FAQ’s Part Two

Hello again! I am enjoying a quiet afternoon while the husband and the darlings are off at GAA training. Continuing on from the previous post, I’m answering some more questions that are we are often asked about Blondie’s gender fluidity. Just to say, if you, lovely reader, have any questions, please just ask! Sometimes we shy away from these things for fear of offending the people involved, but I promise to try and answer any question you have as best as I can. I firmly believe the more awareness people have about transchildren and gender non-conformity, the better! Anyway, here goes:

Does everyone know that your kid is gender fluid?

The short answer is only family, some friends and the school/GAA club. Now, the long answer. Back when Blondie started wearing dresses full time, her hair was very short-she was very obviously a boy in girl’s clothing. No disclosing necessary. When she started primary school, her hair had grown to shoulder length and she could pass as a girl. I thought it would be a good idea to explain it to the other parents in casual conversation, just in case it Blondie ever brought it up in class and their children came home with new information. At that point I was her advocate and I made that decision on her behalf. The class has grown over the years, and so has Blondie’s wish that people just know her as a girl, like all the other girls in her class. So now, some children in the class know(the ones whose parents talked to them about it back in Jr Infants), and the newer kids don’t. It’s not ideal as we don’t know exactly who knows what but it was a good learning curve for us.

In telling others, I wanted Blondie to know that we weren’t trying to keep it a secret, that we were proud of her and what she was doing. But once we realised that she’d prefer to keep this private, we stopped telling people unless it was necessary that they know. For example, the summer swim camp leader or the mum who was having her for a playdate. It is important that if another adult is caring for her, not only are they aware of Blondie’s situation, but they are on board and on the ball in terms of making sure she is safe and secure.

Once or twice she has popped out with “Once I was a boy, then I decided to be a girl!” on playdates or with extended family, so we know that she will find the words when the time is right.

 

Are you worried that your child will be bullied in school?

Definitely. But I’m also worried that my gender conforming son will face bullying in school because he wears glasses. From being a kid themselves once, most adults know that children can be teased about practically anything; their hair, their name, their family structure, their voice, or any variation that might set them apart from the others. It’s cruel, and yet it’s an inherent part of life. Yes, Blondie’s circumstances are certainly unusual, but whenever my mind spins a web of the many terrying scenarios that she could face in the future (and indeed, trans kids have faced in the past), I have to bring myself back to the present. What do we, as parents, want to teach our children? That when making decisions about how you live your life, your own sense of identity is paramount or that the opinions and actions of bullies should take precedence? The truth is, bullying can happen to any kid, transgender or not. I’m hoping that with her strong sense of identity, Blondie has a good chance of standing her ground and shouting for backup if necessary.

We are also incredibly lucky that Blondie is in a school that not only embraces her, but actively works to ensure that her classroom environment is safe and supportive. We are in regular dialogue with the school about the various ways her fluidity influences her life. We will continue to stay closely involved until she finishes her education and becomes an engineer/inventor/explorer (working job title!). Everyone is still learning how to navigate this terrain, but we are all doing so with the best of intentions.

It’s still complicated. A lovely mum called up the other day, concerned about a conversation she heard between some boys in Blondie’s class. The newest boy wasn’t aware of Blondie’s gender non conformity and he was blown away by the other boys’ relevation that ‘she’ used to be a ‘he’. The listening mum, who has known Blondie for years, wanted to give me a heads up in case anything was said to her on the schoolyard. I waited at the school gates to hear of any confrontations, but nothing ever happened. The beautiful thing about young children is they tend to be very much in their own orbit-they can quickly lose interest in others!

 

How does your son feel about it all? Is he confused that his brother has become his sister?

My two are very much like any other pair of siblings. They love each other AND they kill each other. Last year, when our son was in preschool, I worried about what would happen when he joined Blondie in her primary school. He would often get the pronouns mixed up and tell kids in his group about his brother who had become his sister. While we didn’t want to encourage him to keep it a secret, we also didn’t want Blondie “outed” to the unknowing kids in her school. We also worried that he himself would find it too confusing and potentially upsetting. As the months went by, we gently corrected him each time he said “brother” and “he”, and by the time September came around he had transitioned fully over to the female pronouns.

