Protecting Hearts and Minds

safe-schoolsIt seems more and more I am simply writing about life as of late, and it may be that I can thank President Trump for that.  His election has emboldened ignorant people to discuss things with their kids that once would have been taboo or off-limits.  In addition, and although we do not talk politics with the kids, Fab has already come to despise and fear the Trump administration.  She has picked up that they do not like who she is, and in her eyes that makes them bad people.  Her level of anxiety is only heightened when she has to deal with constant comments from boys she passes in the hallways of her school.

The kids have gotten clever, and are careful in what they say, but typically it runs along the lines of “You’re a boy” or “You’re supposed to be  a boy”.  She always responds with, “No, I’m a girl”, but her internal rage builds with each time she has to defend her existence to another child.  She finally lost control of her temper on Friday, and exploded on her friends over something stupid, telling them, “If I were president, I would kill you all” (A bully used to talk about what he’d do to her if he was president).  Her teacher called Mom to tell her what had happened, and initial anger from the both of us gave way to the desire to understand what had happened to cause my child who is usually the perfect student to show her ass at school.

Fab has always internalized her anger and fear, and in this instance she had been listening to older boys make comments when she was in the hallway.  See, she has to walk down to the clinic to use the bathroom.  If she was allowed to use the girls’ room then she wouldn’t encounter 3rd-5th grade boys on a daily basis, but such is the life of an open trans-kid in a public school.  For several weeks she has been listening to these kids and defending herself, and by Friday it had simply gotten to be too much, and like many of us, she lashed out at those closest to her.

Don’t get me wrong, she is so much more confident and happy since her transition, but we also see a growing anxiety in her at the same time.  She is always aware of her differences with the other girls, and it doesn’t help that there are little things about the school that also serve to remind her of this.  We had been content to let her use the clinic bathroom knowing that Gavin Grimm’s case was going to go before the Supreme Court, and so it was a bitter blow to see SCOTUS kick it back down to the lower court.  This decision has also convinced me that the school district where we live would not be changing its policy anytime soon, and this would not be a good thing for Fab’s mental health.

After some serious conversation over the past few days, I went ahead and applied for Fab and her brother to be enrolled in a nearby school next year.  While she will not be happy to find out she has to wear a uniform or that she will leave her friends behind (who never invite her over for playdates), we have decided that for her overall mental health the new school was a much better choice for her than her current school.  The administration and her teacher have been awesome at her school, but we also know regardless of how demanding we are of the administration and even with their willingness to work with us, as long as kids know Fab started school as a boy, the comments will never completely stop.

The new school has listened to all of our concerns, and agreed to all of our requests.  They will be affirming, and when Fab enters the school come next school year, nobody will know she used to live as a boy except for upper administration.  She will be able to start fresh, without any stigma.  Beginning next year, thanks to the current climate in America, Fab will be going stealth.

The following comes almost directly from my communication with the new school that I had back in November when we first explored a transfer.  I’ve added updates in italics:

  1. She is keeping the name “Fab” but changing her middle name…this takes four weeks to get the official name change recognized.  In the application I put her new, chosen middle name.  Will this be an issue?  I am more than happy to provide paperwork once I receive the new documents.  Since November, Fab’s official name change has gone through, so this would not be an issue anyways, but the school administration agreed to use the name we had requested.
  2. Transcripts coming from Woodstock Elementary will list Fab as male, regardless of what the transcripts say, can the school give her a gender marker of female on its paperwork and class rosters?  I do know that FERPA supports that her records should match her gender identity, and amended where necessary.  Agreed to by the school.  We’ll see if it actually happens, but I can say that the school application does not include any gender-markers.
  3. It is important to her not to be mis-gendered, and to be called by female pronouns.  In my mind the fewer people who know her “status” the better.  Can we limit this to administration?  I know you have excellent teachers, but I have also lived in (State) long enough that religion can sometimes get in the way, and I would hate for that to happen.  She’s a little kid and wouldn’t understand, other than to feel hurt.  I also know that the more people who know allows for a greater chance that someone will slip up or make a mistake that might out her, which is what I want to avoid at all costs.   Finally, I know that Title IX guidance rules state that only people who have a “legitimate educational interest in the information” should be made aware of her “status”.  I can agree that yourself, the principal, and assistant principal may need to know, but don’t see where there is a legitimate need for even a teacher to know because gender doesn’t affect educational interest in the classroom…if in the event of medical emergency the principal or assistant principal would be able to divulge that information to a medical professional, but otherwise there shouldn’t be a need for it.  One of the biggest deals, and thankfully agreed to.  Nobody should be able to out my child except for herself.
  4. The last issue, I will ask about, because I have to.  What is the school’s position on bathroom usage?  I know this has been a sticky issue in the media, and I know she would prefer to use the girl’s restroom, especially as the last place she was bullied (both physically and verbally) was after being cornered in the boy’s rest room at her old school back in September by three older boys (She is extremely small, 7 years old and 6 year old clothing is loose on her).  We’ve just found out this week how bad it has affected her to the point that we will be getting her a therapist to deal with it all.  None of this is your problem, except to say that we just want to make sure she feels safe.  From what I have heard from friends, the principal has a zero tolerance on bullying, so I’m sure safety is important to him.  I just want to know going in, so that I can have those conversations with Fab before she starts school with you.  This was a our swing for the fences moment, and the school agreed to it.  We couldn’t be happier that in all ways she will be seen as she sees herself while going to school next year.  We believe, although she has been resistant to switching schools that such affirmation will do her far more good than wearing what she wants to wear each day to school…besides she can always change everyday when she comes home.

