Weird or a Boy

Pool timeI took M. to the local indoor swimming pool over the long weekend.  We went into a private “family changing room” to get our suits on. M. shut the door firmly behind us and said:  “I don’t want anyone to know I have a penis.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I don’t want them to think I’m weird – or a boy,” M. said.

I replied that I didn’t think it was weird for a girl to have a penis.  “And actually, there may be other girls at the pool today with penises, too, but we wouldn’t know that because, well, what’s under our clothes is private, right?”

M. nodded and started to peel off her clothes.

She brings this stuff up so seldom that I thought I should see if she wanted to talk about it more.  Generally I just leave it up to her to decide when to talk about “the gender thing,” because I don’t want to make her feel self-conscious and…. weird.  Who told her she was weird??

“Do you worry about kids at school knowing you have a penis?”

“Nope.” She didn’t hesitate. I think she figures she’s got that one under control:  No locker rooms or swimming lessons at school – yet.

Then she smiled her little devil-girl smile at me.  “But you know what Sophie and I do sometimes?”


“We go into the bathroom stall together!”

“So she knows you have a penis?”


“And I guess you know if she has a penis or a vagina.”

M. looked around our changing room, glancing at the locked door.  She pulled me down so she could whisper in my ear:  “She has a bagina.”

I raised my eyebrows to express mild surprise at this interesting fact.  “Oh? OK.”

We had a great time at the pool.

11 thoughts on “Weird or a Boy

  1. This makes me think of a moment when I was babysitting a 2.5 year old little girl who is in the midst of potty-training. While she was peeing she told me that she has a “bagina” and that her brother Henry as a “penis.” Then she asked me what I had. It reminded me that children only have set ideas about gender and body anatomy because they have been taught that. Most people would look at me and assume they know what I have, and as a cis woman, their guess would probably be correct, but she didn’t have any preconceived notion yet that I would have one or the other. I told her that I had a vagina, and when her brother who was 4 said that boys have penises and girls have vaginas, I said that is usually the case, but not always.

  2. You and your family rock! This gender stuff can get complicated at times but with love and a sense of humor you both will be fine! I am sure of that!

    Thanks for making my day with this!

  3. Everytime I read your blog I feel like you’re writing about my life. My 7 year old trans daughter is also very worried about people knowing she’s a “girl with a penis”. We changed schools when she transitioned last year so she could have privacy and a fresh start. So it has taken me by surprise that she recently told two of her classmates about her private parts. They didn’t believe her so I imagine the next step is showing them the proof! I don’t want to say anything that will cause her shame so I tell her it’s her decision if and when she shares about herself, but I’m scared shitless that she won’t be able to handle the repercussions of people knowing. One of her closest friends comes from a very religious family, I don’t imagine they will allow their daughter at our house anymore if they know L is transgender. I really look forward to when she’s old enough to understand all of this.
    Thank you for your blog, Especially the humor! We have to be able to laugh at the irony in these situation!

  4. What is obvious about all this is that it is both very simple and very complicated. It is complicated because we don’t know why this transgender thing occurs in some individuals, but there is a long history to show that it has and continues to occur. For all those who are transgender it is simply a mix up that MUST be and CAN be resolved. The truly unfortunate thing is that it is the rest of society that has the major difficulty in dealing with and accepting the fluidity of gender. The world needs to come to terms with the transgendered persons as it has slowly come to terms with the gays and lesbians. How long that takes, however, affects human lives. I applaud you and M for your strength and courage in the ongoing struggle.

  5. Just found your blog and I can certainly relate.

    My nearly five year old (trans) daughter feels similarly when around people who don’t know of her trans status. At preschool, she uses a co-ed bathroom without stalls so everyone knows, but at swimming lessons and gymnastics she is “stealth” and worries about others seeing a hint of her parts. On the practical side, we buy skirted swimsuits from Land’s End which have a nice long skirt and for gymnastic she wears a pair of spandex shorts over her leotard which covers everything quite nicely.

    • Thank you, Steve. What a lovely letter. I’d like to share it with M. when she’s a little older. How lucky she and I are to have supporters like you out there!

  6. It’s not an odd concern for trans people whatsoever of any age, though at a certain age you have the cognitive capacity to understand it all.

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