He adores his big sister and looks up to her in a big way. Being five, he is naturally obsessed with reproductive parts (penis and vagina jokes for everybody!), and he occasionally wonders why Blondie doesn’t have the corresponding female anatomy. At the moment, it is sufficient to say that her heart and her mind knows she is a girl, so she is a girl. He accepts that and moves on. As he grows, the questions may not be so easy and he might not accept our responses quite so readily. Right now, they are very close and I’m hoping their relationship will withstand any confusion and upset that may arise in the future.

Will she get the hormones and surgery when she’s an adult?

Honestly, we haven’t a clue. Some transpeople never engage in hormone therapy; some do, but don’t have surgery. Some do both hormones and surgery. There are so many variations and possibilites. We want to keep all options open to her, but we also want her to really consider each step very carefully. This is why we want her to be on all relevant waiting lists now rather than later. Time and space are key. For now, I am trying my best to keep one eye on the present and one in the future. There are two goals; to keep her happy now, and to ensure that we’ve dealt with the stumbling blocks before she reaches that stretch of path.

That’s it for now. If I think of any other FAQ’s, I’ll certainly pop them up 🙂

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FAQs Part One

 

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Blondie enjoying the waves

 

Hello! Happy final week of Spring!
Things have been relatively calm around these parts, with Blondie and her little brother busy basking in the sunshine all day long. The warmer seasons mean lighter layers, which require a little extra thought when dressing our gender fluid daughter. We want to make sure that the clothes she wears are comfortable, feminine (as requested) and discreet so she isn’t left open to any playground ridicule. For now, the dress/legging combo is working a treat, giving her plenty of opportunity to hang carefree, upside down, on the monkey bars! Last year, after a long search I finally found a gorgeous floral swimsuit from NEXT that gives her plenty of coverage in the shorts, perfect for beach trips with her classmates. Luckily, for now, Blondie has very little interest in choosing her own outfits, so as long as they’re bright and from the girl’s section I have free reign when I’m re-stocking her wardrobe.

We are still waiting on an appointment for a clinical psychologist with CAHMS. Our GP referral was unsuccessful so we are now going through the HSE Assessment of Need process.We need this appointment for Blondie to access medical care during puberty, should she wish to pause the biological developments with hormone blockers and give herself time to figure out the path she wants to take. While we still have some time before the hormones hit, we want to be prepared and give her the space she needs to consider her options. We have been warned that the waiting list to see a clinical psychologist is looong, so we have decided to give it until this Summer to get the appointment. If we haven’t heard anything by then, we will start making phone calls and considering other possible routes to timely medical care.
In the meantime, I thought it might be a good idea to run through some FAQ’s we have encountered when it comes to raising a gender non-conforming child. They might answer some of your own questions, or if you are raising a gender fluid kid yourself they might help with finding your own explanations when the queries inevitably arise.

Q. Why do you let your child wear girl’s clothes? Are you not encouraging them to be transgender?
I’ll be honest-this question came up often when Blondie first started wearing dresses three year ago. It came from well meaning family members and friends. At first, we froze. It took us a lot of reading, talking and reflection to be able to respond meaningfully. Now, I can articulate an explanation. Our daughter was born gender fluid. From day one, her inner identity(girl) and her assigned gender at birth (boy) were different. When she started to exhibit a desire to wear girls clothes and grow her hair long, we had a choice*. We could cross that bridge with her, or we could have an unhappy, oppressed child. When faced with this decision, you can go against the social tide or you can have a child that feels the sting of parental rejection at 4 years of age. There is no third option. She would always feel this way, whether we accepted her or not. Like homosexuality, being transgender or gender fluid is not a choice.
By allowing her to wear whatever she wants, we weren’t encouraging or discouraging anything. We were simply respecting her wishes to express her inner identity.
*On a side note: possibly because of having a theatre/drama background, seeing my kid in fabulous dresses was not uncomfortable. She beamed, as did I. But that’s just me. There’s no right way to feel.

Q. Why do you call her your “daughter”? Does that not put her into a box that she can’t get out of? What if she wakes up one day and decides to be a boy again, but feels like she can’t go back?
When Blondie first started expressing a love for dresses, we didn’t really know what was going on in her mind. Four-year olds are still learning to master basic language skills, and we didn’t want to put her on the spot and demand that she explain her feelings to us. For almost 18 months, she called herself a “mixture”; both boy and girl. It was tricky. The English language deals in binary gender. Referring to her as “they” was confusing, especially when talking to anyone outside of our close circle. But it seemed like the right option for her. Then, as she grew older and more self-aware, she began to correct me.

“I am your daughter, not your kid”.
“I am a girl, not a mixture”
“Use she, not they”

We wanted to keep open the possibility of going back to being a boy, but it was becoming an issue of discomfort for her when we didn’t use female pronouns. So, we let go of “mixture” and transferred over to “she” full time. Now, years later,  she hasn’t looked back. One day she *might* turn around and say, “hey, I’m a boy!” and we’ll have to help her during a difficult transition back. I think we made the best decision that we could at the time, though.

Part Two of Frequently Asked Questions, coming soon! ❤

Navigations

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Our Day in Killiney

Last Summer, on the way back from a day trip to Killiney Hill, Blondie and her little brother were chatting in the back of the car. While I was trying to negotiate my way through the many twists, turns, hills and dips of Dalkey, my two were conjuring up inventions that they could create if they had a home workshop. While straining to hear the prompts of the Google Maps lady, I overheard Blondie say:

“I wish I were an inventor and I could invent a machine that would turn my penis into a vagina”

My stomach flipped. In an instant, I said:

“You know, when you’re a grown up, if you still really want to you there are doctors that can change your body to match how you feel on the inside”

This was followed by loud exclamations, drowning out all of Google Lady’s wonderful wisdom until I was turning and driving down roads without the slightest clue of where I was going. I could have asked her to hold the questions until I found my bearings but she was so excited. Until now, she had quietly accepted her fate to stay in a body she didn’t want to have. Opening the possibilities to her felt crucial, despite the poor timing.

Eventually, after a few more turns and one or two “Jesus Christ!” moments I spotted the comforting M50 sign and knew we were moving in the right direction. The back of the car grew quiet as the evening stretched into dusk. I knew those six year old brain cogs were turning with this new, amazing revelation. Blondie could become female; she didn’t have to feel trapped inside her male body.

Now, let me be clear. We don’t know for sure that this is what Blondie will want when she is old enough to make the decision. There are many trans people who take blockers, or hormones, or elect to have surgery, who do variation of these or who have no medical intervention at all. She may wake up one day and decide to live her life as a cisgender male. We are 100% on board with all of those options and her happiness is paramount. But having attended the TransparenCI Residential back in November, we got the distinct sense that if Blondie did want to gain access to medical intervention, the process was slow and the waiting list was long.

To receive blockers (medication which pauses puberty) and cross sex hormones (which will masculinise or feminize the body), Blondie needs to be assessed by a clinical psychologist at CAHMS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service). Three months ago we attended our GP to request a referral. We received a letter from CAHMS shortly afterward stating that Blondie’s case was not moderate to severe, therefore she would not be seen unless an Assessment Of Need (carried out by the HSE) advised it. Having completed the assessment of need, we are now waiting to be seen by a clinical psychologist, where the average wait time is 15 months. When I spoke with the person dealing with our application(who advised a clinical psychologist indeed be engaged), they were incensed that CAHMS had refused to deal with us in the first place, vindicating my feeling that Blondie was being fobbed off because she is not currently in distress.

