentic self.  The good thing is their Facebook feed will probably give you and idea.  I think these people might make up the majority of our Facebook friendships, and are also the second easiest group to cut people from if need be.
  • Facebook Only Friends – These are people I’ve never met in person.  They found me through common interests, or through a friend of a friend in most cases.  These people I know only from their Facebook persona, which means to say I do not know these people at all.  These are the easiest to cut from your friendship roster because most are just there to pad friends’ stats, and we rarely interact if at all.

How do I go about cutting people?

For me, and I would think for any of us the question could also be phrased, “who could be a source of negativity when it comes to my child?”  From there I will start going through my friend’s list.

  • Facebook Friends – If I don’t know you, and I haven’t communicated with you in the past year, then…YOU’RE GONE!!!  Our lives change as we get older, and the people we need in our lives also change.  I don’t need 500, hell, I don’t need 300 Facebook friends to feel important.  I have a wife and two little ones who do all of that just fine.  Sure, we feel a need to be like and accepted but there are plenty of people like that out there, so go find them and make new friends.
  • Face to Face Acquaintances – Same goes for these people.  I may not drop everyone, but I may look at some of their feeds with two questions in mind:
    • Are they a cause of potential strife or stress for me?
    • Are their beliefs so out of line with my own that I know they would never accept my child?
    • If you answer to any of the above questions with a yes, then I think you need to seriously consider cutting those friends, and that statement is as much for me as it is for anyone else who might be reading this.  There’s no real point for being friends other than to share things that could be potentially damaging to you in some manner, and it is stress you and your child do not need.
  • Face to Face Friends – Harder to drop, because they are more like family, but as I’ve said, some people do actually change.  They find religion, become more conservative, become more bigoted, etc.  In other words they are no longer the person you used to tear up the town with.  Memories of the past are the only reason you two are friends on Facebook, and while you may be the same in spirit, this is not always the case.  Some people get “old.”  Old of body isn’t a bad thing, but for me old of spirit…doesn’t work, and never will.  For these friends I take more of a family like approach.
    • I may not call them, but I will probably feel them out with a text or Facebook message.  Their response will often be all I need to know.  A lack of response can also be telling.
    • They may drop you on their own, but if not, I will follow up a lack of response once with a message like, “Did you see the message I sent about Fab?”  Now, they have to respond, and if they don’t, then cut them because they don’t care about being friends and/or they disapprove of your kid, which means you shouldn’t want to be friends with them.
    • You might also call to share with them, or get together for a coffee, lunch, etc.  Like I said, most of my friends are long distance, so it informs my approach.  I can say for those neighbors who are also Facebook friends, I shared in person, and to date that has gone well.

While we hope that all our friends we share with will be accepting, our hope is probably not a realistic one, because people are human beings.  Know when there is a chance to educate, and when you should just cut your losses…you’ll save yourself grief and sadness if you can do this.  Yes, you may still be sad to cut people, but cutting people with wasting energy on the impossible ones is still a better option than burning yourself out trying to changes minds that cannot be changed.

Finally, make new friends!  There are other parents out there who get you, will accept your child unconditionally, and who are happy to listen, let you vent, and seeking advice from your own personal experiences.  Let’s face it, our children are unique, and have unique issues facing them that most cannot relate to.  This is where Facebook can shine for us.  In the past what were the chances of finding others to share with?  Now you can easily find hundreds of parents who are willing to support others just like themselves.

Yes, Facebook book and I have what I call a “Hate/Tolerate” relationship, but that tolerate is improving due to new doors it has opened up to me regarding my little girl.  This weekend will be interesting as I begin to cut the chaff from my Friend’s List, but the election results only confirm what I already know.  My normal has shifted this year, and with it so to my friends will shift.  I’ve already begun to add some wonderful folks, and now I just have to begin the cutting.  It’s time.

 

 

Fortunate to Be Alive

7840357006_329d61d848…So, I’ve been silent on Facebook and the various groups I’m a member of.  Partly, because I do actually have a job, and had a deadline to meet by noon.  More importantly, I wanted to take my time to think about what just happened in the election, and how I really felt about it.  I’m not sure if I’m where I want to be mentally yet, but I think I’m getting close to it.  I am trying to see the positive in today, and so I strip away the election, and I look at my life.

I am more  Buddhist than anything.  I was raised Lutheran, I’ve been Born Again, and consider myself Gone Again.  I checked off a bucket list item a couple years back when I got to see the Dalai Lama speak in person, and so I borrow a quote from the Buddha above…

Take a moment to think about it:  “What we think we become.”

