Tip toeing, I crossed the short distance across the hall to his room and lay down beside him putting my head on the pillow next to his. At eye level, the early morning sun cast a soft glow on his face and he looked like a sweet little angel transported in my mind to just a little kid instead of a budding teenager.
I love the early morning on some days when I’m awake. The quiet house holds my thoughts close and I am calm. I gently swept his beautiful long hair back from his eyes. Time stood still. I knew in that moment that I would do my best from now on to use the right pronouns, her and she. I would call her by her rightful and chosen name, Rose.
She opened her long luscious lashes to find me there.
“Hey,” I whispered with a smile.
“Hey,” she smiled back.
“I’ve been thinking. You’ve really been on my heart this morning and for a while now. I feel like it is time. We have to make a change. I feel like you are barely hanging on when you are at school and other times too—living two different lives—one way at home and another way in public. If you could have anything, would you be happiest living fully female?”
She nodded, yes.
“What if you transitioned this summer and started next school year as yourself—as female? We could move if that is what you want, a fresh start?”
I didn’t know if her father would agree to that, but I knew I would make it happen somehow if that is what she needed.
“I don’t know,” she hesitated. “I feel comfortable at my school. It would be too hard to start somewhere new.”
“If you stay at your school, could you transition?” As she was thinking, I said, “Are you ready for that? If you want to stay at your school, I could talk to your principal and your teachers about your transition. People already see you as girl anyway. We always have to correct them. I shouldn’t have by the way. I know that now. Sometimes I wished I had let you transition in kindergarten.”
“It’s okay. It’s my experience. It made me who I am today.”
I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her head. “You’re so smart. I love you!”
“I love you!!”
“Presenting fully female, you’ll have more confidence, you can use the right bathroom, you can hang around girlfriends.”
“Momma, I’m still going to quiet. I like to listen.”
“I know, but you could have more freedom to look and act like yourself.”
Secretly I thought and wondered would most people at the school accept her? Would parents feel comfortable with her spending the night with her girlfriends? Would the bathroom be an issue for some parents? If only they could know her they way I knew her.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to be the poster child for transgender.” She paused. “I want people to see me as the independent woman I am, girl!”
“The kids that know me, I’m afraid of how they would treat me.”
“That’s why I was thinking of you going to a new school where you can start over with no judgments. I wish I could say everyone will be fine with it, but maybe they won’t. My gut says some won’t. If we lived further North, I think more people would be willing to make it a non-issue.”
“But, that’s life anyway. Not everyone is going to like you no matter who you are. You can’t live to please others. You have to do what is best for you.”
After a moment, I continued.
“On a deeper level, you can’t allow anyone to discriminate against you based on the way you were born. It’s not fair. For yourself, you are just living your life. To the older generation, you’re different, something they are not familiar with, something they may view as wrong. But, I know you! I see you! I wish they could too!”
“Starting school female, it will be up to you who you tell, if you tell anyone. I’m pretty sure though, that we won’t be able to change your female marker on your birth certificate until after surgery. But, you could change everything else. We could get your name legally changed. I don’t know if we could get that done before school starts back though.”
She exclaimed, “But, I’d be “that” girl. The “new” girl. That’s too much pressure and anxiety for me Momma.” She asked me for the millionth time. “Could I do online school?”
Thousands of things raced through my mind. I asked, “What about band and friends?”
“I don’t care about band and I have my friends online.”
“I feel that you do care about band,” I challenged.
“Oh my God! No, I don’t.”
“Okay. Let’s think about it and talk some more.” I switched gears.
“We’ll need a therapist. Are you okay with talking to someone, a counselor who can formally pronounce that you have gender dysphoria? You have to have that distinction so you can start puberty blockers and hormones.”
“I don’t care. I’ll talk to anyone if I can start blockers and hormones.” She added, “My voice is changing and my body—I don’t want to wait too much longer. ”
“Okay, we’ll need a Pediatric Endocrinologist too for that.”
I put her hand in mind. “I don’t want us to hide anymore. You’ll never be happy until you are your true self on the outside.”
Her face brightened, but with hesitation she said, “If I’m on blockers and especially estrogen, I’d rather do online school. It would be awkward going to school with the people I know. Their bodies will be changing and mine will stay the same.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” I pondered. Maybe she was right. Maybe that would be the best path for her. I worried about someone hurting her. I wanted her to be safe more than anything.
“How far do you want to go honey? Would you want surgery?”
She 100% positively exclaimed, “I want a vagina and breasts.”
I had several revelations that day. One, I was handed a girl in the delivery room on May 30, 2004. Two, she was Rose and had always been Rose. I had to let that sink into my being, truly let that sink in.
Now, I tell her as from the movie Avatar, “I see YOU.”
I feel certain in the future that genetic markers will be found for gender dysphoria because the more and more cases I read about gender dysphoria, I recognize many similarities in the way those kids express their gender nonconformity and how Rose expresses hers.
As we talked more that day, I knew it was MY responsibility to help her get the care she needed. She needed an advocate through what would be a long process. I hoped that her father would get on board, but if he didn’t, I wouldn’t let that stop me from helping her become the person she was born to be. I had no idea how I was going to pay for it all. I only knew I had to act.
Where to start?! I had done lots of research on puberty blockers and hormones which made the topic even more confusing. I needed professional help. I needed a starting point.
As I begin to discuss this with Rose, she knew all about blockers, hormones, penile inversion, vaginoplasty and tracheal shaves, much more than I did! I realized she must have been spending lots of time on Google as I had, only she had been doing that for years! She knew what was involved.
I realized, she is the bravest person I had ever met!
I decided that I needed medical advice. Some of what I read made me scared for Rose’s health and safety. I wanted to make sure I was her advocate, that what we chose to do was as safe as it could be with the limited knowledge of the long-term effects associated with the drugs doctors are using to help kids like Rose at younger and younger ages.
I started with the only person I knew and thought I could talk with—her pediatrician.