I haven’t been entirely honest with my child.
In an effort to convince her that there’s nothing strange or abnormal about being transgender, I’ve stacked the deck in her favor, filling our world with as many transgender and gender-nonconforming people as possible. We do a lot of play dates with other kids from our support group. One of our babysitters is a trans teen girl. And I’ve started volunteering in the local transgender community, bringing a new group of adults into our lives who are scattered all along the gender spectrum.
The kid definitely believes that her cohort is bigger than it is. She probably assumes that, say, one in ten people is transgender, rather than the three in one thousand that it’s actually estimated to be.
We’ve developed our own lexicon to talk about gender. There are “girls with vaginas” (like me) and “girls with penises” (like her). Then there are “boys with penises” (like her cousins) and “boys with vaginas,” and there are people like our friend T., who is “a mix of boy and girl” (genderqueer). There are also “boys who really like girl stuff” and “girls who really like boy stuff.” We have friends who fall into all of these categories. I like having a lexicon that is concrete and descriptive, leaves little room for misinterpretation, includes everyone, and is devoid of adult politics and baggage. It makes sense to my five-year-old, and it makes sense to me.
One night at bedtime, I was telling M. a story about a group of young animal friends who live in a meadow. The Meadow Gang had become a crowd favorite for “doing crazy mischief and having ginormous adventures,” so they were featured for several nights running. Their ring-leader was a little gray mouse named Mookie. Mookie was definitely the coolest kid in the meadow. I hadn’t intended to leave Mookie’s gender ambiguous, but I guess I had.
Mookie was about to climb the tallest oak tree in the forest to rescue his friend Sammy Squirrel when M. interrupted. “Is Mookie a boy or a girl or both?”
I smiled. I would have high-fived myself if I knew how to do that. Operation Normalize Gender Diversity… complete!
But I didn’t stay smug for long. The next night at dinner, I was telling M. about a new friend I had just made. “So I met this nice person and her name’s Hanna. She is really funny – oh, and she is a girl with a penis, like you, but anyway… She just got married to a nice lady named Becca, and –“
M. interrupted. “Wait. She’s a girl and she married another girl?”
M., my daughter with a penis, gave me a stern look. “A girl marrying a girl?” She shook her head. “That’s not normal, Mom.”