In many of my groups people are terrified, living in fear, children are crying, and sadly some people have taken their lives.  I don’t differentiate cisgender or transgender…a life is a life, and all are precious.  It makes me sad to think that the election of Trump drove them to such a dark place that they felt there was nothing left to live for.  It also makes me wonder about the conversations that take place in households across our country that create such fear.

I shared a little bit yesterday about something Fab said when I explained to her about the GOP platform and what it means for her.  Her response was short, and without any concern at all.  She regarded me for a moment and then said, “so they think because I have a penis I have to stay a boy?”  I nodded, and then she shook her head, “that’s stupid,” and then she skipped up the stairs to go play with her brother…carefree.

I used to worry about the future, and all the bad things that could happen, but stopped doing so after a really negative, life-changing event in my life.  Don’t get me wrong, there are moments I can start to get sucked in, I am only human, but for the most part I don’t live with fear in my life.  It isn’t something I just say, but something I can say is really true.  I started to get sucked in last night, and then again early this morning, but after I think on it some, I’m with Fab…That’s Stupid!

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” – Dalai Lama

I try to do this everyday, sometimes I’m successful, and other times, not so much, but the point is…I Try.  I also ask myself to view my life not compared to others, but compared only to myself…am I happy?  Are my kids happy?  Is my marriage strong?  Can I pay my bills?  Feed my family?  I think you get the point.  If the answer is yes, then who cares about the rest, or what others are doing, or who is president?

I know, “but Trump might do this, or he might do that”.  Yeah, possibly, but I still believe there are enough decent people out there who would stand up, and if not, then I would stand up.  I don’t dwell on the “what might happens.”  We don’t know if Trump will do anything to mess with our children.  While Trump did select Pence as VP, if there is anything we’ve learned, Trump does what Trump wants.  In my mind the two worst things he might do is to throw the LGBTQ issues back to the states, and appoint conservative judges if given the chance.  These are things that will not affect me or Fab on a daily basis, and even if they do…the question we should be asking is, what can we do about it?  The answer is…nothing…so stop worrying.

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” – Dalai Lama

Parents I hope you can find a way to get past what is making you hurt right now.  I hope you can can continue to show strength to your kids, exemplify your love for them and the lives you share together.  Our kids feed off our emotions, and they will need the best of us, not the scared, fearful, and angry side of us.

Some might say, “but Fab is happy, and has it good.  She hasn’t had to deal with any of the ugliness”.  You’re right, that is her reality, partly because of luck, and partly because her mother and I work really hard to give her that.  We worry, stress, and cry where she can never see.  We plan, and then hope for the best.  We take it a day at a time, with an awareness of what might happen, but not a worry for it.

We also don’t talk about our worries or fears around her…we don’t talk politics around her.  She already knows people can be mean for no reason.  She has been bullied (verbally and physically), but she is also strong and for the most part fearless, because we let her live with the thought that mom and dad can take care of everything.   We let her believe this because she is seven, a little girl who still believes in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny.  In short, she is still a little kid, and she doesn’t need to worry about the ugly of the world.  It’s not her job, it’s ours.  We know it isn’t true, that there will be some things we cannot protect her from, but she will learn this soon enough, just as she will stop believing in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny.  There’s time enough for adulting later on, for now she gets to be little and as innocent as we can allow her to be.

Some may also say to me,  “your family hasn’t had to deal with the problems we have, and you simply haven’t been around enough to really get why we’re scared”.  Problems are what you make of them, and how you perceive them.    People are entitled to feel however they wish, I am merely suggesting that families might focus on what they do have that is beautiful and good.

We can share with happiness and a smile about our kids (I am not suggesting complete strangers, unless you are feeling really bold, but rather people you know).  Make other parents put themselves in your shoes.  What would they do if they’re child was transgender?  The thing I’ve learned in my short ride is that decent people can only nod in approval that regardless of who your child is…you love the shit out of them.

I shared with a co-worker today, an older gentleman who didn’t know about Fab.  I shared that Fab was a girl now, and we talked a couple minutes.  I could tell he was a little uncomfortable, but that he also agreed the picture I showed him was clearly a girl staring back at him, and then he admitted I was the first parent of  a transgender child he had ever talked to.  He then said, “all you can do is love your kids and want them to have happy lives.”  He’s raised his own kids, but for a moment he put himself in my shoes, and he’ll remember Fab the next time the topic comes up elsewhere, and maybe he’ll inform another, paying it forward towards changing attitudes.  I don’t know this for a fact, but I have hope.

