Updated: Sep 5, 2018
This week my son's school began 'The Talk'. It's the end of Grade 6, healthy living component, where the nitty gritty on sexuality, sexual health, body parts and puberty are revealed and discussed to 11 and 12-year-old students here in Nova Scotia.
And I my humble opinion, it's not a minute too soon. Kids this age are curious about what's going to happen to their bodies. And according to my guy, if you want to know How To Be A Boy, you have to be able to talk about penises. Not yours, per se, but the penis in general. 'It's a top-of-mind topic,' he says.
But then again, perhaps I really wish we hadn't reached this minute so soon. Because, when you are born with gender dysphoria, all these changes become a significant source of stress; when you know the changes you WANT to happen, aren't going to happen to YOU.
The past few months have been especially difficult for my son as he sees his peers hormones starting to surge and growth spurts sparking life-altering-changes.
Lately, he's been on the not-so-nice end of several conversations with kids in his school, such as being told by one guy,
"He'll never be able to have sex, because it's a feeling and he has the wrong body parts to ever experience that kind of feeling.'
or as one girl put it,
'When I'm a mom, and I have a daughter, I wouldn't let her become a boy. She'd have to be a grownup to make that decision...',
and here's a cracker from another friendly classmate:
"They shouldn't teach about transgender in school, because it's confusing for children."
And so we are catapulted out of 'The Village' yet again. The 'Village' that this child belongs too only seems to support girls and boys, if their body parts match accordingly.
And so I think to my invisible self, It may be confusing... but so are fractions and French irregular verbs. If we don't teach it, it will remain confusing.
This is life for my kid and not something scary that should be kept quiet...invisible.
Trans Erasure can be a nasty constant in life for transgender people and through awareness, hopefully communities will realize how hurtful it is.
Class Lesson Day one, according to Dillon, there was a focus on transgender and gender identity.
After spending 8 months together in a class of his peers, only now is the school deeming it relevant to offer/educate/share information about what it means to be trans and how it impacts a child who is gender diverse.
His teacher, who I have great admiration, drew from a myriad of reference materials and embarked on the stressful task of making a classroom of 11/12 year olds not giggle at the sight of the image of a penis. Dillon sat pensively and tried to look like it was as light-hearted...and hilarious... as the others made it seem.
Gender Identity is different from Sexual Identity. And the L, G, and B in LGBTQ2 are different from the 'T'. Society hasn't done so well on teaching about the 'T'. Whatever your opinions are, it's safe to say you've likely an understanding about what L, G and B mean. But what do you know about the T?
Newsflash, it's not cross-dressing and it's not a choice. Nope. Not even close.
The more we can learn about gender identity, the safer our children will be when being visible. And shouldn't we all be safe to be visible?
I love the blog "How To Be a Girl" by Marlo Jack. She honestly and fiercely shares her and her daughter's journey in simple and engaging podcasts and videos. Her latest, The Betrayal, is especially familiar and insightful.
As Dillon puts it, "It's not a feeling Mum. It's a knowing. I just know I'm a boy. I don't feel it, I know it."
And life would be significantly easier, if others could simply know it too.
The HRCE in Nova Scotia is working hard to implement new curriculum involving gender and gender identity. It IS, apparently on the door-steps of implementing gender-neutral report cards. Inclusion 101. Watch this space for 2018/19 class year.
Not in time for my guy. And maybe for others across Canada, like a friend who's 6-year-old daughter was kicked in the genitals last week by a schoolmate. While this small child lay on the ground breathless, others laughed and a girl said, 'See I told you she's a boy. Girls don't get hurt down there.'. The 'Village' and the system is not supporting her.
There are gender creative and trans elementary students coming up behind my son. They are young. They are stealth. You may not see them, but they exist and they deserve to feel and BE safe to be seen. They deserve to be visible and accepted.
I hope you're here because you want to be an ally.
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Dylan Thomas, Poet
"Despite all my rage I'm still just a rat in a cage."
The Smashing Pumpkins, Bullet with Butterfly Wings
and current favourite band of Dillon
Sometimes useful resources and info are not-so-easy to find.
Here's some links, shared to me by other parents of gender diverse children.
For those of you looking for information or support, here's but a few sources:
As mentioned above, listen to even a few of the short podcasts of, "How To Be A Girl," for a touching recount of one mother and daughter's experiences.
Tomorrow will be Different by Sarah McBride:
Another informative Book: The Gender Identity Workbook for Kids: A Guide to Exploring Who You Are
Or a younger read: A Normal Turtle
And I especially love the soulful conversation between Janet Mock and Oprah, discussing Mock's book "Redefining Realness".
Whatever your sources, in the name of inclusion and acceptance, let's keep the conversation going, our minds open and continue to break down those preconceived notions surrounding gender and gender expression.