Thursday, April 21, 2016
We Cannot Be Quiet
We recently celebrated the one year anniversary of our transgender daughter's transition. A year ago, after weeks of conversations and wonderings about gender identity, names, and who we are in the world with our then eight year old, we decided to try out her new name. Rebekah Eleanor. Eleanor was my grandmother's name, may she rest in peace. She was a strong, spitfire of a woman. She may have thought we were crazy had she lived to know Rebekah's story. I understand that. But I also know that her strength and resolve is something Rebekah carries.
It's been a wonderful year filled joy, freedom, and affirmation. More days than not, we don't even think about Rebekah being transgender. She's just your typical third grader. It's also been a year of enormous change. I get a lot of questions about what's that looked like, how she's doing, and especially what's that been like for me and my husband as her parents.
Over the past year we've cleaned out the last few items in the wardrobes that didn't feel right, we've boxed up mementos with her old name on them, we've updated the pictures that hang on the wall, and replaced Christmas stockings and ornaments for the tree. As far as anyone who meets us now knows Rebekah was never anyone but herself, a girl. Of course, that's true. She's always been Rebekah, but we didn't fully understand that until this year. We've worked with excellent medical professionals to be ensure we have the right information at the right time to make decisions as they come, while being grateful that we haven't had to make any of those decisions yet.
It's been interesting to watch as in the last year we've told our story over and over again. First, to close friends and family, and then expanding from there. We've told our church council president and the bishop for our church in the state. We've sat and met with dance school directors, camp directors, and faith-based arts school leaders and board members. We've explained our situation to school principals, teachers, and the superintendent. We've told our story to others who know a friend or a family member who needs support. We've told our story in some form or another, however brief, to anyone we run into who once knew our child as a boy and sees that she is not a boy. For months, it felt like all we did was tell our story. I'm okay with that. I think our stories matter, and I will tell it over and over again.
But somewhere along the way, there was a shift in how and when we tell our story. You see, it's no secret. Obviously, I'm right here on the internet writing about it. But at a new school, a new dance studio, and a million other new places, Rebekah is simply Rebekah. She's a girl like any other. There's no memo that precedes her. There's no announcement needed to clarify my child's genitalia. But over time, as she builds relationships and gets to know people, there are people who she wants to know this part of her or who enter far enough into our lives to learn her story. She's not hiding it. It just doesn't come up in "hi, nice to meet you, want to play?" and you certainly can't tell when you meet her or even spend time with her. She's just a girl, proved by the fact that when she has tried to tell friends at school they don't believe her! Suddenly, we're having conversations with people who have no idea of our daughter's history to explain it to them. We know with every conversation, it could go badly. We know with every conversation, there's a chance it will all explode in our face.
You see, while there's been bumps along the way, we have been met with an overwhelming amount of support. Rebekah knows that there are people who do not understand or what to understand what it means to be transgender, but she hasn't had to deal with them yet. We know the time is limited on that, and so does she. So we tread carefully, we consider each encounter and disclosure, we hold our breath and pray that all will be well.
Recently, I've been posting a lot about transgender issues and news on my personal social media. It's not something I was doing a lot before. Occasionally, I'd share a really well written article or something that struck me, but our life is full beyond having a trans kid and our daughter is so much more than her gender identity. I didn't want to be *that* person flooding my friends' feeds with my pet cause. Even in this space, on the blog, I've quieted. There's so much to say, so much people have asked me to share more about our story... and yet it's not my story, it's Rebekah's. So I balance carefully on the edge of respecting her privacy and raising awareness.
But here's the thing. It's more than a pet cause. It's my kid's life, rights, and safety. While, we will continue to tread carefully, being aware of her story versus ours and protecting her privacy, I've realized we cannot be silent. We cannot even be quiet. When you have a child who is afraid to go on family vacation in North Carolina and who wisely asks about the leadership making these decisions. When you explain a super brief take on politics and mention upcoming elections both for a governor in North Carolina and for the United States President and your child quietly ask, with fear that even you can feel, "but what if we get a bad president", well it's time to talk about these things. She knows her rights and safety are in jeopardy despite being surrounded by nothing short of an army of support.
Rebekah knows that people knowing her and her story helps the entire transgender community. She knows it helps other kids, and she believes that is important. We will continue to tell our story. I will write more. We will find strength, courage, and hope in love and grace. I want my daughter to know that she is loved, as she is, with no strings attached. I want her to proud of who she is. She is bright, creative, joyful, adventurous, and intuitive. And, she is transgender. She can be proud to be exactly who she is.
With visibility comes backlash. This has been an exciting and scary year for the trans community. This has been an exciting and scary year for our family. There are people in the world, some of whom have frightening amounts of power, who would have her be ashamed. Their actions suggest that my daughter should live in fear or be satisfied with 'separate but equal'. We won't settle for that. I will fight for her and for all trans kids, youth, and adults. And if that means, we speak louder and more frequently, so be it.