I still remember it like it was yesterday. There he was sat, behind the desk in the elementary school nurse’s office. Handmade art adorned the walls, students clearly loved and admired him. Superheroes, rainbows and typical school nurse warnings too; “wash your hands” signs, Band-Aids and a cot in the adjacent room. There he sat, on the other side of the desk, smile on his face. “How can I help you?” he said in a warm, welcoming voice. He knew why I was there; he had watched my daughter come into the school in kindergarten.
This was before the change, before she came to us. It was a tough time as parents because we really couldn’t get our arms around what was going on. As straight, cis parents we were completely clueless. We knew that from the youngest time she was different than our older two boys. We felt like she was drawn towards characters and into magical thinking. She loved dressing up and Frozen. But she wasn’t Hans or Olaf, she was Elsa. This is accepted as “normal” behavior for children when they are two or three. When they are picking out pink pony backpacks for Catholic pre-K, things start getting dicey.
When we started public kindergarten, the disparity between our child and those in their natal assigned gender became increasingly apparent. At this point we were not allowing our child to wear skirts and dresses. They were stuck with shirts and pants that we felt were neutral enough. Shopping was anguishing. I would go into Target and hope that nobody would catch me in the girl’s section. Why do they have a “girl’s” section? Why did I feel embarrassed? These are all questions I ask myself in retrospect. At the time it was all so hard.
There he sat. Such a kind, gentle soul, about to change my world. I explained that my baby was being teased. I had heard that the nurse was part of the LGBTQ, community so I thought he might be able to help me. You see, I thought my precious baby was gay. That explained it. My son wanted to be Elsa and wear dresses because he was gay. I knew gay people. One of my very best friends was gay (cliché, yes I know). We could do this. So I went into his office and politely asked him, with tears in my eyes, if he could help me? I explained that my son had worn a pink shirt to school and the children were making fun of him. I didn’t understand what the big deal was, he was just being him. I asked if he wore pink shirts and dressed up when he was a boy, if he knew? With the most kind and loving words, the nurse let me down, no Mrs. Moore. I did not dress up in my mom’s clothes or emulate girls. Your baby is not gay. There it was. That was it. The words left unspoken were tremendous. They just sat heavy and silent in the nurse’s office.
The next day the nurse showed up at school with a pink Wonder Woman shirt on and burst into the kindergarten classroom, “WHAT do you think of MY shirt?!” he proclaimed to the gleeful children!! My understanding from my daughter is that the children all loved the nurse’s pink shirt; they loved the nurse. When they saw him they didn’t see pink or blue, boy or girl, straight or gay. They saw a human who cared deeply about who they were and took genuine interest in their welfare.
The nurse has moved on from the school and so have we. However, he sends our daughter notes in the mail randomly reminding her how special and loved she is. He does this without prompting or because of a birthday or anniversary. They arrive out of the blue, usually at just the right time. Last weekend we attended a PFLAG Christmas party and had the honor of sitting on Santa’s lap (his husband) and visiting the Elf (our dear nurse). We had the pleasure of love and hugs galore, affirmation, kindness and acceptance. This special person is the embodiment of what each and every child should have in their lives as they discover and become who they are meant to be.
We are blessed. We are thankful. We are better because he is in our lives and so is every child whose life he has touched.