This weekend I attended a residential weekend with Robin hosted by Mermaids UK who support children and young people who suffer from gender identity issues and their families. I was terrified if i’m honest, in the last 6 months we went from having three boys to two boys and Robin who tells us he is a girl. At first it was wanting to wear girls clothes and then shortly after ‘i’m a girl’. Our minds were blown, how can you at 8 years old suddenly tell your parents and your family you feel like a girl, I thought this happened to teenagers or adults not to little children. I have to admit at first I thought typical Robin he has always been different and he is probably just trying this ‘girl’ thing out. 6 months later I am wondering how long something has to be happeneing before we can say this isn’t a phase. How long do I worry about other peoples feelings and judgements before I feel confident to support Robin fully?
This weekend I met children who from 2 years of age have been adamant they are not the gender they were born as and I met children and teenagers who kept it to themselves only telling someone at crisis point how they really felt. I met parents who had been on this road a short time like us and parents who had been on it for many years. It was refreshing and comfortable to not feel self conscious or worried about people looking at Robin and seeing a boy in a dress. It also made me realise how stressed and uncomfortable i feel most of the time out of that environment, not because of Robin but because of other peoples reactions and how they feel about Robin. I watched my 8 year old this weekend run around in a princess dress wearing pink fluffy fairy wings spinning, dancing and beaming, she looked like a little girl having fun with other little girls all dressed up feeling pretty and being a carefree child. She didn’t look like a boy pretending to be a girl she just looked like a girl. I guess it was a defining moment for me, all those questions I have had running round on repeat for the last 6 months didn’t seem to matter as much anymore. So what if she changes her mind, so what if this is just a phase, so what if not everybody thinks its ok to let Robin explore her gender. What mattered was how bloody happy she looked, thats not to say she hasn’t been happy as a boy she has.
I got to talk to teenagers this weekend and adults who have or who are transitioning into a different gender to the one they were born as. The teenagers amazed me, they were so willing to answer questions and give a glimpse into the future that may be out there for our child. They talked about being scared to tell anyone how they felt till late teenage years or adulthood and how they respect the younger children that are saying it so young now, how they wished they had been able to do that. How important the parental and family support has been, not just important in fact VITAL. They also talked a lot about the mental health issues that they had due to being unable to live the gender they felt they were, it was a lot to take in in one weekend. I was shocked at the names they have been called like’freak’ and ‘monster’ because we are afraid of something different to the acceptable gender sterotypes currently in place. That’s scary and saddening all at the same time to me. Is it any wonder when a parent is told by their child they feel trapped in the wrong body that our first instinct is to be afraid, afraid of our children being attacked, afraid of how vunerable they are out in a world which only celebrates difference if its appealing or acceptable to it. I don’t want to be afraid for my child but i also don’t want to force my child to pretend to be something or someone they arent.
So what do i do?
So i came home and i thought about all of the last 6 months and we talked about how we feel and how we are supporting all of our children with this. It hasn’t been easy for Elliot and Lewis to understand this change but over the last month we have seen acceptance and understanding from both of them. When it comes down to it I think it’s about that little old four letter word love. When you love somene you want them to be happy and although it might take a while to understand what they need and want you get there eventually. I realise now when you strip it all back even when it seems like someone is being unsupportive its still about love, they are scared because they love Robin. It doesnt mean they wont in the end support whatever choice she makes and it doesn’t mean they have to agree with how we as a family choose to go down this road, they love Robin and I trust that in the end that will be enough.