The Littlest Ally

allyWith two months of kindergarten under our belts, it was time last week for our first-ever parent-teacher conference.

M.’s dad and I sit down expectantly in tiny plastic chairs, our knees bent up to our chests, waiting for the report from M.’s sweet teacher.  She’s the type of teacher who’s far more at ease with the kids than the parents, so we haven’t talked much up until now. I’m not too worried about M.’s academic performance, social adjustment, or behavior.  She seems to be on the fast-track to reading soon, has lots of little friends giving her good-morning hugs at drop-off, and there hasn’t been a whisper of a problem with her behavior.  But, of course, I’m wondering (and worrying) about the elephant that will likely dwell in every living room – and classroom – she will ever enter: Do the other kids “know” yet?  Have any of the other parents said anything? (For new readers of this blog: M. entered her new school this fall simply as M., a girl like all the other girls. We didn’t see her transgender status as a secret, but we didn’t announce it either. The staff were told, and we assumed the kids would figure it out eventually and we’d cross that bridge when we came to it. That bridge seems to be getting closer.)

“We’ve been working on literacy through story-telling,” the teacher begins. We spend the next 25 minutes poring over a notebook full of adorable drawings accompanied by words with delightful misspellings (“Mi Mom pikd a prty flawr”). Then we move on to those math worksheets that apparently still have the power to make me queasy. “M. is doing really well with her numbers…”

I am fidgeting in my tiny chair.  M.’s academics are clearly going well. I want to talk about the elephant!

With just minutes to go in our allotted half hour, the teacher finally brings it up. She says it “really hasn’t been an issue.”  She says the other kids don’t seem to know, except for… Sophie.*  She smiles.

I remember the first time I met Sophie.  I was dropping M. off in the morning.  Sophie was busy answering the “morning question” that their teacher writes on a white board at the start of each day.  It was a Monday, so the question was, “What did you do this weekend?” I watched Sophie – a leftie, like me – put the finishing touches on a drawing of a child falling face-first down a set of stairs.  She tugged on my sleeve and explained, delighted: “My little sister fell down the stairs!” A starfish of red lines erupted from the child’s chin.  “That’s the blood!”

“Wow,” I said.  “That’s a very realistic drawing, Sophie.” I told Sophie that I was left-handed, too.  Sophie grabbed M. and they ran off off to tell the rest of the class her gory story.

Sophie’s dad, standing next to me, chuckled self-consciously and introduced himself. “She’s the only leftie in the family,” he said. “We’re not really sure where that came from. We’re not really sure where a lot of Sophie’s traits came from, actually…”

M.’s teacher tells us that Sophie’s parents came to her recently and asked about M.’s gender. Apparently Sophie had told them that M. had a penis. The teacher laughed:  “Her dad’s a doctor, and Sophie was schooling him on the issue: ‘C’mon, dad,’ she said, ‘Don’t you know that girls can have penises, too?'”

We all chuckled.  “But was he… OK with it?” I ask.

“Oh yeah, yeah, totally,” the teacher says.

“Do any of the other kids know?”

“I don’t think so,” she says. “Sophie is very protective of M. I think it’s their special secret.”

I imagine the two of them sitting close, as I’ve often seen them doing, their little blond heads bent together, giggling, confessing, conspiring. “Sometimes they distract each other during writing time,” the teacher says. “But their connection seems so special that I don’t want to discourage it by separating them.”

Most of our kindergarten friendships will not last anything close to a lifetime, but I suspect (and I can’t write this without starting to cry) that goofy little Sophie’s loyalty will mark my child’s life forever.

* Not her real name.

17 thoughts on “The Littlest Ally

  1. That’s a lovely little tidbit to read. And so you see- things have a way of working themselves out when necessary, and when we least expect it and are worrying tirelessly!

