What’s Another Word for “Ballsy?”

Guts. Chutzpah. Cahones. There are plenty of words to describe bravery. Who knew I’d be using them in this post to talk about children?

We hear about more people becoming comfortable with leading their authentic life and transitioning after years of feeling like they were born in the wrong body. I cringe to think of how uncomfortable that must have been for them, waking up each day and feeling like they just didn’t “fit.”

Which is why I’m so impressed when I read about young people who are figuring it out, and doing something about it, sooner. Like Jazz Jennings, star of TLC’s reality show, “I am Jazz.” Born a male, she’s a 14-year-old transgender female who’s been living as a girl since kindergarten. KINDERGARTEN! At such a young age, she knew! Her parents have been by her side the entire time, helping her to transition and be as comfortable as she can as a female.

And my sister just sent me a link to this article about Coy Mathis. Coy is now nine years old and featured in Growing Up Coy, a new documentary chronicling the Mathis family’s life. Coy was born a male but figured out pretty quickly she was supposed to have been female. She was six when she asked to use the girl’s restroom at her elementary school in Colorado. Six. I think at that point I was still trying to tie my shoes. (I’m slow sometimes.)

First, I’m in awe of these kids who know themselves so well at such a young age. I’m still figuring out who I am as a full-blown supposed grownup. Did I mention I am slow sometimes? These young people have a much better sense of self than I ever hope to have. And they’re a helluva lot more adorable besides.

I’m equally impressed with their parents for being incredibly supportive of a situation that they may not quite understand. That takes guts in a culture that often ostracizes, fears and shuns anyone who doesn’t fit the expected “norm.” Think about it: parents want to protect their children from hurt, harm and hate. And yet, by embracing their child and helping them to feel comfortable in their own skin, these parents are blamed by an often-judgmental society who not only spurns their child but also accuses them of coddling or confusing their kid. Wow. Talk about a tough spot.

There is plenty of sensitivity about this topic, and I’m beginning to understand why members of the trans community are reluctant, hesitant or even downright terrified to live their authentic lives. Fear of persecution is a pretty strong deterrent. I applaud those who choose to do so, whether they’re 8 years old or 80. Maybe if more young people choose to live their authentic lives, they’ll give others the courage others to follow suit. And if and when they do, I wish for them acceptance at every turn, from self-acceptance to inclusion.

I’m gonna wrap this up with a quote I love by Jessica Lange:

 “Acceptance and tolerance and forgiveness. Those are life-altering lessons.”

I can’t wait for us all to learn.

And I can’t believe I used “ballsy” in a headline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The battle schools didn’t see coming

Forget lesson plans and PTA meetings. Schools are facing some huge changes in the coming years.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the number of trans students is increasing – and will likely continue to climb. That’s going to require schools to do extra homework when it com
es to how to manage a changing student population.

Some changes are already underway. The government just sent a letter to all public schools, outlining that they must let trans students use the bathroom and locker rooms of their choice or forfeit federal funding.

Being able to use the girl’s restroom sure would’ve helped now 18-year-old Eli Erlick, who was born male but began identifying as female when she was 8. Bathroom bans at her school led to this:

“I could not use the restroom for six years. I had to go home to pee. I had to pretend to be sick.” 

But the changes required to keep up with the increasing trans population won’t stall out in the bathroom. Schools need to be prepared to handle all kinds of different scenarios that will result with more transgendered students.

What about bullying? While many children seem to be far more accepting than we might expect them to be, trans kids provide an easy target for those looking for someone to pick on. With the suicide rate among transgendered people so high, additional – and perhaps specialized – counseling will be needed.

How will schools handle sports teams? Uniforms? Sex education classes? And rites of passage like “Prom King and Queen?” These questions are already arising in some schools across the nation, and I’m sure there are other issues that haven’t even cropped up yet.

Trans kids + schools = changes coming

Schools are tapped with protecting the physical and emotional safety of every student. Having more transgendered students will force schools to rethink how they handle gender-related topics. What it shouldn’t force is school-initiated discrimination, however unintentional.  Sad to say, based on many school systems’ reactions to the government-mandated bathroom guidelines, I’m not convinced they’re really ready for it.

Readin’, Writin’ and Transgenderin’

On Friday, US public schools got schooled. They received a letter from the US Department of Justice and the Education Department regarding transgender students.

The letter says public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with the gender they identify with. (Yes, I know it’s “with which they identify” but that sounds so awfully formal in my blog so I wrote it incorrectly. On purpose. Dangling participles be damned.)

In short, the letter spells out what’s expected of public schools in exchange for the federal funding they receive. Loretta Lynch is the Attorney General who sent out a statement along with the directive, which included the following statement:

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination of any transgender students on the basis of their sex.”

And schools are responding. Iowa cried foul. Texas called it blackmail, with the state’s Lt. Governor saying Texas will forfeit federal education money rather than follow the guidelines as they were laid out. Iowa, North Carolina

What’s interesting to me is this: I have two kids, both in middle school. They’re old enough to understand the situation and they’re perfectly fine with the idea of transgender students using whatever restroom they choose. Their friends seem to be, as well. Perhaps I live in a tiny little bubble of acceptance land, where we don’t discriminate and we don’t judge. But I have to believe that kids elsewhere might feel the same way.

I wrote in a previous blog about a Virginia students’ fight to use the boys’ restroom. The kids didn’t have a problem with it. The school board had an issue, and they’re the ones who raised it up to the court level, fighting to make this student use the girl’s room even though he identifies as male. If the kids don’t care, why are we adults making it a huge deal?

Maybe, just maybe, our children are more open and accepting than we are. As we strive to teach them lessons — in the classroom, in the home, and in their lives — they’re learning. Let them learn well the lesson of acceptance. And please let us be the ones to teach it. Because right now, it seems that we’re the ones that could use some schoolin’.