In January of 2012, I had a repeat c-section and out came a beautiful, healthy baby girl. We named her Robin.
Or at least, we thought our baby was a girl. Sometimes adults can be wrong when they assign gender based on body parts, and this was one of those times.
Since he was about 2, Robin had made comments about being a boy when he grew up. We thought he was just wanting to be like daddy and big brother. We let it go. Then, in June of 2017, I was filling out the online form to get Robin enrolled in kindergarten. Next to “gender” I clicked “female”.
“NO! Put male! I’m a boy!” Robin exclaimed.
Now imagine me with a raised eyebrow and a look on my face that said “Ohhhh…..”
I put female anyway and told Robin it was because he needed a birth certificate to start school. We had a conversation about gender and pronouns. I asked Robin what he wanted people to say, “Robin needs to brush her teeth”, or “Robin needs to brush his teeth?” “I like Robin, she’s pretty cool”, or “I like Robin, he’s pretty cool”? His face lit up when he told me he wanted to be called he/him. It was like he didn’t even know that was an option, and the realization made such a difference. I called the school right away and let them know that Robin wanted to identify as male, but that his paperwork said female. They were awesome and understanding and Robin has been a boy at school from day one.
The next thing I did was get together with a couple of trans guys I know and talk about trans kids over brunch. They met Robin and talked to me and Mark about their experiences growing up. I wanted to make sure I was doing everything right to the best of my ability. After that I called Seattle Children’s Hospital and made an appointment with the person most likely to be helpful in our situation— Dr. Elizabeth McCauley, the head of child psychology who has been working with gender variant children for decades. Mark and I watched the National Geographic documentary Gender Revolution and checked out the book The Transgender Child from our local library.
Every single day, I try to get Robin to pick out his own clothes because of course he should be doing that, but he doesn’t want to. He says “you do it.” So I ask, “What kind of clothes do you want?” and try to mix up the options I give so it doesn’t make a big deal out of the gender thing. “Boy, girl, both, neither, long sleeves, short sleeves, pants, shorts, what?” Every day he replies “boy clothes”. If he doesn’t like what I pick out, he’ll go get something else, but it is almost always “boy” clothes. We make sure Robin always has clothes, toys, movies, etc. that were marketed toward boys and girls. He likes some girl things but is mostly into boy things. We don’t make a big deal out of it.
One morning before school, Robin was wearing a tutu and I asked if he was going to wear a tutu to school. “No I’m not gonna wear a tutu to school. People might think I’m a girl.”
Well ok then.
The people who have openly disagreed with me and Mark about our decision to love and support Robin unconditionally are family members we love dearly. It has been incredibly difficult to know that these people aren’t loving my child as much as they claim to, but we are comforted by the knowledge that we really are doing the very best we can.
Robin sees Dr. McCauley once every 4 months or so to check in, and she says she can’t see anything we’re doing wrong. Robin is doing quite well in school and is reading at almost a third grade level already. And every day, that kid wakes up in his boy jammies, eats a nutritious breakfast, and spends his whole day feeling like a little boy who is loved and supported by his parents. I’ll fight anyone who has a problem with that.