I am the mom of the little girl called A.J., who was recently profiled in the Kansas City Star. As surprised as I was to find my family in the paper, I am also incredibly proud.
Credit Image: Jessica Keating Photography on Flickr
My daughter is six years old. She transitioned—which means she changed her outward appearance from male to female and started living full-time as a her true gender—when she was four. Until that point, she was quite a rough and tumble little boy with a buzz cut and shark-tooth necklace. But when she was three, she asked her dad and I if we could buy her a princess dress.
We didn’t buy the dress. We thought she might be going through a stage of liking bright or sparkly things and didn’t want to waste money on something she would grow bored of in a week. But she kept asking and I found out that she had a favorite princess dress she wore at daycare. "What the heck?" we thought and took her to the store to pick one out.
Things didn’t stop there. Over the next few months, she started to wear that dress every single minute she was at home. Then she asked for more: dresses, nightgowns, headbands, sparkly pink shoes and eventually even girls’ underwear. We allowed some of those things but drew the line at the undies. There were just some things we weren’t comfortable with during this "phase."
But then I noticed her pushing down on her genitals a lot and asked her what was wrong. Not having those parts, I assumed she might have a rash and was itchy, but her answer shocked me. She said that they bothered her and were in the way. She wanted them gone.
Thank God for Google because I immediately jumped on the computer and typed in a search ..."Four-year-old boy says genitals should be gone." What came back was a very short list of results, but they all pointed to one thing: My child might be transgender.
I had never even heard the word "transgender" before and really didn’t know what to think. We made an appointment with our pediatrician. She recommended a child psychologist. But before we could even get an appointment, my daughter—then my four-year-old son—said these words to me, "Mom, you know I’m really a girl, right? I’m a girl on the inside."
That moment changed my life. In the following months, she became more insistent. We saw the psychologist and an endocrinologist to make sure there wasn’t a hidden medical issue. She became more determined to express herself by wearing those pink sparkly shoes to daycare. She wanted to go out for ice cream in a fairy dress and wings. Eventually, we couldn’t hold her back. She was showing signs of depression and refused to leave the house dressed as a boy. The day I let her go to school in girl clothes, she was happier than I had seen her in a very long time. The kids were great. The teachers were awesome.
But then the kids went home and told their parents, and things weren’t so great after that. Adult bigotry influenced them. We lost most of our friends and some family. We basically went into hiding for about a year while my daughter grew her hair out to look like the girl she is. When we emerged again, it was with a very happy and confident daughter.
When I tell our daughter’s story, I hear the same uninformed comments over and over again, so I’d like to address a few of those now.
1. We are liberals pushing a gay agenda.
Nope, sorry. I am a conservative Southern Baptist Republican from Alabama.
2. We (or at least I, because they always blame the mom) wanted a girl, so we turned our child into one.
Again, no. I desperately wanted boys. The idea of raising a girl in today's world scares me to death. I'd much rather be responsible for raising a good boy who knows how to treat girls well than to be responsible for raising a girl who might only be interested in dating bad boys.
3. "Kids have no idea what they want or who they are. My kid wants to be a dog. Should I let him?"
Well, that's up to you, but I wouldn't. There is a profound difference between wanting to be something in imaginary play and in declaring who you are insistently, consistently and persistently. Those are three markers that set transgender children apart, and my daughter displayed all of them.
4. Kids shouldn't have to learn about sex at such a young age.
I agree, so it's a good thing that being transgender has nothing to do with sex! Gender identity is strictly how a person views him or herself on the inside, and it is completely separate from whom we are attracted to.
5. Transgender people are perverts and shouldn't be in the bathroom with "normal" people.
I don't know what you go into a bathroom to do, but I know what my daughter goes in there for... and it isn't to look around. It's to go into a stall, lock the door, and pee where no one else can see her.
6. God hates transgender people. They are sinners and going to Hell.
My God taught us to love one another. Jesus sought out those that others rejected. Some people choose to embrace Biblical verses that seem to say being transgender is wrong. I choose to focus on verses like First Samuel 16:7, which says, "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" My daughter is a girl in her heart. She knows it. God knows it. That's good enough for me.