From my moment my son could speak, he’s been telling me that he’s a boy. This might not seem very remarkable to most other “boy moms,” but back then, I thought my child was a girl. That’s what his original birth certificate said, after all.
A few years later, when he was barely four years old, he asked if scientists could turn him into a boy. And for a long time leading up to this, he was pretty adamant about being called a boy, dressing like a boy, and playing stereotypically “boy” games. I gave him space to express himself any way that he wanted (read: you pick your battles with toddlers and I got tired of wrestling him to the ground to brush his pigtails and put a sundress on him), but when he asked that question, I realized that there was a lot more at stake than just supporting a gender-bending girl. I started to wonder if my child might be transgender.
Back then there wasn’t a whole lot of information about trans kids, but through my research and conversations, I soon learned that gender isn’t defined by what’s between your legs: it’s defined by what’s between your ears. And I learned that when kids aren’t affirmed in their gender identities, it can be fatal: a 2014 study stated that 41 percent of trans youth have attempted suicide at least once — and those are the ones who lived to tell the tale. These children didn’t try to kill themselves because being trans is a mental illness, though — in fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states pretty clearly in their scientific, peer-reviewed report that when trans kids are affirmed and supported at home and school, they are just as healthy mentally and physically as their cisgender peers. What’s killing our kids isn’t the fact that they’re trans — what’s killing them is our inability to protect them from bullies in the playground, the pulpit, the schoolhouse, and the White House.
So you can imagine my concern for my child’s mental and physical health when I read the shocking news that the Trump/Pence administration is trying to erase my son’s identity by claiming that gender be defined only “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective, and administrable.” The ramifications of this are terrifying — not only would my son’s existence no longer be valid in Trump’s America, but by issuing this memo, the President has bolstered bigots and bullies in every corner of this nation. And my out-and-proud transgender 10 year old is now one of their targets.
I spent most of the weekend punching things and filling up my swear jar with quarters. But now that I’ve got (most of) that rage out of my system, I’m here to ask for your help. Because people can only take away my son’s right to exist if you let them. So I’m begging you to stand up for my baby, and for the estimated 1.4 million transgender Americans.
In no particular order, here’s my wishlist of actions all of us can take to make the world a little bit safer for transgender and gender-expansive individuals of all ages: