Sunday, 24 April 2016

Teaching my child about the transphobia our family faces


Things were easier when my boy was a baby. If someone questioned my gender or asked where my baby’s mother was, my infant was unaware. Now, he just turned five years old, and he understands everything. He is perceptive. And he is due to go to kindergarten in September.

When it was simple: feed and hold the baby.
My partner and I have always been completely open with our kids about how they came into this world. They know that I carried them and gave birth to them, and they know I’m transgender and what that means. When I became pregnant with our second, we used CorySilverberg’s fantastic “What Makes a Baby” to explain conception, pregnancy, and birth. Silverberg’s book uses correct terminology like egg, sperm, uterus, and vagina but does not attach those terms to gender identities. Our son learned that to make a baby, you need an egg and sperm, and you need a place called a uterus for the baby to grow. Some people have eggs in their bodies, and some have sperm.

I transitioned before my kids were born. They are growing up knowing me as Trevor, their Dada. Since we live our lives this way every moment of every day, this is our normal.

So how do I explain to my kid that other people see our family as incredibly unusual (if not immoral)? How do I explain that it really isn’t a funny game to open the bathroom stall door at a crowded public market before I’ve got my pants up again after having a pee? How do I explain why people ask us over and over again where his mother is or where we got him from?

In “Like Me and You,” the renowned children’s entertainer Raffi sings that everyone is “the child of a mother and a father.” My partner and I frequently sang loudly over the lyrics, “the child of a Dada and a Papa!” One day, about a year ago, I pressed pause after that line, and said, “He’s forgetting some families, isn’t he?” My son nodded. We talked about our own family, and some of his friends who are raised by single mothers, or two moms. It was the beginning of an ongoing conversation.

We’re not religious, but we live in a conservative, rural area where most people attend church regularly. Last week, a lesbian mom made our local news because she asked her school board to lift its prohibition on classroom discussions of same-sex relationships and diverse family structures. She received some good public support and also a lot ofbacklash including a threat that she reported to police. 

Also last week, my son asked me what God is. Oh, the questions of a five-year-old! I tried to explain how different people have varying beliefs about God and evolution. And then I told him about the Bible. I told him that it says a “man shall not lie with a man.” I said that some religious people take that rule very seriously and others don’t. I also told him it says things like you shouldn’t wear clothing made from mixed materials, and that no one seems to pay attention to that particular rule.

I told my son that the law says it’s okay for two men to love each other and live together and have a family, even though some people don’t like that. I reminded him that we have family friends who believe in God, and that those friends also believe that the Bible tells them to love others and treat them kindly regardless of their gender identity. I reminded him that we have always been welcomed by that family. I did not tell him that the mom expressed to me how worried she is that attending school here could adversely affect her daughter’s current open acceptance of gender-diverse people like us.

My son heard me gasp aloud the other day when I saw a headline about the latest “bathroom bill” in the US. “What?” he asked. I said that some politicians passed a law that would require transgender men like me to use the women’s bathroom, and transgender women to use the men’s. His eyes widened and he said quickly, “But that’s in other countries, right?” Yes, I assured him.

It feels like a lot for age five. But don’t you dare tell me that I shouldn’t have had kids because I am transgender, because “look how hard it will be for them.” Instead, you can teach your kids that some families have two moms or two dads, and that some people transition. I don’t want to have to teach mine why certain families keep their distance from us, why we are treated by some like a curiosity, or why kids of LGBT parents are getting bullied at school.

If school kids aren’t proactively taught to respect diverse family structures equally, then I am left needing to teach my kids about the transphobia and homophobia that is directed at us. Calls to keep education about LGBTQ families limited to discussions within the home are in fact calls for LGBTQ families to teach their kids how to grapple with bullying and discrimination in schools without support from teachers or administrators. On the other hand, including classroom discussions about diverse family structures would remove some of that burden.

It sure feels much easier as a parent to explain love rather than hate in response to the endless ‘why’s that come from a young child.



10 comments:

  1. Thanks for these great tips on how to talk to kids about this stuff. And it reminds me of this lovely recent episode on the Modern Love podcast: http://www.wbur.org/2016/04/06/maddy-just-might-work-modern-love. Anyone worried about how the kids will turn out should listen. Brought tears to my eyes.