Hope is Huge…Trump won yesterday, and a mom from one of my groups shared about an awesome meeting she had with her child’s school system…in Texas of all places.  She happily shared how they will work with her to support her child’s needs.  It was a beautiful moment in the heart of what many will consider to be a dark day.  If she sees it the right way, yesterday was a good day for her and her child, regardless of who the next president is.

It’s a simple Buddhist idea to live in the now…Learn from the past, Live in the now, with an eye but not a focus on what tomorrow might bring.

No matter what else happens I got to meet my daughter last week, she now gets to be herself all the time, and for me that makes right now pretty great.  For me, there’s enough shit out there in the world to beat you down without adding imaginary weight or fears to it.  I’ll deal with it as it comes, hoping that my experiences have prepared me.

I’ll face the world with love and compassion when I can, and I’ll fight if left no other choice, always remembering how I conduct myself is being watched by two children who think I can protect them from anything.  They’re learning from me all the time, and I can teach them to scared, afraid, angry; or I can teach them how to be strong, compassionate, and fearless when it comes to living life with chin held high, refusing to bend knee

I don’t know if I’m always successful but I try.  For me, for any of us, just as I tell my kids…if you do your best then there is nothing to be ashamed of.

I’ll close with this:

“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’
No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” – Dalai Lama

 

 

 

I Love My Daughter…

smarter-daughterI know I said I was going to write Part 2 about how to talk to schools, and I will, but remember this blog is also for me.  It is a small stage to talk about how I’m feeling, and quite honestly how I think any dad should feel when it comes to their kid…straight, gay, lesbian, gender-fluid, or transgender…which is to say that none of that stuff should even come into play where our love for our children is concerned.

Almost a week has gone by since Fab proclaimed to the world that she had arrived and was not going anywhere, and so here I sit at 12:33 am on the first Sunday of November 2016 pondering my thoughts from the past week.  I never really had to mourn for a son lost, and for me the hardest part of it all has been adjusting to pronouns, and taking care of the myriad of administrative things that need to be done, to make sure that the path is clear for her to have as normal a childhood as possible.

I realize that in less than a week no part of me sees the boy that I “thought” used to be there.  Fab is my little girl, period, and my wife would tell you we already have that kind of bond.  I think she is the bravest, most courageous little girl I know, and I know there are times already when she has doubted the words in the above image…well, except maybe the smarter, because she’s pretty cocky when it comes to her intelligence, but honestly I would say the above words to anyone’s daughter, be they cis-gendered or transgender.

When I look at Fab, I don’t think of her as my transgender daughter, I think of her as my daughter…the little girl who loves the color pink, her stuffed animal collection,  animals, her dogs, her brother, her mother, and me.  She already battles at times with her mother like a thirteen year-old girl, but she also sees her mother as her most important confidant, who is always there to listen without judgement…even though I think there are times when my wife is ready to kill her.

Her relationship with her brother, which borders on the kind that twins have, is something special to watch.  She has a need to be near him, and he to her.  I’ll catch them sometimes holding hands, or her leaning with her head on his shoulder as if their unconscious bond is something that could never be broken, and I am happy that they have this kind of bond.  It will serve them both well as they grow into adulthood.  I don’t talk about him much on here, but he might be one of the sweetest, most genuine kids I’v ever known.  He can’t stand to upset his mother or I, to the point of tears when he does.  He doesn’t understand aggressive or mean people.  With that said, I’ve seen him stand up to a playground bully four years his senior when that bully targeted Fab.  He’s her little rock, and I’m her big rock.

In my forties now, I am still a big, powerful man.  I still workout regularly, play soccer (goalkeeper, so a little crazy) on Sundays, and look like a bigger, stronger version of  my younger self…with maybe a little more “love” around my mid-section.  In me, my family sees safety.  I’m the family security blanket.  When I travel for work, everyone, even the dogs are less relaxed, which I admit brings a smile to my face to know I’m wanted at home.

When it comes to Fab, her mother is her confidant, but I am who she looks to for that final approval that it is OK to jump, because she knows I’ll be there to catch her.  When Fab decides to jump she does it with both feet, fearless and with her chin held high, but before doing so I have to let her know that it is OK, that her mother and I love her, and what clothes she wears, or her gender have no bearing on that fact.

She begins school on Monday in a dress for the first time, fully as the gender she identifies with.  She will go to school with bright pink nails on her fingers and toes from her first mani/pedi with her mom.  The dress she will wear, well, she and I will go shopping to find the perfect one tomorrow.  I’m sure we’ll know it when we see it, and I hope it will give her the confidence to keep that chin up and a smile on her face.

