By: Amber Leventry
My kids fall off of the kitchen bar stools at least four times a day and each time I am in awe that three athletic children can lose their balance while sitting on a stationary object.
Snowflakes hit the window as I stare dumbfounded at the calendar confirming it is mid-May.
I am shocked by the number of people who support North Carolina’s HB-2 Bathroom Bill and by yet another YouTube video of someone screaming their way through the aisles of Target to protest the company’s support of an individual’s right to use the bathroom. I am stunned by society’s inability to love without conditions. I am astonished by people’s ability to hate in the name of God’s love.
I am not an eternal optimist, a devout student of a particular religion, or even blissful in my ignorance of reality. I am a cautiously optimistic idealist at best. Yet, I continue to be surprised by things that shouldn’t surprise me.
Of course my kids drop two feet to the floor several times a day; they are constantly in motion, they are balls of energy which propel them in every direction. I live in northern Vermont; it always snows in May. I know hurtful and awful attitudes exist; I am exhausted by the number of times I hear someone confuse human decency with the devil’s work or when I read false information that compares transgender women to pedophiles.
My partner and I recently had a conference with our children’s pediatrician to discuss our son’s gender identity. For over a year he has been saying he is a girl. He has been dressing, playing, and for the entire world to see, presenting as a girl. He will go to preschool in the fall with his twin brother, and while that first day of school is a few months away, the day will be here too soon. The day will be hard enough as we send our babies out of the house and into someone else’s care for the first time. It will be made even harder with the very real possibility we will be sending our son out of the house as our daughter without one of us by his side.
With the guidance and support of the pediatrician, we are following through with our son’s wishes. He wants to start school as a girl. We are using the summer to role-play what that will be like for him and us. We are using the summer to let our little boy live as a little girl. We have started to use female pronouns when we are talking directly to and about him to his older sister and twin brother. When we are in public, we no longer redirect people’s assumptions that he is a girl.
I and my partner still refer to our son as our son, and we still use male pronouns to describe him when we talk to each other. Not because we don’t love and support him, but because this is still really new. It’s emotional. It’s uncertain. For so many reasons, it’s hard.
Ryan can’t possibly be more clear about who he is. So why was I surprised when the doctor validated Ryan’s words and suggested we let him live as a girl?
Perhaps for the same reason I am continually surprised by what should be expected: I want a different response, outcome, or answer. I don’t want to deal with the mess of food knocked onto the floor or cries from superficial wounds after my kids fall off of the stools. And I don’t want my child to be transgender if I also have to acknowledge the fact that there are assholes in the world who can’t or don’t want to see my child as the beautiful soul he is.
The difference that separates me from them is courage. Taking the time to learn and love what is hard to understand is courageous. Standing in front of public bathrooms and screaming misconstrued words from the Bible is not.
I want my kids to be a lot of things, but happy and kind are two things on top of the list. And as much as I want a crystal ball to see into the future to be sure my kids carry these two things throughout their lives, I am brave enough to let go of what I can’t see. I can only focus on right now. And right now my job and desire is to raise a confident and resilient kid who can withstand all of the things I wish were not true.
I do not want to leave the impression that I hope my child is not transgender. There is a very real possibility he is. I accept that and I will fight with everything I have to be sure he has the same opportunities and rights as my other two children. I will do everything in my power to be sure his childhood is a happy one. Our oldest child and Ryan’s big sister looked at him the other day and told him what a big girl he is. Ryan grinned and said, “I like that.” She has been Ryan’s biggest advocate and I should not have been surprised by her support or his reaction, but I was.
But this time it wasn’t because I wanted a different reaction. It was because I was reminded how simple it can be, how brave and beautiful it is to love without conditions.