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  2. Ha we must live in the same area Trevor... as I know the story you are speaking of. I happened upon your book during my goodreads contest entering, very few books actually register when I'm entering contests, but yours interested me so I clicked on your information and here we are. I have a 5 year old son as well, he is in kindergarten already... we live in a conservative rural town, but I drive him every day to school in another town so he attends French Immersion. My true reasons are that I want him to attend a school with more love and acceptance than the one I attended as a child. I don't want him to lose the values I, his father and his step-father have all taught him. He came home one day very upset, said a "teacher" told him 2 boys can't get married, but we told him they could... for a child this is the ultimate dilemma as teachers should know things as their parents do! He described the class he was in and it was an EA run class (educational assistants no teacher)... he had 2 lego men facing eachother and said, "ha it looks like they're getting married!" The EA then said that wasn't possible. I was so proud of my son for knowing that wasn't right, and the next day spoke to his school's guidance counsellor. She apologized for the misstep and spoke with everyone who could be involved. No one confessed but the matter was dealt with swiftly. This would not be the case in the "other" school division. So glad I chose to send him elsewhere. Good luck with your son next year, here's hoping their eyes are eventually opened.

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  3. Shoes make an outfit. You can throw on a crazy shirt and crazy pants but you add those shoes - done.
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  4. I think it is great that you had a child. It shows people that women do not have to look like a typical "mom" to give birth. Keep setting the example for others.

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  5. Freaks. Transgender is nothing but a mental illness. You don't get to choose what you are. If said I'm now Jesus, Allah, Odin etc... All, including you would dismiss me and say I need guidance and help from a therapist. Guess what?!?! Transgender people are no different than the nut claiming to Napoleon. So tired of all the BS political correctness, everyone is a winner, one world one people, demasculinization of American men, the war on straight people and the ongoing ear on men. America is starting to wake up and smell the BS. Tribes (Wolves of Vinland, Tribe Matters, Hounds of Helheimand, Brothers NorCelt, Norse Brotherhood) are forming and growing stronger daily. America has been striped of what made it great. Masculine men, morals, stable families (Dad and Mom not Dad and Dad or Mom and Mom or Dad and Dad who thinks he's a Mom) pushing a winner mentality (it pays to be a winner), having ZERO political correctness, having a warrior society and teaching that being strong or Type A should be rewarded and encouraged and the weak should be held in disdain and heavily discouraged and punished. Nature favors the strong and kills the weak.

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    Replies
    1. I'm leaving the above comment here, for the record...

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  6. Freaks. Transgender is nothing but a mental illness. You don't get to choose what you are. If said I'm now Jesus, Allah, Odin etc... All, including you would dismiss me and say I need guidance and help from a therapist. Guess what?!?! Transgender people are no different than the nut claiming to Napoleon. So tired of all the BS political correctness, everyone is a winner, one world one people, demasculinization of American men, the war on straight people and the ongoing ear on men. America is starting to wake up and smell the BS. Tribes (Wolves of Vinland, Tribe Matters, Hounds of Helheimand, Brothers NorCelt, Norse Brotherhood) are forming and growing stronger daily. America has been striped of what made it great. Masculine men, morals, stable families (Dad and Mom not Dad and Dad or Mom and Mom or Dad and Dad who thinks he's a Mom) pushing a winner mentality (it pays to be a winner), having ZERO political correctness, having a warrior society and teaching that being strong or Type A should be rewarded and encouraged and the weak should be held in disdain and heavily discouraged and punished. Nature favors the strong and kills the weak.

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  7. Legal fera, mas você deveria falar para os seus filhos que só por que uma pessoa pode se reproduzir, não significa que ela deva. Sim, o mundo já está muito cheio, e tem tantas crianças por aí sofrendo por não terem sido adotadas pois as pessoas que pretendiam adotá-las mudaram de ideia e resolveram ter filhos biológicos... [Modo irônico ativado] Pra quê adotar se vc pode ter filhos biológicos, não é mesmo?

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  8. Legal fera, mas você deveria falar para os seus filhos que só por que uma pessoa pode se reproduzir, não significa que ela deva. Sim, o mundo já está muito cheio, e tem tantas crianças por aí sofrendo por não terem sido adotadas pois as pessoas que pretendiam adotá-las mudaram de ideia e resolveram ter filhos biológicos... [Modo irônico ativado] Pra quê adotar se vc pode ter filhos biológicos, não é mesmo?

    ReplyDelete