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Raising a Transgender 9-Year-Old in 2020

I am an outsider. This truth is becoming more and more clear as I walk this path and she gets older; I get older. My fear mounts as I think of her taking on the raging battles I see spinning around us. How do I allow her to stay little while preparing her for the mêlée of actions that will occur in the time to come?

I am an outsider. I am not transgender. I don’t know what it is like to be transgender. Truth is I am a white, cis, heterosexual, woman who has all of the privileges associated with each of those categories. Looking at Instagram I stumbled upon a meme: “I made a pride flag for all the non-dysphoric trans people! I don’t really see any representation, so…here it is! cis.” Perplexing. I try to remain openminded when I see transgender and non-binary people posting because, I am an outsider. I do not know. I do not understand. However, this one doesn’t sit well with me. You mean that she has to be dysphoric to be transgender? The writer goes on to goat the responders, many of whom are agreeing but many are not, basically explaining that to truly be transgender one must be unhappy with their assigned gender. You cannot be transgender without being dysphoric. I remind myself: I am an outsider. She is my daughter. We will get through this. I let it marinate; I try it on; I’m not okay with this. I want her to be okay with her body. I want her to be proud to be transgender. I know we are living in a protected bubble, not sure how long the safeguard will hold. For now, I will don my armor and go out into the world and try to make it safer for her, so that when the barricade is broken perhaps the battle will be a little less intense.

I see battles on the national level. Headlines that read: A Georgia lawmaker wants to make treatments for transgender kids a felony, but doctors say that could put lives at risk, (Business Insider, January 2, 2020). We have clashes locally: Commissioners make library pay security costs of ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ (BayNet, July 17, 2019). New Year’s Day, Dustin Parker is shot dead behind the wheel of his taxi at 6am in Oklahoma. Battles are raging within the children who walk through the doors of my office each day. I am an outsider. I don’t understand what it is to be transgender. Neither do the people who are legislating against my daughter or killing innocent people who are doing their jobs. I don’t know how to prepare her for this world that has decided she is a target - unbeknownst to her.

She is an outsider. She doesn’t understand why this makes her an outsider; she is still learning and grasping at what exactly it means to be transgender. When asked by adults, “how does it feel to be transgender?” Her response is: “good…scary.” Mic drops. I see it in their eyes, probing her, searching for answers. All I hear is “scary.” My nine-year-old knows it is scary to be transgender.

She is an outsider. She will not be invited to sleepovers or birthday parties. When I suggest maybe the girls can all go to camp together I get the obligatory, “ya, well maybe.” I don’t want her to have dysphoria, but the I fear that the pain of rejection that is looming around the corner will make that a reality. Dating, prom, living in the future is too painful with a transgender child. They are perfect just the way they are, why can’t the world see that?

I am an outsider. I don’t understand the pain that many transgender and non-binary people have endured. I don’t understand the institutionalized bigotry that systematically works against them. I am just coming to understand that the LGB community sent the trans community up the river in an effort to attain marriage equality. Just because I see a rainbow doesn’t mean I am going to be welcomed with a hug because my daughter is transgender. Transgender people don’t want to be acknowledged as trans because it is hurtful. I am an outsider.

They are outsiders. They are marginalized. They are frustrated, wounded, misunderstood and have been sold out, incarcerated and the punchline for far too long. For many, they have lost their entire family in an effort to live authentically. They are not men dressing up as women. They are not here to use your bathroom. They are humans.

We are all outsiders. It is only through education, empathy and kindness that we can grow to appreciate the beautiful complexity that each of us brings to the table.

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