Our morning routine with two long haired girls in the house always involves ponytails or braids. It also involves said girls protesting having their tangled hair brushed out. And if I’m being honest usually a parent pleading through clenched teeth for a certain little girl to just sit still. This probably sounds a lot like your house if you’ve got a long haired little girl or two or perhaps you were once a long haired little girl yourself and remember the struggle of having your hair brushed. If someone were to come in and take instagrams of our life there might be a photo of two girls tousling over who gets to play Elsa in the game of Frozen (my suggestion of “You could have two Elsas?” is met with withering looks and consternation). There would definitely be pictures of Husband and me sandwiched between three kids reading an endless parade of books. I can guarantee that this summer there would be photos of children shrieking outside and children covered in dripping ice cream. Basically what you would see is the boring-pleasant-annoying-loving blend of middle class American life with three children.
Over the past two years since Middle’s transition I have come to know a certain kind of person. They might be a friend, an acquaintance, or a relative. They are the person who asks in a lowered, knowing tone “So how is Middle doing?” There are also those that are more bold who pry overtly, “Is Middle getting help?”. A few people who know that Middle has in fact, seen someone, have bluntly asked “So what does Middle talk about with her therapist?”.
I suppose that these sorts of fixations and intrusions are true for any individual who people to perceive to be significantly different in any way. I can only imagine what people with a visible difference or disability must put up with. Two years into this gig of parenting a child that is different than most people have encountered and I have yet to figure out how to deal with these invasive inquiries. I’ve tried avoiding certain people and parties with Husband’s extended family where I know there will be trouble. Unfortunately one of those people is my mother-in-law; who is pretty hard to avoid or ignore. I’ve also gone with the tactic of feigning ignorance of what the person is asking about, answering with a perfunctory “Great.” And, of course, to make matters worse many of these questions get asked when Middle is within earshot. These kinds of overly personal conversations can also bring up painful issues. I’ve had people quote the suicide rates for trans kids to me. I’m not sure what they’re hoping to accomplish by bringing up my daughter’s increased likelihood of death while we’re both getting food from a buffet.
In my head, I imagine standing up straight, pulling my shoulders back and giving a soliloquy on just how normal my daughter is. What I want them to know is that my daughter is both the most regular and most amazing of little girls. She’s a talented gymnast. She loves toy cars, playing with them like dolls, giving them names and personalities. She’s kind and loving; at least once a day I find her reading to her little sister. She’s fearless; willing to try new foods, climb to the top of the 30 ft rope at the gym, and meet new people with excitement and a smile. Yes, she’s transgender. But that fact isn’t the first thing on my mind when we wake up in the morning, nor, would I wager a guess, the first thing on hers. Her being trans is an important part of her story, but it does not define her story.
There is a message starting to ring across social media. It’s an important message, a long time in coming. The message is that transgender people are supported and loved. I want to take the message further than that: transgender people are just people. I love my daughter, not in spite of her being transgender or because she is transgender, but quite simply because She is my daughter and she is an awesome little person. Of course, I can’t exactly say just that in the middle of a conversation, especially when I’m trying to to take the focus off the issue of gender, but I can say it here. And I hope that next time someone asks me about Middle they ask about what her favorite subject in school is or what she’s been up to all summer. I swear that Middle being transgender is not nearly as interesting as people seem to think it is. We’re just a normal modern family.