The school has been informed, meetings have been held, and there is an excitement and nervousness that seems to emanate from Fab’s core.  Her friends, those wonderful little girls who have yet to be taught to judge others, accept her completely and can’t wait to see what Fab wears on Monday.  Her teacher, is equally excited, as are a few other ladies who have a special place in their heart for my little girl.

Almost a week in, and this is our new normal, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I don’t believe in regrets, or in looking back to things that might have been changed.  Fab and her brother were precious gifts to us, a couple that could not have kids of their own.  People said when we adopted them that it was such a wonderful thing we were doing for them, but they’ve made us better, more complete people.  We always saw ourselves as the lucky ones in the equation to get such loving, happy children.

Now our normal has changed once again.  No kids, to two kids, and now two “boys”, to a son and daughter.  I know we need to have the transgender conversation with her.  Teach her more about what it means to be a “girl with a penis,” but I figure there is time for that, and part of my lapse is because when I’m with her, I don’t think about that stuff.  We know there will be ugly people she will have to deal with, and we hope that the sass and wit she already shows will serve her in dealing with these people.

For now, she is almost a week old as a girl, and I’ve heard girls are allowed to celebrate their birthdays for a month…so, if that is true then she doesn’t need to worry about anything but finding out the type of girl she is and wants to be.  I can, and will run interference for her a little bit longer.

I know there is much the two of us have to still learn about navigating life as father and daughter, but I’d like to think that we’ve made a pretty good start of it.  There will be fights and frustrations in our future.  I’m sure there will be nights I hold her while she cries, but in those same moments there’s a feeling that runs deep in me that I was made to do this, and to be this little girl’s daddy.  I wouldn’t change one hair on her blonde little head.  Perhaps, there was a guy a few weeks back if he had the power, would have made her a happy boy who was happy to be a boy, but that guy went away when I finally got to see Fab for who she really was.  As I sit here, and brush a tear from my eye, swallow a lump in my throat…I’m sorry I ever felt that way, she’s perfect to me, and I’m simply a lucky man to have this little girl tell me she loves me every day, and to hear her call me daddy.

“A School Success Story” (Working with Schools For a Transgender Child’s Needs, Part 1)

src-adapt-960-high-lgbt_bus-1388530599232This blog post will actually come in a minimum of two parts, and possibly more depending on how long Part 2 appears to be.  The first is our personal story of success for those that have not seen it elsewhere, and to establish the case for the actual “Best Practices” post that will follow this one up in Part 2.

On her seventh birthday Fabulous decided that from now on she would live as the girl she always was, but this also presented new obstacles not only for us as parents, but for the school she was going to attend as well.  At seven years of age this is not her problem.  Her problem is to go to school and learn the best she can.  As adults, her parents and the school staff it is our job to ensure she has the best learning environment possible.  This does not happen overnight, and it does not happen when the adults choose to battle or fight for ground that is irrelevant to the child’s learning needs or peace of mind.  Too often as adults on both sides we get so caught up in the righteousness of our cause that we fail to see our children couldn’t care less about who wins an argument.  Our children simply want to learn and go to school as their true selves.  Fabulous is no different then this, and with an eye to the possible future, Mom and I began to set the groundwork months before her transition.

I began this blog last spring, in part, to work through the thoughts I had surrounding my youngest son becoming a gender-fluid child.  I say that, and realize now that Fabulous had always been a girl, but at the time it was important how the school received the news that Fabulous might come to school in girl’s clothes.  I educated myself, and set a meeting with the school principal, counselor, Fabulous’ assistant principal, and Fabulous’ kindergarten teacher.  During the meeting we shared that Fabulous was gender-fluid, explained what that meant, and that we wanted them to be prepared for her to wear a mix of boys and girls clothes to school.  At the time we said that it was possible Fabulous might decide to transition, but that she wasn’t there yet, and if she did get there then we would schedule another meeting.  We also explained that we “wanted to work with them and not against them” to ensure Fabulous was safe at school.  They received the information well, the assistant principal shared that her sister is a lesbian, and Sean would have her full support.  We already knew her outstanding kindergarten teacher had Fab’s back, and then the principal assured us that Fabulous would be safe and secure in her school.

