Updated: Nov 27, 2019
November 12th to 19th is Transgender Awareness Week and we'd like to inspire positive conversation in support of our trans communities across Canada and around the world.
Fun Fact: Trans youth exist. I'm a parent of one.
And, if I had a loonie for every time I heard, 'How can your child possibly know at THEIR age?'... I'd be writing this from a much nicer chaise in a much hotter climate.
Perhaps the presumptions are: a trans person wakes up one day...when they're in their late teens or older, pours a coffee, scratches their head and decides they are going to be trans. Or maybe, if they're younger - well, they're looking for attention, 'more love Mom!', or they must be gay.
Presuming is scary and dangerous.
It traps us in walls; unable to see the reality around us. And just maybe, this is one of the reasons why there is so much stigma surrounding our trans community.
Some trans folks are gay, some are not.
Some cisgender people are gay, some are not. This is sexual orientation and is not gender identity.
Sexual Orientation is who you go to bed with at night;
Gender Identity is, who you go to bed as.
Please check out the famous lil' genderbread person for more details on identity vs. expression; sexual vs. gender.
Trans youth have always been here.
Like many parents in my new parenting community, I grapple everyday with my child's desire and right to be freely visible without fear of stigma; versus the need to keep him safe and stealth.
When I write invisible or stealth, I mean for him to be seen as a boy versus a trans boy.
Looking closer at presumptions - take away the choice. We don't choose how we identify as a person. Internally we feel how we feel.
For my son, he never chose to be a boy.
He IS a boy. He is also a trans boy and this isn't something he should have to hide or feel scared or ashamed about.
For him and thousands of other trans and gender diverse kids, it’s urgently important that we let trans youth know they are valid, valued, and that we will rise up to protect them.
Here's one way you can help raise awareness this week: Start by adding this “Rise Up for Trans Youth” Facebook profile frame your profile image in support of Trans Youth.
My child deserves to be free to be himself, like every child. Visible and free - and not stuck in a wall like Le Passe-Muraille (the Passer-Through-Walls) in Montmartre, Paris.
Free to live an authentic life - untrapped.
Gender identity is who we are on the inside. And when those definitions don't match what you see in society, well, it's a shit storm of confusion for any young person grappling with identity.
So, let's start including gender diversity in our elementary school classrooms, in our conversations. In our families. Move beyond the binary.
‘On the road toward self-revelation, we make little compromises in an effort to appease those we love, those who are invested in us, those who have dreams for us....’ ‘For many trans people, the pretending can last months, years, even decades; no two people have the same journey, yet a common fear threads us: Being who I am really am will lead to rejection.’
Excerpt from Janet Mock's book, Redefining Realness
From our journey, we've realized connecting too, and becoming aware of your true gender identity can happen early for some children or later for others. If your gender identity doesn't match how you've been labelled - or your gender assigned at birth - well this can be confusing for children and adolescents and apparently cisgender adults who owe me a loonie.
For our little person, it was his teacher choosing a random book to read to the Grade 5 class. This book happened to be about a trans child finding her way.
It was the first time he was presented with the idea that gender assignment at birth doesn't always get it right.
The binary side of sex assignment leaves only two narrow choices M or F; and for gender diverse children, that is confusing.
My son remains fearless for the dangers the trans community face every single day.
Within 12 months of socially transitioning, he experienced trans-related violence, at his school, resulting in a visit to the IWK emergency, severe concussion and a cracked nose.
It was a dark time for our family.
The scariest part of the incident was when I arrived to the school office, and I saw him looking very small on a chair, with his nose covered in an ice pack.
He had been crying and he looked up and said,
'I'm sorry, Mum.'
He was sorry because he had lied to the Staff Duty in the yard.
He had lied and said he had fallen and that was why his nose was bleeding.
And then he retreated to the bathroom. Alone.
He was sorry.
He didn't want to get anyone in trouble.
Because, in his words...
'Boys don't tell..'. and he's a boy, so he refused to tell on the people who whispered about him, or made mean and hurtful comments to him, or the ones who hurt him.
We, as a community, have a lot of work to do.
Work around our identities and how we define ourselves.
Work around accepting that however people define themselves is their right and even if it's not fully understood; being open to learning or simply... accepting is paramount to inclusion.
With Trans Awareness Week upon us, I will take the guidance of our Children's Hospital, IWK, Trans Health Team specialists, when they say:
visibility will help bring greater acceptance and awareness