10 Things I Need Republicans To Know About My Transgender Child
I've been having nightmares about it since approximately 8 p.m. MT on Nov. 8. There are a myriad of reasons I worry about this new administration, but most present that night was my daughter, Lily. I don't pretend to think that if the current president, or anyone in his general vicinity, met my daughter it would change anything about what they plan to do to make her life a constant struggle. However, there are things I want Republicans to know about my transgender child. I do hope, perhaps with a bit of willful naïveté, that other people out there will continue to be exposed to awesome folx (an inclusive term used by the gender creative community to signify all people, not just those who conform to the gender binary) like Lily — people who are scared, disgusted, or apathetic to transgender rights, and I hope they'll allow their hearts to open for just a moment. I hope the more personal stories they hear, the more open their hearts will become until one day their hearts open so far and so wide there will be no shutting them again.
As bad as the fear was that night — the tunnel vision, the panic, the dissociation — the next morning was worse. That's when my sensitive and brilliant child's expectant, smiling face broke into terrorized tears. I didn't even realize she knew anything about "the other guy." We'd been so careful never to expose our children to the vitriolic hatred of President Donald Trump's rhetoric. I faced her with tears in my eyes and a tremble in my voice. I watched her face contort as I broke the news. "How could you let this happen?!" she asked me. "He hates girls! He hates trans people! He hates me!" It marked the moment my child's innocence was lost.
One night she looked at me with tears in her eyes, her voice shaking, and said, "Mama? When do I grow up to be a girl?"
Though the current administration rolled back federal support for transgender students' civil rights, we don't yet know exactly what this will mean moving forward. So while so much hangs in an imperfect, terrifying balance, what I do want to talk about is my child, Lily.
She's Gender Creative
My Lily is 7. She would best explain her gender as "both," and with a shrug. The first time Lily broached the subject of gender with me, she was 5 years old. We used to have our deep conversations at night, in the top bunk of the bedroom she shared with her little brother. One night she looked at me with tears in her eyes, her voice shaking, and said, "Mama? When do I grow up to be a girl?"
Suffice it to say my child prefers female pronouns and will correct you if you get it wrong with a forgiving, "Everybody makes mistakes." She firmly believes that there are as many ways to experience gender as there are ways to experience happiness and frustration. She considers herself very lucky to be a boy-girl because she gets to be the best of everything. When she talks about gender — which isn't often, because boring! — she expresses deep empathy for the kids (and adults) who don't know that gender can be many things. She thinks it's funny that she taught her all-knowing mom about non-binary and bigender folx and often reminds me how that's just one of the ways she's teaching me every day.
She Is Crazy Smart
Lily's father, my partner, is an avid follower of all things car-related. When she was a colicky baby, the only way my partner could get her to sleep was to drive around with NPR's Car Talk on the radio. As a precocious 2-year-old toddler, we took daily walks around the neighborhood with Lily excitedly yelling out every single car's make, model, and sometimes even year. To this day, we have miles of toy car tracks and hundreds of tiny cars for me to step on throughout the house.
She's not ashamed of who she is. She is proud of who she is. She was not "born in the wrong body"; she was born in her body.
She knew the alphabet at 18 months, taught herself to read (I'm not even sure when that happened, to be honest), and began writing just shy of 3 years old. She really wanted me to share this picture of the bathtub wall where, at 2 years old, she accidentally spelled a swear word with bath letters because, duh, it's hilarious!
We Are Lucky She's Alive
Between the ages of 1 minute and 4 years, Lily spent approximately one month, give or take a week, in the hospital. Her first five days on the planet were spent in the NICU under the oxygen tent we now jokingly refer to as "the cake-pan." At 8 months, she had what we thought were seizures and spent a couple days with wires coming out of her head (turns out, they never figured it out, but it was likely just a strange reaction to sleep problems). Her three final hospitalizations were all RSV-induced asthmatic emergencies. I'm incredibly relieved to report she has not been hospitalized for at least two years.
