As parents, we all have checklists running in the backs of our minds pretty much all the time. Usually in the form of questions. Did everyone remember to pack their lunch? Did I turn the stove off? Are the Girl Scout forms all filled out? Who did I forget to call back? What day am I supposed to bring cupcakes in to school? (Please, please let it not be today.) Did I turn the stove off?
As the parent of a transgender child, that checklist is constantly growing in new and surprising ways. Questions I never would have had in my Life Before the Big Reveal. All the usual questions are still there. Kids are kids, no matter their gender or orientation. But they’ve been joined with:
Should we tell parents before accepting sleepover invitations? Do my feelings of social obligation outweigh my child’s right to privacy? Is this a social issue or a medical issue? Will she be safe if she tells her classmates that she’s transgender? Can her schoolmates who know keep a secret? Does that bathing suit make it obvious that she has a penis? Huh, I forgot that she has a penis. Did I remind her to pee sitting down before she left for camp?
That checklist also includes questions for the future that, if our daughter were cis gender, I would never have considered:
Will she have to list her assigned gender at birth on her driver’s license or will she be able to list her actual gender? How much danger will it put her in to have the wrong gender on her ID? It’s so obvious that’s she not a boy. Can she pass it off as a clerical error? Is it fair that she have to do that? Or will it be sending her a constant message of self-negation right when she’s at her most vulnerable? I need to start advocating for her at the state level now, so that we have a few years to hopefully fix things for her by the time she gets there. Do we have a chance? What else do we need to start fighting for now? Have we waited too long already? Oh dear lord, I’m not ready to think about her driving yet.
We haven’t answered all of our own questions yet. Some of them have evolved over time. We were a lot more open with our community at the beginning of her transition. Based on the unfortunate and deeply harmful reactions of a few, we have become much more selective about who we tell. Based on the openhearted acceptance and love shown to us by the vast majority of those we’ve shared our story with, we’ve gained confidence in our parenting choices and hope for the future.
We read interviews and articles by people with all sorts of opinions about what it means to be transgender, we share stories and support with other families of transgender children, we brace ourselves for news of another suicide, another murder. We write letters and cultivate open dialogue and answer questions. We read medical journals and pour over study results. Our list of questions shrinks as we find the answers…and then grows again as we realize we’re only one step further down this path.
Ultimately, we decided that for our child, the fact that she is transgender is a medical issue, not a social issue. And as such, she has a right to privacy about her health that outweighs everyone else’s curiosity and personal political or religious beliefs. It is her choice to be an advocate, to be an inspiring public figure, to educate others about what it means to be transgender, or to simply live her life privately. There’s no shame in just wanting to be a little girl.
As for the rest? We’re figuring it out as we go.