While time is on our side, Blondie is seven and puberty is fast approaching. We don’t want for her to endure the trauma of going through masculine puberty if she still identifies as female when she reaches her teen years. Seeing as how she has already been living as a girl for three years, this is a strong possibility. Right now she passes very easily as female but this will change. We need to have these supports in place before puberty, rather than fire fighting our way through adolescene. Sadly, she is not a priority as she is not yet a ‘serious’ enough case. What we are learning is that there is no set, safe route when it comes to being transgender in Ireland. You are not given a map with a clear set of directions. You are navigating your way on instinct, reaching out to various professionals/organisations/public bodies and hoping you are going in the right direction.

What has helped us enormously in figuring out the steps in the process is www.gendered.ie.  It is a free education programme created by Danika Sharek as part of her PHD, aimed at “supporting adult family members of transgender young people (less than 18 years of age) in the Republic of Ireland”. The course is broken down into short modules where many aspects of being transgender are covered including health, wellbeing and legal issues. The programme outlines the hard won achievements of trans people and their families in Ireland in accessing the necessary support and shares their experiences and account along with further resources. It has given us a clearer idea of what to expect as we embark on this journey with our daughter and we are humbled by the time and energy that went into this resource for the benefit of trans people and their families.

Although we’re not entirely sure where we’re going, we have met some wonderful guides along the way ❤

 

 

 

Books for learnin’

Hi there! We are crawling towards the January finish line here, are you? It’s been a busy month, with lots of birthdays, appointments, house keeping and general adulting tasks. Blondie’s was one of the birthdays we got to celebrate, and we now have a shiny seven-year-old. Her celebrations (yes, multiple!) were a lovely blend of Star Wars and unicorns, showing us once again her defiance for any kind of gender conforming.

My new year’s resolution was to read one book a week. I used to love reading but stopped during those hectic baby years. Last September, when I was halfway through re-watching The Gilmore Girls on Netflix, I realised that I could be doing something little more meaningful with my precious quiet time. I also wanted to learn more about gender non-conforming children and whether our approach was best or if there was something different we could be doing. Truthfully, our “approach” up until this point was a shot in the dark, based on instinct rather than research.
As luck would have it, our school attended a conference on gender in November. The principal kindly gave me a copy of her notes which included with a recommendation for ‘The Transgender Child; A Handbook for Families and Professionals’ by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper. She wanted to get the book for the school’s staff and asked that we read it first to make sure we were comfortable with the content, as a lot of it would relate to Blondie. I had my homework, and it coincided beautifully with my reading goals!

 

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I ordered a copy of the book with the intention of reading it and then passing it onto the school. It was so helpful and informative, however, that we kept our copy and bought three more; one for the school and one for either side of our extended family. I would consider this book essential reading for anyone who has a relationship with a child who is gender non-conforming; whether it be your own child, a niece/nephew, grandchild, student etc. Although lot of the support and organisations mentioned in the book are US or UK based, it does not lessen the relevance of the material. My only regret is that I didn’t read it sooner, as it would have saved me a lot self-doubt and uncertainty.

The book is packed with useful information, so I will only briefly outline the essential points that I have learned from this book. Again, this isn’t meant as a substitute for reading it, more a preview of what to expect when you do!

Here goes:

