Too often, parents get hung up on labels. When it comes to transgender kids, when they’re not your kids, pushing labels teaches questionable lessons.
Recently an eight-year-old boy in New Jersey was booted from his Cub Scout Pack for being transgender. Young Joe Moldonato was born a female, but for the past year has identified with the male gender. “I’m a girl. I just don’t want to be a girl,” the girl told NorthJersey.com. “My identity is a boy.” All Joe wanted to do was be a damn Cub Scout, but society couldn’t let him do that. Nope. At eight years old he has already faced rejection over something that he can not help anymore than he could help being blind or paralyzed. The parents of the other scout members had him removed because they were uncomfortable, not the children. Most likely they were all far too busy doing what they were supposed to be doing, which is being kids. Way to go grown-ups!
My daughter recently went to a birthday party at a friend’s house with a few other neighborhood kids. As we were driving home from the party my girl chattered on and on about all the fun that they had and the silly thing that so-and-so said. She gave us the run down of the snacks and treats that they ate. We heard about the gifts that the birthday girl got and the games that they played, typical nine-year-old stuff. Then my nine-year-old drops this bomb:
“You know *Lucy right mom?”
“Sure.” I responded.
“Well she prefers to be called Andrew now and she dresses like a boy and has her hair cut like a boy.”
For years I have been mentally preparing myself for all kinds of questions that would eventually tumble of my kids’ mouths, but this topic was never even a blip on my radar. I have given thought to how best address impending womanhood, sex, and homosexuality – never did I consider how to explain their transgender buddy to my daughters.
“Ok. What do you think of that?” I asked her. That was all I had in my arsenal of parenting goodness.
“Oh I don’t care. I like her. She is really nice and she is happy this way.”
My head was exploding. Is her friend transgender or is she a tomboy? Is this a phase her parents are ignoring or something that they fully accept and support? Are we supposed to refer to Andrew as a he or a she?
I have no answers to these questions since I didn’t ask them, because I don’t really care one way or another and clearly neither does my daughter. Even though I had a list of questions a mile long that I desperately wanted to fire off at my little girl, for once I kept my mouth shut. We drove the rest of the way home listening to the radio. The more I thought about our dialogue, the more I couldn’t help but be proud of both my daughter and myself. What a kind, supportive and accepting friend she is. I hope that she continues to be a great champion and advocate for all of her peers. Even though I spend roughly 99% of my life sure that I am screwing up my little princesses in a multitude of ways I clearly am doing something right if they are proving to be so open minded and reflective. I am so proud of her, and of me.
I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest mother, but in this moment I think I pretty much slayed parenthood. I could have let my own curiosity hinder and cloud my child’s opinions about someone, but I didn’t. I asked a few open-ended questions and just listened to what she was telling me. What she was telling me was that she had an amazing time at the birthday party with her friends.
That is all that matters.