The most recent controversial decision by the Trump administration (because there have been quite a few to choose from) is taking aim as transgender youth in our schools.
In May of 2016 the Obama administration stated that Title IX protects the right of transgender students to use the restroom and locker rooms that coincide with the gender they identify with. However, recently the current administration has decided that they didn't really like that idea.
Stating that they believe that it should be something each state and local school district should develop policy on. Basically passing the buck to the states, which means that many transgender students in conservative states are screwed.
Now putting aside all of the politics that come along with what should be a basic human right issue it does bring up the topic of how are we addressing this with our children? I mean it does effect them doesn't it?
So I thought I would share how this issue has effected our family because:
- we actually know a trans child,
- she goes to my daughter's school.
- she rides in our carpool
- and we simply adore her!
For the purpose of this post we will call her Jennifer.
This year before school started Jennifer's mother let us know that her son had decided that he was more comfortable as a girl and wanted to be called Jennifer from now on. He wanted to wear dresses and be a girl. Her parents discussed it, consulted their family doctor and decided that was how it would be. Jennifer's mother let me know this decision at back to school night.
I can only imagine as a mom how scary that moment may have been for her. Letting me know this major decision and hoping that I was the type of person who would be accepting of it. Hoping that I wouldn't cause a scene or call her a horrible parent or tell her that her child was just WRONG. Praying that she wouldn't have to tell her daughter that they needed to find a new carpool.
I could almost see her shoulders relax a bit when I looked at her and simply said ‘ok'.
When we got home my daughter had a couple of questions for me about Jennifer. Which was understandable. They all boiled down into one thing though “Why does Jennifer want to be a girl and not a boy?”
Great question. I told her that I personally couldn't fully understand it because I had never felt like I was the wrong gender. BUT I told her that the best way I could explain it is that deep down Jennifer felt more like a girl than a boy. For whatever reason, that is how she was more comfortable.
I said to my daughter, imagine if you were told every day that you HAD to dress as a boy and act like a boy and be referred to as a boy. She said “But I am a girl not a boy”. I said THAT is how Jennifer feels. She feels truly that she is a girl and not a boy and she is happier and more comfortable as a girl.
My daughter is accepting of Jennifer and hasn't really had any issues. She did at one point say that she felt a little uncomfortable when Jennifer was in the bathroom. I told her that I understood and we discussed that at length. Why it made her uncomfortable. What, if anything, had happened to make her feel that way.
I understood why she was a bit uncomfortable, because of course Jennifer is still anatomically a boy. I asked her though if she thought that Jennifer should go into the boys bathroom dressed as a girl? Would that make the boys uncomfortable? Would Jennifer be uncomfortable?
My daughter and I talked back and forth about this and I did my best to cover all her concerns. What it boiled down to though was me saying “You are going in there to pee and get out right? You are in a stall and can't see her and she can't see you while you pee right? So really you both just want to go in, do your business and get out right? And if you didn't know that Jennifer was originally a boy you wouldn't even know right?”
She said “Yeah, so I guess it's not really a big deal.”
We talked more and even though I know she will possibly have more questions or concerns she came away from our talk feeling better.
It is understandably a bit confusing to those who aren't transgender. Just like those who haven't ever experienced discrimination don't completely understand how it feels. I feel that kids are more accepting though. They don't have bias or pre-conceived notions when they are young. They learn them as they get older.
Jennifer has been fully accepted at her school by those who knew her as a boy. I'm sure there have been questions and many conversations but all in all she is doing well. I think that is the key though – having conversations.
Talk to your kids, find out their questions and concerns and try your best to address them. Talk to them about tolerance, self-awareness, understanding and of course coming to you with any concerns. Our kids need to feel they can talk with us about things that worry, concern or confuse them. And they should be met with understanding from us as parents.