Let her teach the world that gender is what's between your ears, not your legs.
In the last couple of days, my family has opened our doors to journalists from two sizeable media outlets. Both have come into our home to talk to our daughter about living as a transgender child, and to the rest of us about what it's like to love and support her. We also spoke about Bill C-279, the transgender rights bill, and how important it is that it passes into Canadian law swiftly and without amendment.
What this means is that very soon, the world — or at least our corner of it — will know our daughter's real name and what she looks like. It's big, scary stuff.
Allowing this to happen was a big decision for our family. It involved many deep discussions. We didn't take it lightly, and we nearly nixed the entire thing on more than one occasion. We know it's a decision that carries risk, but we also know it can carry a lot of hope.
Many trans people and families with trans children feel the need to hide, in one way or another, out of fear for their safety. Despite us being well into the 21st century, there continue to be a small number of hateful people and groups who make it their mission to harass, threaten, or even harm members of the LGBT community. I completely understand why many in the community stay under the radar.
There are also many trans people and families who choose to be very public. They do so for various reasons but often it's because they want to raise awareness and encourage acceptance of the trans community. Where exposure goes, education follows, then societal acceptance. I completely understand why many go public.
Our initial game plan was this: Mom (that would be me) goes public on her blog, and she posts using the endearing-turned-terribly-appropriate nickname "Gutsy" that she's always used for her now-out transgender daughter. No pictures are posted outside of Mom's personal Facebook page. This would allow mom (that would be me again) to learn, grow, and advocate for her child in the best way she knows how, while maintaining a certain level of privacy for safety reasons.
And in our everyday, our family was out to everyone. At that time it was a nice in-between, a good balance. But things can change. Transitions are so ... transition-y.
As my daughter found herself, she also found her strength and her voice. As I did when she came out to us, she found new purpose. She watched me advocate for her on the internet, on radio and in magazines, and she started wanting to do so as well, in her own way; not for her, but for the kids who don't have as much support as she does.
At first I hesitated. I felt it was too dangerous. I told her there are hateful people out there, ranging from trolls to far worse. But there are other trans kids doing this all the time and it's been OK for them, she countered. She's right.
We even know some of them personally. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if this were another issue she wanted to advocate for — hearing loss, learning disabilities, asthma, mental health, or anything else that affects her daily life — I wouldn't be so hesitant.
I dug deeper into my feelings on the issue. What it came down to was figuring out why people aren't always supportive of trans rights. The answer? Ignorance, plain and simple. People fear what they don't know. People judge what they deem abnormal.
Why not educate? Why not make it, well ... normal? So when we were asked to do these interviews, we said yes. Let people get to know us. Let them get to know our insightful daughter and her incredible brothers. Let them get a taste of our typical life: mom and dad and three kids living in the suburbs, heading off to school, going to work, making meals and paying stupid bills. We're a lot like you, we just happen to have a transgender child.
Let my daughter advocate for herself and her right to use public women's washrooms. Let her teach the world that gender is what's between your ears, not your legs. Let her use her voice to help other children, to educate their families, and to encourage their communities to be more accepting.
But before all that happens, before the media floodgates open, I want to introduce you, the people who have supported us through everything, to my daughter.
Alexis is 12 and sweet and funny and way smarter than me. Like, way smarter. She loves board games and computers and riding her bike. She loves her family and friends deeply. She rocks at card tricks. She's an incredible DJ and musician. She has the greatest laugh.
And since embracing who she really is, she's the happiest she has ever been. Ever. She knows the risk she's taking, but she's taking it anyway in order to help others. And if that doesn't exemplify bravery, I don't know what does.
(Alexis being interviewed by CBC. She's a total natural.)
Here we are. We're out. Wow. I won't lie and tell you I'm not afraid. Of course I am. But Alex is choosing to step up and make the world a better place, and that fills me with far more hope than fear.
So no matter what happens in the next little while, I know we chose hope over fear. And that means hope wins.
This article was originally published at The Maven of Mayhem. Reprinted with permission from the author.