1. Each of us are born with
a) a biological or anatomical sex. This refers to our physical anatomy and is used to assign our gender at birth. We also have a
b) gender identity; this is our internalized, deeply felt sense of being male/female/neither/both. Finally, we engage in
c) gender expression, which is how we externalise our gender through behaviour, clothing, voice, movement etc.
What is critical to understand here is that gender identity is not inherently connected to your bodily anatomy. Biological sex and gender identity are different. Most of us are taught to believe that they are the same thing, because many of us present as having both biological sex and gender in alignment. They are in fact separate and do not align for many people. Most gender-typical have never questioned what gender really is: they haven’t had to because the societal structures currently in place have suited them.
2. Despite our society’s conditioning that you must be either a boy or a girl, gender exists on a large spectrum. When a child consistently expresses an interest or behaviour outside of what is considered “normal” for their assigned biological sex (for example, a girl who wears her hair short and prefers playing on the boy’s team for football), they are considered gender-variant/gender-non-conforming.
3. Contrary to the book’s title, not all gender-variant children are transgender. Most of these children are simply gender non-conforming. A person whose gender identity (what they feel inside) does not align with their assigned birth gender is considered transgender. My understanding is as follows:
• Biological Sex + Gender Identity align but Gender Expression doesn’t align=gender non-conforming child
• Biological Sex + Gender Identity + Gender Expression align= gender typical child
• Biological Sex + Gender Identity + Gender Expression do not align= transgender child
• The term ‘gender fluidity’ covers a more flexible range of gender expression, where personal preferences/behaviours may change frequently, even day to day. A child who is gender fluid may feel that they are a boy one day, a girl, the next day, a blend of both or neither
4. Because children perceive and experience the intense societal pressure to conform, a child may express themselves as being transgender because it is easier for them to conform to the expectations of the opposite gender than stay in the grey area of defying the expectations of the gender they identify with. For example, a boy loves wearing dresses. He and his family are aware that this isn’t socially acceptable (Yes. I know. Total bullsh*t). A parent might feel “He’s a boy. But he love dresses. So he must be transgender”, when in fact he’s perfectly comfortable with his male identity and it’s society that has the problem.
A child is only transgender when their gender identity(internal) and their biological sex(physical) don’t align. Therefore, it is important not to label your child too quickly as being transgender. Deciphering whether your child is gender non conforming or transgender requires a lot of patience and listening; it could take years to figure out!
5. Being transgender/gender non-conforming is not a choice. As a parent, you did not cause your child to be transgender and you cannot change it. You do have the power to facilitate their self-expression, nurture them and help them to grow without shame or fear. By being open to your child and refusing to limit their gender expression (no matter how many social rules you are breaking!), you are not “encouraging” their transgender/gender non-conforming identity but allowing them to be who they are and communicate your unconditional love for them.
6.  Unfortunately, our society has not yet learned to embrace and acknowledge gender fluidity/transgender/gender non-conforming people. Therefore, you will need to be your child’s advocate in getting the support they need and ensuring that they can access the same opportunities as gender typical children without fear of ridicule of discrimination. It is vital that you seek support for your child and your family, both professionally and within your community.
7. When confronted with decisions regarding who to tell, or how uncomfortable you are willing to be in crossing societal boundaries and facing criticism/condemnation, always have your child’s best interests in mind. Consider the message you are sending to your child when you allow them to express themselves freely; they will learn that their happiness trumps anyone’s discomfort. Do not tolerate anyone speaking negatively about your child. Insist on respect both for your child and your parenting.
8. Consider the difference between privacy and secrecy. You do not owe it to everyone you meet to disclose everything about your child, but if your child wants to be open about their gender non-conformity, your support is paramount for their self esteem.

There is so much more covered in the book to support communities caring for transgender/gender non-conforming children, such as:
• The educational system and your family
• Medical issues for transgender children
• Legal issues to consider
• Sample doctor’s letters

My initial reaction after reading The Transgender Child was:
1. Yay! We were “doing it right” all these years by facilitating Blondie’s gender expression despite some discomfort and anxiety
2. Yay! I didn’t cause or encourage her gender non-conforming ways; she would always have felt like this, even had we denied it and forced her to conform to her biological sex
3. Yay! We are not alone in our experience. Transgender people have always been in existence and still are, we just need to encourage acceptance and awareness
4. Yay! We have a body of information that we can refer to in future, that backs up in what we believe and gives us resources to move forward
5. Yikes! Our society is not fully ready for Blondie yet. We need to brace ourselves for what lies ahead, and resolve that we will continue to advocate on her behalf for awareness and inclusion

Now it’s time to encourage those close to us to read it and support us. But that’s on February’s to-do list 😊 Until next month! X

You can buy the book here

 

 

 

 

Ask The Experts

Blondie, our superheroHappy New Year! My aim was to have a December post, but with the usual business of this time of year I’ve allowed myself an extension to January 1st 🙂

Firstly, I’d like to say a huge thank you to those who shared, followed and commented on the debut post. It was a brief synopsis of the past few years and while I might expand on certain parts in future, my intention was to draw a timeline from the start of our journey to the present. It was a little daunting to put our story out into the world and the kind, warm responses meant a huge amount. Sometimes the path we’re on feels a little lonely. You made it feel less so.

