My friend Leslie over at Transparenthood recently helped develop a tool to help schools review the strengths and needs pertaining to the inclusion of and support to transgender and gender-awesome kids. I looked at it and I think it’s fantastic. I’m going to include it in the Purple Transgender Binder of Awesomeness but I wanted you to be aware of it. Take a look for yourself and then go hand it to your principal, superintendent, and all your school board members.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out Transparenthood, please go take a look. Leslie talks about her family’s experience when her child, assigned female at birth, transitioned to male during the adolescent years. I met Leslie and her son, Sam, at a conference for teachers where we were all sharing our stories. Her son talked with such openness and honesty about his struggles that I was a sobbing wreck. Like, the ugly crying that should only be done in the privacy of your bedroom closet. Under a blanket. When nobody else is home.
Leslie is a beautiful person who I probably never would have had the opportunity to meet without our shared experience as the moms of our transgender children. She has spoken at numerous conferences and over 35 schools. Her blog is regularly found in Huffington Post and she has also shown up in Bon Bon Break. She had no idea I was going to brag all over her today so let that be a lesson to all of you of the potential consequences of a friendship with me. Ha! I love you, Leslie and this School Assessment Tool is awesome.
It’s so much fun to log onto your Facebook page on your birthday and see oodles of comments from your friends sending birthday wishes. Thank you so much! It’s cool to see posts from friends made over a decade ago, and friends I’ve made in the last few months. This birthday is very different from the past few I’ve had.
We’ve lived away from family for my past seven birthdays. While I loved the Twin Cities and culturally felt at home, there was a loneliness that I could never quite overcome. We built an awesome circle of friends who became like family, who I miss often. My TC peeps, I miss shivering with you as we look for a keg line that hasn’t frozen at the Beer Dabbler, enjoying the world’s best butterscotch pudding at Brasa, and debating the merits of Mukluks. Though I was really happy to see the Buckeyes beat the Gophers last night (and I was right there to see it happen!!), I scowled at anyone who made mean comments towards the institution that awarded me a doctorate. I am missing you all a lot today.
We spent my last birthday in south Florida and were introduced to a new circle of friends. I consider our time in Florida as a crucible that burned away some of the stubborn independence that often caused us to turn down needed help. I believe Florida helped create a path for us to return home, though the lessons learned in the process left scars. There are so many of you in Florida that I owe my gratitude.
This birthday, I’m finally home. Though I may have been having a fabulous time on some of the last seven birthdays, I never felt HOME. Those feelings with home that you equate with walking in the door and peeling your bra off, or walking down the street and remembering what it looked like when you were five, or not seeing the grungy areas and dirty corners of your town because they are unchanging and don’t call to your attention anymore. . .THAT feeling of home.
I love the Twin Cities, the culture, the people, the stubbornness, the glorious acceptance of every walk of life. I LOVE you! But, you are the second home. I’m sorry. I wish I could pack up these central Ohioans and drag them out to your awesomeness because that would be perfect. But, my mom hates driving on highways, and my sister puts a coat on her kids when it’s 60 degrees, and well, it would just never work out. Know that I love you and miss you dearly.
But, I’m finally settled, and in a place that surprises the hell out of me. I said I’d never move back here, yet here I am. I said I’d never live this close to my mother, yet I bought a house two blocks away from her. I said I’d never plant roots in this town, yet I’m working with the schools to make this place better for LGBT kids and their families.
I attended a conference at Children’s Hospital yesterday and got to speak on a parent panel right after Dr. Norman Spack. I got to shake his hand and have a 10 minute conversation with him as he talked about the futility of trying to define biological sex and how we are so much more than our X’s and Ys. There’s a blog post coming about that but the point right now is that I felt like all my nerd passions were merging together. Science, medicine, making the world better for transgender kids. It was heaven. I’m meeting all kinds of super parents of gender-awesome kids and we’re all making a difference right here in my home state.
