One morning, I was reading an article about gender dysphoria. Izzy was on my heart. Even though we had been making small changes at home such as redecorating his room in pastels (pink, green and robin egg blue), buying clothes from the girls section of department stores, wearing a long hairstyle and experimenting with makeup, he was still presenting himself as a boy to the public generally and at school. We were nearing the end of 7th grade. I had seen him recently overwhelmed.
I had waited for him in the pick-up line as I did every other day. The kids spilled out onto the concrete under the covered walkway. As I eased up the cue, I saw his blue jacket flash in the crowd, the one he always wore to school even on 80-degree hot Georgia days. I understood later; he wore that jacket as a comforting mechanism, as a protector from his social anxiety. I pulled closer to the side walk. I hoped that today he would be walking and cutting up with a friend; but, he was alone.
He plopped into the passenger seat and I greeted him with my big smile and an annoyingly happy,
I wanted to hug him with all my might and infuse him with the love in my heart for him.
“Just go,” he insisted.
I smiled to myself instead of correcting his attitude because I knew he needed time to decompress. I pulled forward hoping to quickly get out of the traffic, but once again the cars like metal barriers, slammed down and we came to a full stop. The police officer serving as a crossing guard stopped all lanes of traffic to allow the 20 something buses to pass by unobstructed. We had to wait.
“How did your Math test go?” I asked tentatively to see if he was ready to talk.
“Ok,” he muttered as he pulled his knees up to draw his little body into a tight ball.
“Did something happen? Are you okay?”
He answered, “I’m fine.”
But, I knew he wasn’t. Sam Smith sung out Stay with Me passionately in the background and its desperately sad plea fit the mood. My heart ached.
Remembering this moment, I finished reading an article that morning about the signs of gender dysphoria:
Extreme distress about body changes from puberty—Check
Rejecting toys, clothes and games typically for boys—Check
Preferring friends of the same sex he identifies with (girls)—Check
Refusing to stand to urinate as boys typically do—Check
Wanting to get rid of the biological genitals—Check
(preferring to talk about having a uterus and a vagina)
Plus, there were other signs related to how girls are perceived in our society—
Wearing his hair and fingernails long—Check
Wearing his sister’s long shirts to simulate wearing a dress—Check
Uncomfortable using the boy’s bathroom, most comfortable in the lady’s room—Check
That morning I knew that he was a textbook case for gender dysphoria more than ever before. I realized for the first time, this was not a phase of growing up that was going to go away. This is my responsibility I realized. I could not continue to keep him in flux between two worlds. He’s not coping. He cannot take this—living as a boy when his brain and spirit is a girl.
I thought of him curled up in the passenger seat of our car in a tight little ball. I thought of our experiences over the past several years, essentially hiding. Not facing the truth was completely weighing us down like a guilty conscious. That day I decided it didn’t matter how awkward it was to talk about. It didn’t matter what family and friends thought. It was time to walk out of the shadow and into the sun.
This was her life and we had to make a change. We needed help. Thank goodness it was the last week of school; with the summer holidays, we would have time to get the help we needed.
In my head I thought, was it in Izzy’s best interest to stay in public school if he couldn’t be his true self? At his last school conference, his teachers bragged on him saying what a great kid he was. His band teacher made an effort to attend his conference. In his exuberant voice he proclaimed,
“Izzy is doing a great job in band! First chair! Well done!”
One teacher said he wished all of his kids were like Izzy.
But, I saw a different kid, one that was struggling. He put on a good game face at school, but it took everything out of him to do it. Public life is not supposed to be that hard. I thought, if he transitioned, would that anxiety be lifted? Wouldn’t she then thrive? What was the best way for that to happen?
I needed to talk openly to him.