Since my last post, we had the opportunity to attend a residential organised by TransparenCI and TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland). TransparenCI, branching from TENI, is a peer support group for parents and families of trans people. I attended a support group back in September and got to listen and share stories with other parents who are also raising gender non-conforming children. Blondie would have been the youngest child discussed by about two years, with the majority of families present raising trans children at least five years older than her. The experiences of other families were invaluable as it gave me a glimpse into what potentially lies ahead. With this in mind, my husband and I both wanted to attend the residential to gain as much information and insight as possible.

Attendance was free for families and they even organised a bus to take the younger children to a local play centre for the duration of the talks (also free of charge for parents). When we arrived, the lobby was packed. Blondie shied away at first as there were so many teenagers present, but by the time the queue was forming for the bus she was all set for an afternoon of fun. Her little brother plodded along beside her, happy to be part of the adventure.

For the grown ups and older teens, there was a series of talks covering a huge range of topics. The panel was hosted by Vanessa Lacey, who founded TransparenCI and works with TENI as Health and Education manager

• Jeanne Hendrick, Regional Manager of HSE social inclusion in the South East, highlighted how her division were working hard towards making health care staff aware and receptive to the needs of trans people. Their goal is to ensure that service users get full access to whatever care is needed

• Dr. Aileen Murtagh, Consultant Adolescent Psychiatrist at St. Patrick’s Hospital, stressed the fact that gender variance is NOT a mental health disorder and it is important to keep all future possibilities open for your child

• Dr. Anne Keogh, Psychologist for CAHMS(Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service), explained that the 1st port of call to accessing mental health care is your GP. She also noted that the journey of hormones that some trans people take can impact on mental health

• Dr Susan O’Connell of Paediatric Endocrinology, UCH outlined the science surrounding hormone treatment for transpeople, the appropriate ages for patients and the criteria to be met before a person is treated

• Catherine Donohue, National Director, Treatment Abroad Scheme explained the different paths open to trans people seeking medical treatment not available in Ireland and the rules for both the Treatment Abroad Scheme and the Cross Border Directive

• Natasha Prescott from Tavistock Clinic’s Gender Identity Development Scheme discussed her work with Crumlin Children’s Hospital, where she sees families one day per month while their their child is waiting to be seen for hormone treatment. She described the general steps taken by those who engage with treatment (many clients don’t complete all steps)

1. Assessment

2. Biochemicals (“blockers” to inhibit puberty. Usually under 15yrs)

3. Cross Sex Hormones (hormone treatment to transition to the identified gender. In the UK, this can be started at 16 years, provided the client has been on blockers for 12months)

4. Surgery

I was humbled by the generosity of the panel, for giving both their time and expertise so we could better understand our children’s needs and how to facilitate them. They said much more than what I surmised but I tried to pluck the most pertinent information for us personally. Overall, the main points I took away from the day were:

  • Gender Variance is not a mental health disorder
  • Many people who experience gender non-conformity can revert back to their originally assigned gender or may remain somewhere in between for their remaining adult life. Our goal should be to keep all options open
  • The frustration of delays and waiting lists for many parents in the room was palatable. We need to be proactive and set whatever we can in motion in terms of Blondie accessing the treatment she may need in future.
  • The road ahead is long, winding, and may involve some big bumps. We need to take care of ourselves now so that we can give our children the support they need in the future.

I was motivated to make an appointment with the GP for Blondie. When I explained why she was going to the doctor, I said that while her Mum and Dad knew that she was a girl in her heart, as she grew older we would need the help of doctors if she wanted to change her body. Her eyes lit up “You mean the doctor can help me turn into a normal girl?” Tears filled my eyes as I replied that she was perfect, special and would always be a “normal” girl to us if that was what she wanted to be.