Summer went by, and we thought Fabulous was going more boy, but she had just become really good at hiding when she was around boys all the time.  School started up again, and this time around we dealt with some bullying issues.  Once in after school program, and then later in a school bathroom.  After school had been name calling, where the horrible slur of “You’re a girl!” was thrown at Fabulous for her backpack.  We notified the principal and she addressed it to our satisfaction.  However, this would happen again from the same boys, culminating in them cornering her in the boys’ bathroom where they all called her a “girl,” and hit her hard on the arm before letting her leave.  At the time she was still living as a boy, granted a very feminine boy, but still a boy.  This time, when we notified the principal she went ballistic.  She immediately had Fabulous identify the boys, and then pulled them from class, before proceeding to destroy any bullying tendencies they had left.  She won us over with how she handled that event and we were sure to let her know it (I also sent a letter to the school superintendent commending the principal for what a great she does on behalf of all the children.  Actions like this are not forgotten, and will serve you well.  Most parents will never do this type of thing.)

After that, Fabulous began pushing the boundaries more and more, until three months into the school year..Surprise!  It’s a girl!

The revelation, as shared in another post, came on a Sunday.  We immediately started game planning, and asked her if she wanted a new school. She said, YES!  We already had one in mind, and so I reached out to see if they could fit her in.  We assumed (don’t do this!) that she wanted to go to a new school so that nobody would know she had been a boy (how wrong we were!).  During the early part of the week I spoke with the new school, and I shared about Fabulous, asking the right questions to ensure the school was willing to accept her.  Everything was going according to plan.  I even sent in the applications for both our kids to attend the new school…and then we come to the end of the week.

So…what do you do when your exuberant child decides to transition in the middle of a semester, and on top of that also decides to out herself to her classmates?

Mom gets a call from Fab’s teacher (we’ll start calling her Fab, easier to type, and sound’s more girly than Fabulous.)  Apparently, Fab outed herself to her classmates and teacher.  We had agreed she would go to school as a boy until the week of Thanksgiving, but she decided to throw away all her boy clothes, and make us help the day before.  So…I say went to school as a boy, and by boy I mean, in name only. She wore a sparkly “Trolls” shirt with skinny jeans from Justice, and apparently Miss Sassy Pants had her fierce up as she announced to all that could hear how she had thrown out her boy clothes, and that she was going to be a girl from now on, and would also be going to a school where she could wear dresses. Her teacher called my wife to tell her that the school was ready for Fab to be a girl and had expected it.  Teacher also told mom that it was kind of obvious that Fab was a girl, and that teacher had just been waiting for Fab to come out.   She said all the kids were happy for Fab, and that she hoped Fab would stay at the school. Mom told her it was Fabs’ choice, which meant we would have to have another talk with our little diva.  When Mom told me all I could think was, I’ve started to move forward with the other school, I mean,  I’m happy she’s proud of herself…but this little girl is gonna kill her mama and me.

To continue, I’m on my way to pick up the kids from school, and Mom calls me to let me know the kids’ principal called her. Apparently, Fab’s teacher went down to the office to tell the principal that Fab was leaving the school, and that the principal wanted to speak with me when I got to the school.  Upon arrival I was ushered down to the principal’s office where she welcomed me and shut the door.  Now I should be clear that I’m a state level education official, probably a higher mid-level bureaucrat, and that part of my job is to deal with school system superintendents, board members, principals, central office staff, etc.  When school personnel have to deal with me they are often fearful and not happy to see me.  I admit that my job has removed any fear or feelings of intimidation when I deal with school administrators.  I will talk about this in part two, but suffice it to say as we sat down to talk, I saw principal as woman who was expressing concern for my child, and so I met her with openness to hear what she had to say.

We met for a half hour. I explained why Fab was leaving, and (how I wrongly thought) she wanted to go stealth and a new school would allow this.  After hearing me out, she told me that they had expected Fab to begin first grade as a girl,  and so they had prepared for the possibility.  She also told me she had served on the district’s committee to set transgender policy for the school district, and she was still learning as the district had not really had any dealings with pre-pubescent transgender children, but that Fab’s safety and and happiness was important to her, and that she also felt Fab was safer and better off at her school than the new one.  It was becoming apparent that principal was giving me the hard sell as to why Fab should stay, and it also became more apparent, her top reason actually, that she wanted Fab to stay at the school.  I voiced my concerns, asked questions as to the school board and superintendent backing her if the worst case scenarios were to happen.  I showed her picture of my little lady, and she gushed at how adorable Fab was, and was certain that other parents would never be able to tell she had started the school year a boy.