    Very nice 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your blog. In my small town, I have two friends who have transgender children. I love that we live in a time where my children will be very comfortable with all gender identities as they grow up. My daughter attends school with a girl who is transgender and very well accepted in a class of pre-teens. We have known this child since preschool and the kids all accept her as a girl (bright pink clothing and love of all things sparkly seems to help!). Like your daughter, she knew she was a girl from a very young age (and yes, we all asked “how can she know so young?”). Be patient, it takes time to educate.

    I fear what will happen as the kids enter this dreaded time of “middle school”, but our small K-8 school seems very supportive of keeping her safe, secure and valued. It has already become a time of some “bullying” among the girls, so I don’t imagine that she will be immune to that too. It sounds funny, but I hope any bullying experience that she has is the normal girl drama and has nothing to do with her gender identity. That may be strange to wish, but girl drama sometimes gives us the fortitude to stand up for ourselves and creates our identity as strong, capable young women. Hopefully every girl comes to that conclusion, trans or not.

    Another friend has an adult child that is about to embark on a sex change. It has been a total education with all that includes. I am so proud of this mom who is supporting her daughter (now son) to make this life change.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience. I know that the mom of the girl at our school mentioned how hard it was to find information about parenting young transgender kids and that she really felt like she was navigating this alone, always searching for as much information as she could. Please continue sharing, the world needs to hear your daughter’s voice.

  3. M is such a lucky, lucky girl to have you two as her parents. I just found your blog, and will follow it with delight and curiosity, because you are forging a new way for young transgender children. Thank heavens!

  4. GM,
    I just read all of your blog posts in one sitting, and I just have to say…wow. I was tearing up several times, incredibly impressed by the strength of you and your amazing daughter. From all that you have said about her, she is incredibly intelligent and mature for a child of her age. She is going to go very far in this world, I have no doubts about that.

    M is an absolutely beautiful person inside and out. The hardships she’ll face are going to be bountiful, but I know she’ll be able to handle it.

    I just wanted to tell you how much I admire the both of you.


  5. I am delighted to discover your blog. We knew our son was not a happy boy but it wasn’t until she was in her 30’s that she realised, told us and has now become our much loved and much happier daughter. I’m so glad that the world is so much more accepting now. Our daughter’s employer has been brilliant and now, eight years after transition, all is well and we are all the happier for her happiness.
    All thebest to you and yours 🙂

  6. You know, this is a niche thing, not something I usually read. Most who would come across this would do so with similar issues or be part of the LGBT movement. That’s not me, and I have no opinion on either matter.

    I wanted to write though. I’ve read through many of your posts and I think you and your husband, as well as your daughter, are doing so very well with this and are helping her through everything in the best way possible. I’m so glad you’re not the parents who force their defined son to buck up and stop having interest in girl things, or try to convince him he’s ‘just gay’ rather than truly a woman. It’s a noble and, I imagine, incredibly hard and terrifying choice.

    I wish your family and your little girl happiness and abundance. You all deserve it.

  7. I love this story. As a mother with a son navigating his way through a new kindergarten (we pulled him from his first kindergarten two weeks in) I have seen how hard it is for any child to fit in. The part about, “their little blond heads bent together, giggling, confessing, conspiring” created such a beautiful picture in my mind’s eye. I hope Sophie is part of M’s life for a long time. Good friends are hard to come by no matter who you are.

  8. I’m sure M will always remember Sophie. So glad he’s found a friend and ally so early on in school.
    Very happy to become a new follower of your blog; even happier that you are writing it. Thank you.

  9. I can actually see those two little rascals getting up to no good already 😀 Being transgender and a parent myself, I can tell you how hard it is to come by a person who ‘gets it’, especially at that age.

    If you can just do me one favor? Hug your precious little girl just a little tighter, she deserves it. Oh, and kiss her for no apparent reason — you’re her mom, you don’t need one right?

  10. My family members all the time say that I am killing my time here at net, except I know I am getting know-how all the time by reading such fastidious content.

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