For years our youngest showed us with behavior, until vocabulary & verbal skills broadened enough to tell us with words, “I’m not a boy.” From the age of two, while at home Charlie lived in older sister Kate’s hand-me-down princess gowns, dresses, and used ballet costumes. Even some of my old shirts and nightgowns — anything that felt like a dress.
All those years and all those opportunities, Charlie never once showed interest in playing with older brother Jack’s cars, trucks, legos, or superheroes. Instead, Charlie opted to spend hours in Kate’s room playing Barbies, Polly Pockets, and princess dress-up.
Because of my husband Matt’s and my own fears, we didn’t give Charlie the choice to wear “girly” stuff out in public until fourth grade, and even then, it was just a backpack: a glittery rainbow explosion of kittens, cupcakes, confetti, and hearts. I guess we just had to let go in baby steps.
That same year, Charlie started experimenting at school with wearing other “girls” stuff: rings, accessories, socks, shoes. When we realized this was genuinely what made our child the most comfortable and the happiest, we went shopping – just for Charlie – at the tween girls’ clothing store, Justice. That night in the dressing room I saw my child come to life. It brought me to tears.
I later wrote a thank you letter and posted it on social media, publicly. I wanted to thank the clothing store for an affirming experience in the wake of NC’s transphobic political climate with the recent March, 2016 passage of HB2, the “bathroom bill.” I had just started volunteering at my local LGBT Center, so I also wanted my community to know this was an LGBTQ-friendly store. That letter got shared many, many times, and resonated with people from all over the continent, much to my surprise.
My Charlie decided to socially transition (growing long hair, changing to all “girls” clothes, changing pronouns) throughout 5th grade to present more in line with their feminine gender identity… at a school and in a community where everyone knew Charlie as “a boy.” Matt & I stood in awe of this child who was willing to endure daily questioning, harassment, teasing, mocking, name-calling, and more, just for trying to live authentically.
It would’ve been easier to just regress or opt-out. But then again, despite the clothing, jewelry and accessories, this was still a feminine child. This had always been a feminine child, a child assigned male at birth who told me at just under 3 years old with wisdom much older, “Mommy, you know I’m only a boy because of my parts, right?”
This child always knew her/their gender identity (Charlie uses either pronoun, just no more ‘he/him’); it was the adults in Charlie’s life who didn’t. This child had known no differently than to be laughed at and mocked for trying to live authentically in this gender identity. Why go backwards — to a facade — now?
Today, The New York Times published an article titled ‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration. I first saw it on Twitter. Friends sent me the link over Facebook Messenger, texts, and email. Wanting to hear my thoughts. Making sure I was aware (I was — as a Mama Bear of a TGNC kid, you’re literally always on guard).
I’ve reflected on this all day today, trying to find the right words. I can’t. I don’t have the words. I’m not surprised. Just continually dumbfounded by the people who persist in supporting this bully-in-chief, this bully in the highest government office who wants to roll back the basic civil rights of marginalized people — people who will in no way affect his own life whatsoever. What is it that he and his cult following are so damn afraid of? (Rhetorical question.)
Suffice it to say, my child has already endured a lifetime of harassment and bullying for being a “girly boy” (one of the nicer phrases used) before socially transitioning to present more in line with her/their gender identity. But the LGBTQ community — among other minority communities — has been under constant fear of attack since the beginning of the 45th administration. We’ve always known that; this Trumpian brand of politics as a bully pulpit is nothing new. And yet, it seems we sink to a new low every day.
However, what everyone should also know is that this ‘memo’ or any subsequent guidance or legislation from the 45th administration will not eliminate the precedents set by numerous federal courts over the last two decades, which all affirm the full rights & identities of transgender people.
Whatever the 45th administration chooses to say or do next against the TGNC community is not going to undo the unanimity of consensus among medical & mental health providers and scientists around the world who see and know and work with trans people, and who write position statements outlining their affirmation, urging everyone to accept trans people for who they are. No rule, no guideline, no administration can ever erase the experiences of the trans community, their families and their loved ones.
Transgender people are the strongest, most resilient people I’ve ever met. Unfortunately, they are very accustomed to holding their heads high in a society that continually refuses to respect them, or to even see them. This is just another blip in the road, but it still hurts like hell. That said, trans people will not be erased, and especially not by a three-ring-circus masquerading as a government administration.
If you don’t like this freefall to autocracy that American society currently finds itself in, then by all means, you must vote. If you want to find out more about your state’s legal protections for LGBTQ people and their families, visit here at Lambda Legal. If you believe in civil rights and social progress, you must vote blue, no matter who. You can even find out which local candidates are endorsed here by Human Rights Campaign. If you want to learn more about transgender people, visit here at National Center for Transgender Equality. Vote like our democracy depends on it, because it really does, especially this midterm election cycle.
Martie Sirois, she/her. Mother. Writer. Speaker. Founder. Ally. Advocate.