We talked about some policy issues, and the only issue that we agreed to compromise on was the bathroom.  I know this can be a sticking point, and I’ll touch upon it in Part 2 at greater length.  With a Supreme Court case looming on this issue, I didn’t feel like I needed to challenge her on the one issue that could cause her problems.  In Fab’s case, she is just so happy to be herself, knows nothing of the bathroom debate raging in our country, and therefore is more than happy to skip her little self down to the clinic bathroom…as long as she can wear a dress while doing it.  Knowing all this, I let the principal have her way…a win/win for each of us.  If SCOTUS decides in my kid’s favor, then she will be able to use the bathroom she identifies with, and being federal law the principal will never have to fight with other parents, because she can cite the federal law.  Remember, this is a marathon we’re running, and there is no need to spring at the beginning.  I might care about the bathroom, but Fab doesn’t, so why fight over this point right now.

We ended our meeting with smiles, and I told her that I would talk to Fab and lay out everything, but that it was still her choice. (Below is a pretty accurate version of our discussion, normally she can’t stop talking, but ask her questions, and well, you’ll see.)

  • Me:  Fab?  Why do you want to switch schools?
  • Fab: I don’t know.
  • Me: You’re OK leaving your friends?  You won’t miss them?  It won’t bother you?
  • Fab: I can visit them on days when I don’t have school and they do.
  • Me: It doesn’t work that way sweetie. Are you sure you want to switch?
  • Fab: Yes.
  • Me: (Remembering something the principal said about the new school) Do you want to switch schools so that you can wear pretty dresses and shoes?
  • Fab: Yes.
  • Me: Baby, you have to wear uniforms at the new school. You can’t wear pretty dresses or shoes there.  You have to wear basically the same thing everyday.
  • Fab: Oh…(she looks down at her lap)
  • Me: You know your teacher and principal want you to stay at your school.  Youre teacher and friends were happy for you when you told them you threw out all your boy clothes, right?
    Fabulous: Yeah. (She looks up at me)
  • Me: If you want to stay at your school, they want you to be yourself. You can be all girl and wear pretty dresses, shoes, whatever you want. Would you like that?
  • Fab: (Incredulous, with the start of a smile) Wait, I can wear dresses to my school?  I thought I had to go to a new school to wear dresses.
  • Me: (Laughing)Yes, baby, if you want to, you can wear whatever you want. Do you want to stay at your school now?
  • Fab: Yes, I thought I couldn’t wear dresses…(nods while beaming broadly)

She didn’t care at all about people knowing which is what we thought…She just thought she had to switch schools to start wearing dresses, because we asked her to wait until we got safeguards in place.

We need to know “what” is important to our children, and then advocate for that.  We assumed she wanted to be stealth, and that wasn’t even on her mind.

We agreed with the principal that Fab will use the adult or clinic bathroom for the rest of this year, because the principal did have a good point.  Kids knew Fab as a boy, and while the girl’s in her class love her and accept her, kids are kids and for some a boy becoming a girl is a novelty too good to ignore, and it might have kids peaking under the stall, etc.

I also found out today that our backup school would give in to all our requests, including use of the girl’s bathroom for Fab…but wearing pretty dresses is way more important to her than where she pees right now, and we’re good with that.  (Yes, there was a way I approached them which I will share in Part 2)

I will admit that there are certain things that make this easier for me, which I will try to share in Part 2.  Certainly, my experience with school systems is an advantage I have in navigating the schools, there is no doubt about that.  In addition, I will also admit that my daughter is only seven.  She is petite for her age, and in a dress easily passes.  Fab is also a high achiever, her teacher adores her, and (at school, home is another story) she lives to follow the rules.  Basically, she is the ideal student.  I know other kids, especially older ones have a whole host of other issues that can make things difficult for parents when attempting to work with school administrators.  I also taught ten years at an “at-risk” high school, and so I hope that I can provide insight there as well in Part 2.

I recognize, at the moment, we’re pretty blessed and Fab is very lucky. I know this could change as she gets older, and as she switches schools and/or administrators.  Every situation is different, and so I will try and approach Part 2, which may become a Part 3 in a way that recognizes most parents of transgender children do not have it so easy.  I also am aware that an administration change could change everything in an instant.

Fabulous Dominates the Cubs

pink-cubsFor those of you who don’t really know me, which is most of you, I am not a huge baseball fan.  I haven’t been since the ’94 strike.  Before the strike I was an ardent fan, baseball card collector, etc.  Growing up we had great season tickets for the Cubs, and during the hallowed year of 1984, I missed out on going to a playoff game because I had strep throat.  I did get to attend a playoff game when the Cubs played Atlanta in 2004, but that year, like all the others ended in heartache.  Fast forward to November 2nd, 2016…the Cubs are on the verge of winning the World Series, something my 92 year old grandfather has never seen (happy he got to live to see it!), and I watch as the game goes to extra innings, and then a rain delay.  I debated for moment staying awake to watch it, but already past midnight, I needed some serous sleep.

