There are so many sites and blogs out there for new parents. Whether these parents are adoptive parents, parents that have just given birth, traditional parents, parents to traditional kids… The list is endless. I cannot count the number of articles and books that I have read about becoming and being a good parent. In all my readings, I have never come across anything that explained, “what to do if your daughter wants to become your son.” Where the hell is my manual for all of this? As the mother of a very, very young transgender child, I feel that I am so aware of the things that I do and say. I’ll add here that I have four kids. Three of the four are adopted, including Peyton, the fourth I gave birth to.
Toddlers and preschoolers divided themselves into ‘you’re a boy and I am a girl.’ This is well before the cooties stage, but the invisible line that divides boys and girls is there early on. I have a mix of boys and girls in my household, even more so when friends come over with their kids. Peyton was always fascinated with this idea of who was a boy and who was a girl. Everyone that walked into my house was always asked if they were a boy or a girl. Even after the question was answered, Peyton would continue to ask if the person was a boy, or a girl. At first, I thought nothing of it. The more I thought about it however, the more I could see the confusion in his face. This little boy was so confused because he was a boy trapped in a girl’s body. I don’t know if he wanted someone to tell him that they were a boy even though they looked like a girl so that the person would be more like him. He just never seemed to get the right answer that he was looking for. Here again his pronoun usage would be completely discombobulated when used. This is not that kind of pronoun blog though.
Books and articles that I have read have always stated that reinforcing the abilities of a child helps them become more successful. Showing them and telling them how much you love them helps them to feel like they belong and helps them to feel that they are loved. A child who is not shown love at a very early age does not form those attachment bonds needed for the rest of their lives. So these early years are crucial in a child’s life. In come the pronouns in the life of a transgender child. Keep in mind, I write as a parent, not as a transgender person myself. I write from what I see in the face of my four year old son.
Pronouns suck. They are confusing as hell. When Peyton decided to change his name to Peyton I still referred to him as her. This was the hardest change that I had to make as a parent. I was fine with him becoming a boy, but struggled with calling him he or him. I remember literally forcing myself to say he and him, correcting myself out loud each and every time. I had to make a conscious effort to retrain my brain to say he and him versus she or her. If you are a transgender person reading this, please be patient with us. It really does take time for us to relearn how to use pronouns while your transition takes place. Eventually, I was able to use the proper pronouns. I’m not saying I am perfect at it, but I am for sure so much better then I used to be.
Now, if you are a parent, relative or friend of a transgender person, pronouns are so incredibly important. The look on Peyton’s face every time I would say he or him was priceless. There was nothing that he could do to hide his happiness. When I used the correct pronouns or called him a boy, he just beamed with pride. And yes I am using the past tense here because as with anything, time makes us comfortable with things and normalizes things. So while the use of he and him was huge for Peyton in the beginning and was a great source of happiness, now it makes him angry when people say the wrong thing. At any rate, Peyton was so happy when called he or him. There is no greater show of acceptance that you can give the person that you know that has transitioned or is in transition then to use the correct pronoun. It might seem insignificant but it is so, so incredibly important…