My son starts middle school next week and seems absolutely fine with it. I, however, have been in a simmering state of anxiety for the last several months as I anticipate everything that could possibly go wrong. I’m sure every parent of every first-time middle schooler feels the same, but this situation is slightly different: my son is transgender.
It’s an awkward tension I find myself in daily -- feeling a responsibility to step up for my son while also feeling a responsibility as an ally to step back so that queer voices can be heard. I regularly hear words of encouragement and gratitude from LGBTQ people (and their parents) to keep going, but I also hear valid criticism from other queer people to sit down, and I struggle to know what is the right answer in each situation since both sides seem to be right.
In a world that wants to tell trans kids that they're different, you have an opportunity to tell them that they're special. Here are 5 ways you can be a better ally:
Max, as my son is now known, has never really had to “come out” to the people in his life. He did, however, start using male pronouns and introducing himself as a boy by the time he was 6 years old, but honest to goodness he doesn’t even remember a word of the conversation we had together. Being true to himself is all he’s ever known in this family.
I had hoped that Speaker Straus would have taken the time during the very busy special session this summer to read my open letter that I wrote to him in the Texas Tribune. I tweeted him, I emailed him, and I stopped by his office in Austin to make sure he got the message. But he's a busy guy, so I wasn't holding my breath. Looks like he heard us, though, because this (not-a-standard-form) letter came in the mail today:
In no particular order, and certainly far from complete, here’s a list of a half-dozen things that parents of trans kids are thinking about when the school year starts, and how teachers, parents of cisgender kids, and friends can be allies. I’m sure we’d all rather be thinking about cool monkey bar tricks on the playground instead — but there’s a lot of work to do, first.
It can be hard to understand our kids sometimes, but it should never be hard to love them. Here are a few of my reflections about our journey to become a trans-inclusive family.