In a normal week I would have stayed up, would have jumped for joy, and most likely would be far more exhausted than I already am, but I also would have been getting normal sleep the nights leading up to it.  No so this week, and why you may ask?  Well, if you join me regularly then you already know that Fabulous, my gender fluid son, is now Fabulous, my transgender daughter.  Yes, the Cubs World Series victory will always be tied in my mind to my daughter announcing herself to the world.  As result my mind has been a whirlwind of activity, and sleep has not be my friend, so I bailed on my Cubs and went to bed.

Most Cub fans will say that winning the World Series is the greatest event of 2016, most assuredly bigger than the shit show that is the 2016 presidential election, and I would almost agree with them, until I take pause for a moment to remember a little girl wearing a checkered dress and purple Dr. Marten’s boots.  A girl who smiled up at me and laughed like I had never seen her laugh in all the years of her life.  The little girl is a bigger deal to me than any Cubs victory past, present, or future…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fabulous’ Conversation Tee Pee

100619860131249pI’ve decided to start to do quasi-reviews of things that Fabulous loves, or items that we as a family find beneficial to our new normal.  In the case of the “Conversation Tee-Pee”  Fabulous bought it on Saturday, and it immediately became her go-to “safe-space.”  Manufactured by B toys (carried on Amazon and at Target), it retails for around $45.  Always one for a bargain, Fabulous found it on clearance at a local Target for $23, and quickly snatched it up with birthday money.  The tent is made of of sturdy nylon tent material, and uses collapsible tent poles up the side and on the square base to make it truly free-standing.  It also has a small lantern that changes colors, which you hook from the ceiling of the tee-pee.  I’d recommend it for children under the age of 10.  Two children easily fit inside, and one small child and adult can also sit inside of it.

Fabulous LOVES her Tee-Pee.  She likes to hang in it with her stuffed animals, or with her dog, Nya (pronounced Knee-ah).  She calls it her conversation tee-pee because she likes to invite people in to have conversations.  Sunday morning I sat inside with her and we named some stuffed animals, and discussed why we gave them each name.  She loves this tent, and I think all children need special places, but for those of us with transgender children, I think this takes on an even greater importance.  Since coming out on Sunday night, she has slept in our room, in her tee-pee.  She does hang out of it when she sleeps (head and shoulders, although curled up she can sleep completely inside), but the nightmares she usually has most nights have been silent.  I think our children think a lot more and more deeply on what it is to be them, than our cis-gendered children do.  I can tell you, Fabulous’ brother doesn’t really give it much thought, but we know Fabulous does.  If you can’t afford something like this, then make a safe space out of boxes, pillows, or blankets.

It’s a Girl!!!

hello-kitty-girl-power-1371663283So it has been a few days since I put finger to keyboard, and it feels like the world has changed forever since last I wrote.  If you can tell from the title and my image, big news came this weekend as Fabulous declared to the world (her mother, brother, and myself) that her boy heart had left the building, and she is now a girl.  Wait, you may be thinking, it was that simple?  No, it was not that simple, but I will share this weekends events because while I like to educate people, first and foremost, this blog is for me, and writing helps to organize the crazed thoughts in my brain.

Saturday was a good day for the family, we watched Fabulous do gymnastics, went shopping, and then out to dinner.  Everyone was happy, and the night ended with the kiddos camped out on the floor in our bedroom.  Sunday was Fabulous’ birthday, and she woke up ready to go, which is unusual as she is usually a grumpy troll who sleeps in until at least 9 am most mornings if you let her.  Anyways, she opened her presents, clothes from Justice, and a stuffed animal from her brother, before slipping into girl clothes for the day.  We had no idea that morning, the life of her boy heart could now be measured in hours.  Mom took the kids to the park, and then we all went into town to look at the the Halloween decorations and get ice cream.  Mom made dinner for us all, “a Feast,” at Fabulous’ request.

