My little wonder starts third grade tomorrow. (How did that happen?)
We bought all her school supplies and some snazzy new clothes.
She’s got her first-day outfit picked out.
Now all that’s left is for her mom to email the teacher:
Dear Ms. S.,
It’s hard to believe that tomorrow my little girl starts third grade!
As you know, M. is transgender, and it occurred to me it might be a good idea to send you a little information/background. (I’m sure some of it is stuff you already know, but I’d rather be a little repetitive than neglect to mention something important!)
M. is very private about being transgender. The only staff at school who know this fact are you, the school counselor, Ms. H., and Principal F. (I think the gym teacher and school nurse know, too.) M.’s dad and I would like to be the ones to decide before anyone else at school is told. (Of course, M. may tell anyone she likes.) M. also told a handful of friends last year that she was transgender. I think the only child she told who will be in your class this year is L.
You probably know that Ms. L., from the district office, did a gender lesson in Ms. H.’s class last year, and that the lesson included explaining what transgender was and reading the book, “I am Jazz.” After the lesson, M. told Ms. H. that she wanted to tell the whole class that she was transgender. Ms. H. suggested to M. that she talk with me and her dad first. M. then decided she would like to tell just her closest friends. Before she did so, I spoke with each of the girls’ moms, to let them know, in case their kids came home with questions.
Ms. H. then arranged for the girls to eat lunch with her in the classroom one day, instead of the cafeteria, so that M. could tell the girls privately that she was transgender. I gather it went really well and that the girls didn’t see it as a big deal. M. also explained that it was private information that she would like them to keep to themselves. As far as I know, they (and their parents) have all respected this.
By the way, we like to use the word “private,” rather than “secret,” because it doesn’t have the connotation of something bad/shameful that a “secret” does. The way we explain it is that M. likes to be the one to decide whom she wants to share this information with, since it’s her personal information. I think explaining it this way is empowering for M., and gives other kids the idea that it’s about respecting their friend, and not about keeping secrets.
My expectation (and my hope) is that M.’s transgender status will be mostly a non-issue this year, as it was last year. She’s just a regular little girl who loves to hang out with her pack of girlfriends. But she does carry around a certain level of anxiety about being trans, and this emerged last year (near the end of the school year) when she told me she was afraid the other kids might “hurt her” or “kill her” if they learned she was transgender. I don’t think she actually thought they would harm her physically, but she was upset. To ease her mind, I arranged for us to meet with Principal F., who reassured M. that she would be kept safe at school. I think this helped M. feel better.
But the reality is that living “stealth” (the term transgender people use for not revealing their trans status) is stressful. M. lives with a certain amount of anxiety every day, worrying people will find out and judge her. She is extremely cautious about how she dresses (you’ll notice there are always layers), and about using the bathroom and changing rooms. For the most part, she manages this anxiety well, and I know she feels loved and supported by her family, neighbors, friends, and school. But it’s still hard.
Ms. S., I just wanted to make sure you had this background information, since the same issues may arise this year. I’m guessing that M. will want to tell more of her friends that she is transgender. She really seems to NEED to tell her closest friends. I am so glad she feels safe in doing so, but the reality is that the more kids she tells, the harder it will be to remain “stealth” at school. Ms. H. did a beautiful job handling this with M.’s friends last year in second grade, so please do talk with her if you think that would be helpful to you.
If you have any questions about how best to support M., please ask anytime! And we’d also really like to be in the loop if anything comes up around this issue at school, so we can support M. from home.
Thank you for supporting M. — and her parents. We can’t wait for third grade!!