Is it perfect? Nope. There’s tons of work that needs to be done. The state policies are some of the worst in the nation for transgender individuals to say nothing of what we have in the school system. It drives me crazy and makes me hurt for the kids that are the victims of constant school discrimination. But, I want to stay and make things better because it’s home.
We have neither hard core winter nor sandy beaches. We have no Beer Dabbler, our state fair pales in comparison, and Universal Studios is very far away. But, my family is here, and my heart is here, and that makes all the difference.
We move into our new house next week. The house we bought. Our HOME. And for the first time since we moved away in June 2008, I feel settled. Our life is hectic and messy and filled with appointments, obligations, meetings, and the mundane. And it’s so amazingly wonderful because we’re finally, finally
It started with a frustrated question as I watched my daughter throw up (again).
“Do transgender kids miss more school than their cisgender peers?”
I posted it on my personal Facebook page and a friend immediately responded that kids who are bullied tend to miss more school.
I started to type this statement: “To the best of my knowledge, Conner isn’t being bullied. I mean, she IS being discriminated against by the school system . . .,” and that’s when I stopped typing and started crying.
She IS being bullied. She’s being bullied by the school system that tells her to stand up against bullies. I never made that connection before.
“Maybe,” I thought to myself, “Maybe, I am mistaking what the word “bullying” really means.”
So, I did what anyone else would do and I googled it. This is the first definition that popped up:
“Use superior strength or influence to intimidate someone, typically to force him or her to do what one wants. ”
That’s exactly what’s happening here.
The school system:
Is not allowing her to use the girl’s bathroom
Asked her not to disclose her own personal information because they weren’t educated on how to respond to questions from parents and students.
Due to the former, put her in a situation where she felt like she had to lie about why she wasn’t using the girl’s bathroom so as not to get in trouble for disclosing that she was transgender.
Is not creating a culture where she feels safe to openly be who she is
Is not creating a culture of safety for other LGBT kids
Is creating a stressful environment where she has to be the one doing the educating instead of the other way around.
I should stop and let you know that I appreciate many people in the school system who are hoping to make things better. I understood why they needed time to get educated. The school system as a whole was completely unprepared for us.
I am frustrated because they’ve known about transgender and gender non-conforming kids in the school system before we arrived and didn’t start working on changes at that point. They recognize now that they need to make changes and we are actually meeting this week to discuss where things stand and how to move forward. That’s great. I acknowledge the work being done. But, why did it take my kid (and my mouth??) to prompt these changes?
I really wish they could hear some of the conversations my daughter has had with her healthcare team. I wish they could see how stressed she gets and how it leads to throwing up. I wish they could understand the toll it takes on her to be in an environment where she is constantly wondering if she is safe. Or if she’s going to get in trouble for talking about who she is. Of being in an environment where she is doing the educating; where she is leading a culture change.
There are transgender kids in every school system across our nation. Too many times, schools are not updating their policies towards transgender kids until faced with parents who won’t go away. Too often, a child is discriminated against, which prompts the school system to realize that their policies need changed.
Why are we okay with that? Why aren’t educators leading the change here? Why are we forcing children to create their own path because one doesn’t exist for them in their school? Why are we asking children to carry the burden of educating their teachers and their peers?
Why aren’t schools creating a culture where kids feel safe to ask the tough questions? Why are the schools participating in a form of bullying because of outdated policies and lack of education?
I want to close by saying that my daughter did come out to her friends a few weeks ago. She started by asking them if they knew what transgender meant. Their response?
“Everybody knows what transgender is unless they are a baby or an old person.”
Think about that response for a second. Your child probably knows more about transgender issues than you do.
The end to that coming out story? After some typical grade school drama, her best friend said, “You can stop trying to explain because it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that you are my friend.” High five to that kid. That was over a month ago and there’s been no more discussion about it because it’s not a big deal to our kids. It’s a big deal to the school.
Our children are teaching the educators if they will only stop to listen.
Kids get it. It’s the adults who make it more complicated than it needs to be.