None of your beeswax!

tigerA lot of you wrote to me about my recent post, “That’s why they’re called privates.”  In a nutshell, I was writing about touring a new afterschool program for my daughter, and the director had got wind of the fact that she is transgender and had apparently told her whole staff before we’d even talked about it.  So, yeah, I was pretty upset and a lot of you were pretty peeved on my behalf, too.  Thanks for all the support!

While I do think the director screwed up, I also think she’s a good person and wants to do the right thing.  After our initial tour, I sent her some resources, including contact info for someone who could train her staff (since they all already “know”).  I also made it very darn clear that I didn’t want any of the other parents told about M.’s gender status.

So what happened?

Well, I got an email several days later saying that we got a spot in the program.  But they didn’t say boo about the trans thing.  I’m hoping they’re working on it.  At the very least, I’m hoping they keep their mouths shut from now on and not keep chatting about my kid’s genitals to people I don’t even know.  Gah!

The plot thickens a bit now, because all of the kids who attend this afterschool program also attend the school that M. will start attending this fall.  That’s right, I’m moving her to a brand-new school.  She’ll be leaving the tiny private school known for its uber-progressive politics (which is why M.’s dad and I picked it in the first place) to a large public elementary school.  (Why?  Short answer: It’s four blocks from my house instead of a cross-town drive through rush-hour traffic.  Plus it’s FREE.)

M. told a few of her pals at her current school that she’s trans, but she was so young.  She was only five years old when she first told her buddy Sophie at the start of kindergarten.  She’s getting older (age seven!) and is becoming more and more private about her trans status. She’s also becoming increasingly aware of how other people might view her, as well as increasingly able to make conscious decisions about whom she tells.  So I think she’s ready to manage her privacy in the larger (and potentially less supportive) environment of a big public school.

And not one single child at her new school knows that she is transgender. M.’s dad and I met with the school’s counselor last fall, and made it clear that we didn’t want anyone else told without our prior consent.  She was extremely supportive and promised to keep the information to herself. She also arranged to have a training about gender identity, to be attended by the entire staff of the school (which is happening this week!).

So M. will get a fresh start.  She’ll get to decide whom she tells, whom she trusts.  We do plan to tell her classroom teacher, but don’t see any need to tell the rest of the staff.  If she has any problems, she can go to her teacher or the school counselor.  As far as anyone else is concerned, she’s just M., the new girl in second grade.

Or she will be unless someone outs her.  That’s part of the reason I was so upset about her being outed to the staff at the afterschool program for her new school.  The more people who know, the more likely it is to get talked about.  And yes, I know, it may not be possible to keep this private.  And yes, I know, sometimes keeping things secret can make them feel shameful and weird when they aren’t and shouldn’t be. But I want my kid to have choices.  I want her to have control.  I want HER to be the one who calls the shots on her private shit.  And I don’t want other people talking about her privates!  As we used say, way back when people MY age were in elementary school, “That’s just none of your beeswax!”

So, ever since deciding to move M. to our neighborhood school, I’ve been thinking about how to plug up any potential information leaks.  It occured to me the other day that a boy on our block just graduated from the school, and that he remembers very clearly when little M. was a little boy named X. Suppose he tell his buddies whose younger siblings still attend the elementary school?  It would be a pretty tempting tid-bit to share at lunch with his fellow seventh graders, I imagine. So I called his mom.  She seemed surprised by my request.  “But he doesn’t go to the school anymore,” she said.

“I know, but I bet he knows kids who do.  Maybe on his baseball team?”

Pause.  “Oh, yeah. I’ll be sure to talk with him.”

It ended up being the same kind of conversation I’ve had a hundred times with the well-meaning liberals who populate my home town.

“It never occured to me to keep it a secret, I mean, WE don’t have any problem with M. being transgender!”

“I know! I know!” I respond.  “And I am SO grateful for your support.  But, you see, not everybody feels the way you do, and even though YOU are totally cool with it, M. really isn’t cool with everyone knowing. See, SHE is the one who could get teased or bullied if everyone knows, so…”

Pause (while they silently count all the people they’ve already told). “Oh. Yeah, OK.”

It’s likely going to be a life-long question for my daughter:  To tell or not to tell?  Whom is it safe to tell?  Which people in my life need to know this about me and which ones have no business knowing?  She’s just starting to ask these questions, and ultimately she’s the only one who can answer them.

