Sharing is Caring

keep-calmSleepovers are a right of passage for so many kids throughout the country.  Girls often start having sleepovers at a younger age, but boys eventually get in on the action as well.  For most parents the worries stick to questions about the parents.  Will the parents be home?  Are the parents responsible?  Simply put, the overarching question is:  Can I trust them with my child?

Parents of transgender children are most concerned with the last question, and concern centers around the question of “What should I share?”  Now, all parents are free to decide for themselves on what to share with others.  This blog is from my perspective, and as such, is not a commandment all parents of transgender children have to follow.  Every family is different, and so a choice like this must be weighed by examining a variety of a family’s own circumstances.  I can only discuss our perspective as it relates to Fab, and from there we have to go with our gut that we have made the right choice regarding her well-being.

I have heard some parents say emphatically that it is no one else’s business what is between their child’s legs, and that their child is 100% stealth and no one else needs to know.  I agree in principle with their statement.  I don’t think other parents need to know what is between my daughter’s legs, and wish that the fact she lives as a little girl should be enough for other parents to welcome my daughter into their home simply because their daughter is friends with mine, but this scenario leaves out my biggest concern.

See, I am not worried about the other parents’ feelings.  To be honest, I couldn’t give two shits what they think of me as a parent, or if they are comfortable with my child.  However, I do care about what they think as it relates to my child’s safety.  Often times we don’t know the friends of our children’s parents that well, and in Mom’s eyes and mine we see this as a potential danger.  Now, for us the choice is simple.  Fabulous came out during the school year, so most kids know she was living as a boy before.  How many parents know this we are uncertain of.  Fab has participated in sleepovers with her best friend, and the mothers of both little girls who were also there know about Fab, and are supportive of her.  However, the day may come when she asks to sleepover at another girl’s house, and those parents may know nothing about Fab being transgender.  What will we do then?

Our stance is much like that of Jazz Jenning’s parents, and that is, the parents need to know.  I don’t know if these other parents are supportive of Fab’s right to exist, or if they are trans-phobic.  As her parent I control the narrative still, she’s seven, and so there is a level of protection that I still need to provide.  If we choose to keep quiet, and she goes over to her friends then we lose the narrative.  If over at a friend’s house and it comes out (someone walks into the bathroom and sees, or she says something, or it comes out another way) and the parents are trans-phobic, then we have placed our baby in the lion’s den, exposing her to God knows what until we get her home.  Sharing with the parents lets us know up front if Fab will be safe.  If the parents are not OK with it, then tears may result, but I’d rather tears for us saying no, then tears or worse, because of things other adults might say or do to my child while she is out of reach.  This rule also hold’s true if kids are to come over to our house for a sleepover.  I would rather a parent say no up front, then to have it come out later and find out people have been badmouthing Fab because we chose to keep a secret.

I would like to say we live in a world where if Fab says she is a girl then everyone would see her that way, but that isn’t the way the world really works.  I see a little girl, her mother sees a little girl, and for those who didn’t know her before, that is how she is seen by strangers.  It would be very easy to let the world see what they want, and in most situations that will be our approach, but as she gets older we want Fab to be proud of who she is, and never to be ashamed that she is transgender.  Of course, in a few years she will have a say in how she wants to be seen, and to what degree she wants to share her uniqueness.  For now, much is left to us, because she doesn’t care  about labels and she doesn’t worry about what the greater world thinks.

I could get into the whole dating issue, but she is only seven.  Suffice it to say that when the time comes we will also have the same rule for dating.  Until she is 18, anyone she might date should know she is transgender, as should their parents, for the same reasons outlined above.

For now, dating is far into the distance, and thankfully as of right now she only wants to do sleep overs with girls whose parents know she is transgender and love that she has the courage to be herself.

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The Importance of Brother

sometimes-being-a-big-brother-is-even-better-than-being-a-superhero-quote-1I can still remember that day in 2011 when two toddlers, one just turned three and the other not quite two, came to live with us.  Their bond, even then, was unbelievably strong and their bond and love for each other has grown all the more stronger over the last five years.  At the time they were brothers, and Sport, our oldest, was so protective of Fab that it would take us almost a year to get him to relax fully and just be a kid.  His desire to protect his sibling hasn’t waned in the intervening years, and I think in many ways it has grown stronger.

