This is the third in a four-part series.
Liam’s “first day” as a girl was exciting. She and I went to the beach on a warm April day, only to find it was pretty cold at the beach but she was wearing what would become her new favorite outfit, a dinosaur skort with a lovey sauropod tee that says “You make my heart saur!” She was so happy. We spread out our blanket on Sandy Hook beach, where we’d hoped to see a few seals on their way north, and let the sun soak in. I was cold and huddled under the blanket, but Liam took off her shoes and ran circles in the sand, squealing “weeeeeeeee!” as she ran.
That night we had a music and poetry event at our church and Liam was ready to make her community debut. She put on her new pink romper, glittery rainbow high tops and walked into the U with all the confidence in the world. We did this without warning and a few people had to do a double-take but were quick to engage Liam who proudly told everyone “I’m a girl.” We sat in the choir loft with my best friend who is also the love of Liam’s young life and I cried as I watched Liam and Michael dancing with abandon. That night she decided that it felt so good to be herself that she wanted to be a girl at school, too.
The next day she donned her boy clothes and was off to XN’s (my ex-husband’s) house. When I picked her up from school the following day I asked to speak with her teacher. I told her that Liam has come to us and told us she is actually a girl, that we have gone shopping for girl clothes, and that she would really like to start presenting as a girl at school. The teacher was immediately supportive and said that she would keep an eye on things the next day.
Tuesday morning, Liam picked out her outfit, the same tee as before but with leggings of the same dino print because it was too cold for the skort. We talked about how the other kids might poke fun and that they would probably have questions. Before we left the house, she said “I will be okay, Mama. I just have to tell them this is who I am and I’m proud to be me.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I tried to grapple with releasing my child to a place I couldn’t protect her in but they were also tears of pride for being the mom of this incredibly brave child.
I left work early to pick her up from school on this special day and didn’t see her teacher at the door. Liam came running to me and jumped on me, excitedly calling “MAMA!” It seemed the day had gone really well. When we got home we talked about how the experience was with the kids and she reported that a few kids said she looked like a girl and she responded, “that’s because I am a girl.” The kids didn’t bother her, but there was a substitute teacher that day. Liam told me that when the teacher saw her she laughed, and then the tears came. “I wasn’t prepared for the teachers to laugh at me.” I was furious inside but calm on the outside and “wholeheartedly” wanted to call the school and make a report. I asked if maybe she was just surprised by how cute and brave she was, but AidLiaman insisted the sub had laughed at her.
I know that I cannot protect her from all of the hurt she will encounter but I wasn’t prepared for that one either. I was mad at her teacher for not being thereafter I had talked to her the day before. I was mad at the school for letting this person laugh at my child. But I breathed and remembered they are all doing the best they can. Her teacher has two young kids, one of whom was probably sick and kept her home. The substitute may not have actually laughed at my child, she may have not even been looking at her, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt, knowing I also had to do damage control.
Liam and I went to the library and picked up every children’s book they had about gender variance and I called Michael to see if he could come over for an impromptu “make your own pizza” party. The books we picked up were about different types of gender variance. We read “Jacob’s New Dress” about a boy who identifies as a boy but likes to wear dresses. We read “10,000 Dresses” about a boy who feels like a girl and dreams about dresses, but Bailey’s family tells him he’s a boy and disregards his feelings harshly. And we read “I Am Jazz,” the true story of a transgender teenage girl and how she became Jazz. At this point, I was still not “convinced” my child was transgender. I was struggling with pronouns and mourning the loss of my son while secretly hoping it was just a phase. I secretly hoped she’d see Jacob and realize it’s ok to be a boy and wear a dress.
Liam immediately identified with Jazz and was visibly relieved to see that she isn’t alone in the world. Her least favorite part was a page where young Jazz was dressed like a boy in the park and was feeling sad and alone because of it. Her favorite part was a page where Jazz is dressed in a nightgown being hugged by her parents on the night that they told her they now understand and will help her to live as a girl. In the book, a doctor tells Jazz’s parents that she is transgender and that is the first time that Liam heard the term used in this way. She immediately related. She said, “That’s who I am, Mommy. I’m transgender. I have a boy body and a girl head and heart.” Later that night, in her new pink nightgown, she read “I Am Jazz” and “Marlon Bundo” (one of our favorite books) to Michael and Oliver. She told them both that she is just like Jazz and went to bed with a smile.