My last post, about M.’s schoolmate finding out that she was transgender, got some pretty strong responses – some of them not very nice. Some people leapt to the conclusion that my child was walking around exposing herself to random children at school, that these kids were being traumatized by this, and that when these children were telling the adults about it, we were calling them liars. Sigh. If that were happening, it would indeed be a big problem. I’d be upset and would address it. But it’s simply not the case.
Every adult in this situation is being very respectful of each child, is taking them seriously, and wants those kids to be heard and supported. My child does have a penis, but that doesn’t make her some sort of predator; I received emails that seemed to be lumping her in a category with creepy men in trench coats flashing themselves at innocent children. These emails seem to ignore the fact that she is a very young child whose body is still a wonder to herself. She finds it fascinating and strange, as do other young children, that there are different types of bodies, but she assigns no shame or sexual role to any person’s body parts. She is very aware, however, that adults seem to place a lot of emphasis on the type of “parts” people have under their clothes. And she knows that she is a girl with “the wrong parts.” She also knows (and this part makes my heart ache) that people may tease her, exclude her, or worse, if they find out. This realization came to her sometime in the past year, and it has meant that she is now extremely private about her privates. Of course, that’s appropriate: Kids shouldn’t be showing each other their private parts at school – and my child is very aware of this. But it saddens me that she has to be so much more careful – and fearful – than other children do about their bodies.
Last summer, we were at our friends’ house for a BBQ. M. was running around in the backyard with her pal, Tessa, and the girls were getting hot. They begged Tessa’s mom to turn on the sprinkler. Tessa ripped off her clothes in an instant and raced naked around the yard, squealing in anticipation. M. frowned. She asked me if I had her bathing suit. Tessa had known M. when she was still living as a boy. She knew full well that M.’s body probably looked more like her little brother’s than like hers. And yet M. was still afraid. I reminded her that Tessa was a good friend, that she knew that M. was transgender, and that no one would mind if she wanted to be naked, too. I left it up to her. She bit her lip and thought it over for a minute, then shrugged, squirmed out of her clothes, and raced off to join Tessa in the sprinkler’s sweet cool rain.