It hurts my heart to hear the quiet voice inside her that says she is different. Sometimes we’ll be chatting about something innocuous and she will turn me to, worried face and ask “what if everyone in school realises that I’m a boy? I’ll be so embarrassed”. My instinct is to face her towards me and say that she should never feel embarrassed, that it was no one’s business but her own and that people who care aren’t worth a second of her time. Feeling your child’s hurt makes you want to push it away, deny it and stomp your feet until the aching stops. But I can’t deny her experience. She is perceptive and knows that she is travelling down a path less followed. She is aware that she is, and may always be, a little different from her classmates. I can’t deny the very instinct that I want her to trust and hold fast to when she’s out in the big, bad world, where others are shouting loudly and declaring what she can or can’t be. So I hold her close, try to empathise with her fear and remind her that this is her story to tell-she can choose when to tell it. By the time I try to tell her that I’ll always be here for her, she is skipping away and wondering what’s for dinner. Such is the speed of a 7year old’s thought processes!

Our GP was conscientious, kind, and we both ensured that the tone of the appointment stayed positive and upbeat. She sent a referral to CAHMS. A week later I received a letter from CAHMS saying that they only deal with moderate to severe mental illness in children and Blondie didn’t meet that criteria. So it’s back to the drawing board to figure out our next step. In the meantime she is enjoying the spoils of Christmas, throwing any gendered expectations away with her Star Wars Rey Stick and Power Rangers Ninja Blades ❤

‘I’m with you kid. Let’s go’

Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: “I’m with you kid. Let’s go” Maya Angelou

If I had to say when I realised that my daughter was heading down a path less travelled, I can pinpoint the exact moment for you. It was 2014, when she was a three year old boy.

We were all standing in our front driveway having just waved away a visiting relative. My daughter, then son, wandered alone at the periphery. He tottered precariously in the white heels I had worn on my wedding day. Draped over his striped jumper and purple cords was my greying nightdress. The sun shone bright in the sky, catching the sparkly material of the wand that he waved absent mindedly above his head. He wore a floral headband in his then short, blonde hair. He was completely at ease in this outfit that he had gathered together of his own volition. There was no conversation about it-it simply made sense to him.

Shortly after that, he began to wear his dad’s long t-shirts over day clothes as dresses. He was adamant that his hair grew out “alla way to the floor”. He would ask me to put bows in his hair, and I would struggle to gather the short tufts together to make a pony tail. My husband was unsure at first. We had long conversations about the developments that were taking place and the possibility of their permanence. After a while, we resolved that our child’s happiness was paramount and we would not stand in the way of his self expression.

By age four, our clothes were becoming worn out from our little son’s constant use. We gathered our courage, took a leap and brought him into Penney’s. We stood in the middle of the store and said that he needed new clothes and he could choose whatever he wanted. Delight spread across his face; he made a beeline for the dresses.

When Blondie (blog name!) started primary school, the children in class referred to him as a girl. His hair had grown out and with a transformed wardrobe nobody batted an eyelid. With us, we would still use “he”, the reason being that it didn’t have to be one or the other. Gender didn’t have to be a binary, rigid concept in our home. We wanted to create a safe space for exploration and experimentation. He started referring to himself as a “mixture”-he felt like both a girl and a boy.

Shortly after his 6th birthday, his self awareness grew. He would gently correct me in public when I referred to him as a boy “No, mum. I’m a girl”. If I talked about my two sons, he would say “you have a son and a daughter”. Eventually, the idea of keeping all options open paled against her growing discomfort of the male pronoun. We gradually switched over to “she”, with the reminder that it didn’t have to be set in stone-there was a way back.

She is almost seven and has been identifying as female for just under three years. Were there fears? Of course(much more on that later). But Blondie, on the precipice of a life-altering transition, had reached out for our hand. She would need support, compassion and two very open minds. We grabbed her hand in ours and,heart in mouth, whispered “I’m with you kid. Let’s go”

 

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My son’s and daughter’s wellies x