When Fab’s genderfluidness really started to present itself, we asked Sport if he knew Fab was a girl on the inside, and in his usual casual manner he just nodded and said, “Yep.”  That one word exemplifies his response to Fab’s transition.  As we look at the two of them it doesn’t seem their relationship has been affected in the slightest.  Sport has Fab’s back.  He can pick on her and do all those things siblings do, but woe to the kid outside our family that tries the same thing.

Sport is one of the kindest children I have ever known, and I’m not just saying that because he is my son.  Sometimes I wish he would be a little meaner, a little more aggressive, but that isn’t who he is.  Instead, he is the kid that worries about those around him, asks for spontaneous hugs, and when he upsets us or others is so empathetic as to cry at the knowledge he has hurt or upset another.  He simply does not understand mean people, or why people would want to be mean in the first place.  In his eight year old mind people should just get along and be friends.  Fab could not ask for a better big brother.

This weekend Sport had a moment of mourning for the brother he lost.  He was entitled to this, and Mom and I were wondering when this would happen.  Since transitioning, Fab has rejected many of the things she liked as a “boy.”  This rejection also included things that they used to like to do together, and as a result it left Sport feeling sad on Saturday.

I only found out when Fab came to get pictures of her as boy to give to her brother so that he didn’t have to be sad.  It was a sweet gesture, but what Sport needed was to sit on my lap, cry, talk, and get a big dad hug.  Afterwards, Fab agreed to play video games with him, and his sadness was forgotten.  Sport is only eight, and doesn’t understand that Fab is finding her female self-expression.  She will come back to the things that she likes, but in the mean time it can leave Sport mourning the loss of his little buddy.  He has a right to his feelings, as we all adjust to our new normal.

It can be an easy thing to neglect your cisgender children during the transition of a transgender child.  With the myriad of new worries and concerns that crop up with the new normal of raising a transgender child, you can easily find yourself going overboard to establish normalcy for your transgender child while assuming all is fine with your cisgender child.  However, we all know the saying about “ass”uming anything.  It is still important to let our cis-kids know they are just as important, and to find special time for them as well.  This is especially true for younger cisgendered siblings that are incapable of understanding all the concerns we as parents might have.  To be fair, they shouldn’t have to.

Sport is only 15 months older than Fab, and we have put things in place to ensure he will know that he is just as special to us as his sister is.  As parents we can always find special time for each of our children, and they truly treasure such time.  We just have to remember to make this a priority for “all” our children, especially when there is a child that requires greater attention in the home.  We never want Sport to resent Fab, or us because of who she has revealed herself to be.  We should be able to celebrate both our children for their uniqueness and accomplishments, and we should always make sure they know how precious they are to us in their own ways.  It is a priority for us that we remember this, and my hope that once grown, Sport never feels he ever played second fiddle to Fab, because there is nothing second fiddle about my only boy.

 

No League of Their Own (Transgender Athletes)

no_league_of_their_own__transgender_athl1Fab is an athlete.  She has the potential to be great at whatever sport she chooses to play.  She was a phenomenal young gymnast before transitioning, and while her mother and I are open to her competing as a female gymnast (US Gymnastics is inclusive), gymnastics still serves as a reminder of her life as a boy.  We can see she misses it terribly, but if she goes back, that will be her decision to make.  She will play soccer in the fall on a coed team with the YMCA.  It will be a safe space for her, because I coach the team, her brother plays for it, and I have changed her gender marker with the Y.  However, it does give us pause as we contemplate her playing on all girl teams.  Unlike most parents, parents of transgender youth have to consider a sport’s governing body’s policy, or that of a school, school district, athletic organization, etc.  Some simply refuse to let our kids compete out of some misguided, false belief.  It is especially bad for MtF youth, where misguided notions are the worst.  Of course, then there are also the parent’s to consider and how they will take it if found out.  The solution is to stay stealth, but this is not always a possibility, and if your child becomes an elite athlete, then it will be very likely that they will have come out or risk being banned from the sport they love.

I just watched a great documentary on transgender athletes that was put together before the 2016 Olympics.  I thought it was well done, and did a good job of explaining the realities for transgender athletes, and more importantly how athletics can serve to be inclusive, not exclusive if we are willing to let it. Anyways, I wanted to share that documentary here for anyone else who has a budding athlete, or simply just because it is a chance to educate yourself on reality.  Hope you enjoy!

Born in the right body

It was awesome to find another blogger who is the father of a transdaughter. His wife wrote this wonderful poem about their daughter, and I wanted to share it on my blog. He was kind enough to grant permission.