The easiest thing an adult can do for trans-kids is to see them for how they see themselves.  That is all any of them want.  It isn’t about the bathroom, or pushing an agenda on others, it is about living life the same way other children their own age do.  This is the hardest thing for the other side to seem to get.  My kid is seven…sexuality is a long way off.  She doesn’t even think about, but she does know and is aware that she isn’t allowed to use the girl’s room at school.  She uses it everywhere else, and nobody blinks an eye.  It takes a certain level off stress off of Mom’s and my shoulders to know that come next year she will be stealth, and free from the constant comments that have follower her for much of the current school year.

Some may see going stealth as an easy way out, but my daughter is seven years old.  She is not capable of, nor should she have to make a decision yet about living her life out in the open for people to ridicule and challenge her.  This will be a choice that I am sure she will one day make, but it will be “her” choice to make when she is capable of looking at all the different angles, which a seven year old is not capable of, no matter what another might say.

I can say, I have struggled not to come out swinging as an open advocate, so has Mom, which as shy as my wife is, should tell you all you need to know about how angry she is.  Everyday I think about putting a real face to this blog, getting involved more, and putting myself into the more active movement.  However, such actions would out Fab, and might also put my job in jeopardy.  The job risk bothers me less than outing my child, and so I grit my teeth and remain anonymously yours.

Earlier this week, some anti-trans folk found my blog, thinking it was another parent’s at first, and I read some of their comments on a Reddit page.  These folks suggest we brainwash our children, or that as a father I’m spineless and a wimp.  These are similar to things I’ve read and seen in the past, and obviously they know nothing about me, because they would be hard pressed to say such things to my face and come out unscathed, but that’s the nature of internet bitches, isn’t it?  They hide behind their keyboards and monitors, because it is an environment where they can spout their ignorant, bigoted rhetoric without fear of a real reprisal.

If any of you anti-trans folk find yourselves here again, keep in mind you haven’t walked ten feet, let alone a mile in my shoes, or my child’s.  One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard is that only an asshole comments on another’s marriage or family life.  You aren’t in it, and so you have no idea what goes on behind the scenes.  You don’t know the hand-wringing, the tears, or the conversations that go on over a few years.  You don’t know how my daughter idolizes her older brother, and would have been happy to follow his example, if only it felt normal to her, which it never did, although she tried very hard to like the things he liked and to be the kind of boy he was.  In short, you don’t know shit about my family, or any other family that is raising one of these beautiful, brave children.  Life will throw enough shit at them, without the uneducated, “internet expert” chiming in on that which they know nothing about.

As for my fellow parents of trans-kids, family, friends, and any trans-persons who find themselves here.  As I tell Fab, you are beautiful for who you are on the inside.  I am amazed at all of your bravery for going out into the world everyday with head held high, affirming who you are, regardless of the ignorant comments, ill-intentioned and well-meaning alike.  You’re ability to grin and bear it is astounding.  Know you have those who will listen to you, and who will fight for you to be seen as you see yourself.  There is much love out there, and in the end love does trump hate.