She Is A Proud Big Sister
She has a best friend and arch nemesis in her 5-year-old brother (who prefers not to be recognizably pictured or named in my articles). My kids are quick to argue, but she is first to defend his honor when someone treats him unfairly.
Her biggest complaint about all this hoopla around bathrooms is, "Why do people care? Why don't they know I can't be anybody other than who I am? I'm just me."
She Is An Unexpected Caretaker
I had three miscarriages between kids one and two, which caused her deep grief. However, she was also quite calmly philosophical at times declaring, "Our baby's just not ready yet. We wanted this to be it, but it wasn't their time. They'll come when they're ready," and, "I'm going to kiss you and kiss you and kiss you until we make another baby." Her now 10-month-old sibling was absolutely enamored with her from day one, and remains a loyal audience to her Encyclopedia Brown recaps and musings about The Inexplicable Universe.
She Is A Scientist And An Author
Starting at age 4, Lily's favorite show was Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos. She knows every episode by heart and had a major meltdown last year when we missed the famous astrophysicist's Colorado School of Mines presentation by merely a week. (Thanks, mom.) She had brief intellectual love affairs with paleontology, Jane Goodall, Japan, and PBS's Super Why. Currently, she is planning on pursuing careers in directing, acting, writing ("When can I write my article for Romper, mama?"), being a ninja, cartography, and astrophysics. So. You know. Not ambitious or anything.
At moments, I'm so proud of this young warrior who wants so badly to make things right in the world. Still, in other moments, my heart aches that she has no choice but to experience the peace-is-always-just-out-of-reach reality that is the life of a human rights defender.
Lily has written three major story-lines this year (Star Wars: X-300, Tom Hill, and Laser-Lily), which will, according to her plans, each fill multiple books, graphic novels, and movies. But incidentally, she has never seen Star Wars. The franchise is much too scary for her. She prefers her television scientific or mind-numbingly slapstick (think Animal Mechanicals).
School Is Her Favorite Place On Earth
She is friends with everyone, teachers and students alike. Whenever she sees the principal or her former teacher, she's overcome with big feelings and runs over to hug them. In Colorado, Lily will still be able to use the correct bathroom because our protections pre-existed President Obama's guidelines.
She Never Stops Moving
She has always loved running. She will run until she passes out if we let her. Strangers who observe her activity level always quip something along the lines of, "She'll sleep well tonight!" I've given up explaining that no, actually, she won't. She'll sleep the same she always has since she gave up her nap at 18 months old. Lily sleeps only after 7:30 p.m. or when the sun sets (whichever comes last) and awakens with the sun or 6:30 a.m. (whichever comes first).
She Has A Passion For Justice
Lily, whether fortunate or not, has inherited my passionate quest for justice. At moments, I'm so proud of this young warrior who wants so badly to make things right in the world. Still, in other moments, my heart aches that she has no choice but to experience the peace-is-always-just-out-of-reach reality that is the life of a human rights defender.
She Wanted Me To Write This Article
Stealth is not something Lily does. We've had to repeatedly explain to her at 4 years old why we don't share our addresses and full names with random strangers in the store. So community support is absolutely essential to her safety because being quiet about who she is? It's not in her nature.
I have yet to find an answer to why people care so much about which bathroom my kid uses.
She's not ashamed of who she is. She is proud of who she is. She was not "born in the wrong body"; she was born in her body. As all children should get to be: she just is. Her biggest complaint about all this hoopla around bathrooms is, "Why do people care? Why don't they know I can't be anybody other than who I am? I'm just me."
I cobbled together some non-answer that parents excel in when they're put on the spot. Something about false sense of safety, ignorance (willful or not), and fear. But the truth? I have yet to find an answer to why people care so much about which bathroom my kid uses. The only answers I come up with make my blood boil. I'd like to think humanity isn't that hateful. So while political pundits continue to debate the rights of human beings like my daughter, in my mind, her right to exist freely is never, ever, up for discussion.