Growing Up Transgender

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When you were born you were perfect;

strong, healthy, just a bit too yellow.

We thought you were a boy;

We now know you are a girl.

Our kind, clever, beautiful daughter.

Happy, confident, healthy.

You are still perfect – our perfect girl.

You are not a girl in a boy’s body.

This is your body, and you are a girl.

Your body is just like your new friends’ who are also trans girls.

You have a perfect trans girl’s body.

Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

As you get older, maybe you will want or need to change some part.

I know you don’t want a beard

But what you do with your body is entirely up to you.

There is no right way to be.

You are loved and perfect as you are.

You were not born in the wrong body.

Remember your uncle’s knee didn’t work and…

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My Wife Made Fab Trans?!?

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If you haven’t figured out, my title drips with sarcasm, but it points to something that Fab’s Mom got to experience yesterday for the first time.

So, Mom went to pick Fab and her brother up from school, and she arrived at the same time that a neighbor of ours did.  The man in question is not a friend, or someone that we even really know, but we have seen him at the bus stop from time to time, and he has always been pleasant in the past.  I should clarify that we’re pretty sure he doesn’t know about Fab’s transition, or at least he didn’t until yesterday.

Fab came down the hallway rocking her jean shirt dress, leggings, and cowboy boots, and the man who had been smiling at Mom, looked at Fab, and then looked back at Mom.  When he looked back he was no longer smiling.  She had been waiting for a moment like this to happen, the moment someone would stare or act with hostility.  She had been ready to lay into the first person who acted this way, but after it happened she told me it didn’t anger her as much as she thought would.  Instead, it made her sad, and shocked her a little that a grown man would let what a child was wearing bother him so much.  Put another way,  it left Mom with a “what the fuck” feeling.  The man’s angry stare came with the unsaid accusation that “she” had turned Fab into a girl.  Mom said, if the guy had been Superman then her face would have had two holes from his heat vision.  After all, as many of us know, what other reason would Fab possibly have for being a girl?

Ladies of transgender children, I feel for you on this count.  After all it is always at your feet the blame is laid.  Often, this is done by people who haven’t been there to see the gradual changes in our children.  For Fab this has been a four year journey.  We moved very slowly, and only at her insistence.  People have no idea regarding our reality, and the only thing I can say is the dude is lucky I wasn’t there.

See, I was the first parent to accept that this was the direction Fab was probably heading.  Mom had a real hard time with it.  She was thrilled we had two boys and no girls.  She didn’t want girls.  Girls were hard, boys were easy, and she loved being the only lady among men.  Add to it that she was losing her baby boy, and she was in serious mourning for much of the last few months.  She didn’t want to talk about it, or learn about transgender issues.  She didn’t want to lose her son.

Now don’t get me wrong, Mom was always affirming and supportive.  She didn’t share her fears or sadness with Fab, those were conversations between husband and wife.  Fab never knew, and only after last week on vacation, did Mom finally say this week, that she only saw a daughter now.  The guy who glared at her didn’t know that.  He didn’t see my wife breakdown in tears during an argument we had about Fab.  The guy who glared didn’t see Fab breakdown, or the conflict within that she found a way to describe as her “boy and girl hearts.”  He simply saw a mom, with what he had known before as two boys, and we know where the assumption went.

For me, he’d say I was gutless, whipped, or that Mom must keep my balls in a jar, because after all, what real man would let his boy be a girl?  I would say a “real” man, a “real” father would celebrate his child finding herself.  Whether Fab is a boy or girl has no bearing on if I am a good father or a bad one.  How I treat her, accept her for who she is, teach her compassion, and how to be independent and confident makes me a good parent.

Am I a good father?  My kids tell me so.  This morning I got a “Daddy, you’re awesome.” from Fab, who is very stingy with compliments.  It was spur of the moment, and unexpected, which made it matter all the more, and reaffirmed we are doing the right thing as parents.

Mom and I know people will stare, and some will make comments.  To be honest, we have no fucks to give.  Our kids give us strength to deal with the assholes that are out there.  We will do what we need to in order to protect both our children, and to prepare them for the ugliness of the world.  Mom is happy to shoulder the blame for Fab’s “becoming” a girl if that means the anger is directed at her rather than Fab.  In a perfect world, the anger wouldn’t exist, because instead of seeing a boy who was turned into a girl, the man would have simply seen a happy child skipping down the hallway.  After all, it is what we see most days, a happy, sassy, little girl.