It was around dinner time that Mount Fabulous started to show signs of eruption.  Earlier in the day, she had asked her mom if she could start wearing girl’s underwear to school (OK, she actually asked for panties, but dads the world over cringe at the thought of speaking of their daughter’s unmentionables), with the caveat that she knew she had to use the stall so no one would see.  Mom agreed and we thought that would be the only surprise.  Right after dinner we were talking about Fabulous’ two hearts, and she again said the boy heart won’t leave the girl heart alone, and that it was just so mean.  Mom told her that lots of people have two hearts, and that we could find a way for them to get along.  Storm clouds threatened on her little face, and she sternly said, “No, I want my boy heart gone, forever!”

We sang, “Happy Birthday,” ate cake, and watched part of a movie before bedtime.  Not long after bedtime, Mom went upstairs because Fabulous was upset.  I walked upstairs to find Fabulous sobbing. She didn’t want to be a boy anymore, she didn’t want to wear boy’s clothes, and she didn’t want to do boys’ gymnastics anymore.  She was done with it all.

We talked to her, calmed her down, said she could be a girl every day after school, and on weekends.  We said she could be a girl on our Thanksgiving vacation, and we told her she didn’t have to do gymnastics anymore.  Our only request was that she stay a boy at school until Christmas Break.  She agreed, and in an instant, our little boy was no more.

Now I write the last line, only to counter it with the statement, “The truth is she was never our little boy.”  We only saw her that way, and this is a common enough feeling for most parents that have gone through this.  We remember the little toddler, the pictures on the walls, and think, what happened?  Nothing happened, if your daughter was a book, she was given the wrong binding and cover.  Upon opening the pages your eyes finally see the truth, and the story, in it’s entirety.  It is exactly what it is supposed to be, regardless of the cover.

She slept easy that night, and in the morning put on her boy clothes to go to school.  She would be coming home early to see a therapist for the first time.  Mom and I went shopping before picking her up from school, and bought her some dresses and the all important “underpants”.  She couldn’t wait to change, and she rocked the dress even more with a pair of purple Dr. Marten’s to finish off her first “full” girl ensemble.  The joy on her face in the first picture I took of her will be something I will never forget.

Unfortunately, the first therapist was a wash.  Fabulous didn’t click with her, and I would also say some of the questions asked should not have been asked, but I won’t go further than that.  I will just say, if the fit isn’t right then move on.  This stuff is too important to stay put.  The therapist may be great with others, but for Fabulous we are on the hunt again.

As yesterday was Halloween, it was trick-or-treating time, and Fabulous, dressed as Mal from Disney Descendants (her favorite character) went pillaging for candy along with her brother.  We see a lightness about her since she made up her mind Sunday night, she seems to be a little freer, and a little sassier, but I’m also meeting my daughter for the first time, and I’m pretty stoked about getting to really know her.

Bedtime is going to be rough for awhile, we know, as she is reminded that she must slip into boyhood for school the next day, and so for the third night she again slept in our room.  She received a Tee-Pee for her birthday, and has started calling it her “conversation tee-pee.”  I think it has become her safe place.  Both of the last two nights she has slept in it, and we know it may be some time before she stops.  Whatever she needs to get through these next few weeks, we’ll accommodate her.  We have the easy part to play, after all she is the one who has to “do.”

We will continue to adjust to our new normal, and we know there will be challenges, and most likely some tears along the way.  We also know there will be celebrations and joy as well.  Fabulous gets to finally “do” her, and there is nothing better than when you get to finally be yourself, and people love you for it.

I have to give a shout out to my son, Fabulous’ brother first.  This kid is amazing.  He was the first to adjust to pronouns, and to his “sister.”  He loves her no matter what, and didn’t miss a step throughout the last couple days.  I’m proud of my boy, and the the big brother I know he will continue to be to his little sister.

I also need to give a shout out to my secret group peeps.  You all know who you are, and your support and advice has meant the world to me, and I think will continue to do so.  Keep your heads up, and I will do the same.  We’re a community who loves these special kids fiercely, and woe be the person who disparages a kid to my face.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about some of the insights, and things I’ve learned in just the last few days.  Now, I know you’re thinking, what can you have possibly learned?  My answer is a lot, about myself, about the things I need to take care of, and I could go on.  Today, I just wanted it to be about the story, no advice, no real insights.  I just wanted it to be about Fabulous.  She’s our little diva, and the spotlight should be on all divas for their debut to the world.

(Announcement:  I am now on Twitter @RaisingFabulous.  Feel free to follow, there is a feed on the main page.  Basically, Twitter is the place where I can say whatever comes to mind, some things may be informative, funny, offensive, stupid, or any combination, but it’s my little space where I can let my freak flag fly…and I figure if the orange man with the baby hands can tweet, then so can I…but not at 3 am, that time is reserved for sleeping, and Daddy be tired.)