My job, as I see it, is to keep fighting like a tiger to give her the space, privacy, and safety in which she can come up with her own answers.

Roar!!!

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19 thoughts on “None of your beeswax!

  1. I’m so in awe of the deftness and kindness with which you navigate these thorny issues. It’s so important for kids to have the agency to make their own decisions in a safe way and you providing the space to give your daughter that agency is really beautiful to me. ❤

  2. I think you are doing an amazing job and clearly have M’s best interest in mind at all times. Continue to roar for her, because the more Transgender awareness and education is available the safer our kids will be. I had a very bad experience with my MTF child when she was 6. The parents at her school found out through faculty that they were friends with. The next thing I knew the media was involved and threats and hate messages were all over social media. We moved to another state. Very few people know about J here. This was 4 years ago and I have already seen a lot of positive changes for Transgender kids and much more public awareness. Thanks to all the brave parents out there fighting for our kids.

  3. It is unusual for a child to decide so young they are transgender. I can imagine the difficulties of such an important thing; to tell or not tell? A seven year old deciding that? I am in my teens and I still struggle with that question! She’s lucky she has such a supportive, caring mother.

  4. Wow! I just found your blog and OMG we have so much in common! My trans child is going to 9 going into the 3rd grade. We just moved to a new neighborhood, new school and she is transitioning this summer to go to school as a girl! We are going through the same thing of keeping it a secret until she meets people she can trust! Best of luck to your daughter!!

  5. Kudos to you for this blog. I’m not a mother myself, but if I have kids one day I hope they are happy and healthy. And if they are transgender, a blog like this will be really helpful. Thank you for being such an amazing mother for your daughter and helping future mothers of kids of all genders learn how to raise their kids with love and care and forgiveness for the mistakes we all make.

  6. I wish I had parents like you when I was growing up. I love my mother with all my heart but me being gay in the 80’s was something my mom, society or I was ready for. All the happiness to you and yours! Hopefully the way was paved just enough so your little girl can be start out just like every other little girl, as a foundation to be someone truly special.

  7. Great points made in this posting and a wonderful education piece for those of us working with trans kids and their families. As someone who works for a public school system, I do have questions about it. If it is difficult to tell if your daughter is trans, then yes, I think keeping it private is practical. But I work with trans kids who, frankly, don’t look at all like the gender they associate with. But they want to be referred by a different pronoun and want to change their name. Teachers and staff may not realize this because the student does not look like the gender they identify with and their birth name is in the computer system. It can be difficult for teachers to remember to keep referring to someone as “she” when she looks like a “he” or by their chosen name rather than their given legal name – especially when they have 220 kids to keep track of. I have had to work with teachers to remind them of this. The teachers are well meaning but they make mistakes. In addition, having a staffing(meeting) with the child’s teachers and administration at the start of the year will help to remind faculty to be more alter for signs of harassment or inappropriate comments or conversations. It reinforces the fact the the school system is fully behind and supportive of the trans student. Issues regarding bathroom use, locker room concerns, etc. can be tackled at this time. I don’t like thinking this type of protection is necessary, but lets face it – some people in this world can be cruel and until societal norms change across the board trans students are more at risk. In other words, protecting the trans status of a student sometimes takes support from faculty and staff. This isn’t possible if it is secret.

  8. Your son is too young to decide to be transgender. Let him be a boy until he is of age. You are harming your child.

    • Clearly you do not have or know a transgender child. Harming the child would be forcing them to live in a body that does not match who they truly are.

      • There is no way a child that young even knows what “trans” means. That is ridiculous. Its the PARENTS who are calling this child “trans”. Just because he likes to wear dresses, or have long hair…does that automatically makes your 7 year old a trans?..NO. How about let your child be whatever he wants to be, stop putting nonsense in his head, and when he is old enough HE will know what he wants to be or do.

    • Dear Gendermom, your Laverne Cox post was included on Yahoo today, so get ready for the masses of internet trolls to come post stupid nonsense like this on your blogs. I for one am glad to have found your blog. I’m not transgender and I don’t even have children, but it’s wonderful to read about how today’s parents and tomorrow’s future are navigating through these types of things, particularly when it’s so positive and working toward the betterment of the child!

    • Wow, what an ignorant comment. You have nothing better to do with you time than troll blogs in order to tell other people how to raise their children? Being transgender is not something one chooses or “decides.” Children absolutely know which gender they are by the time they’re seven. Do more reading and less judging, and you might actually learn something.

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