Every month we as a family try to participate in several extracurricular or recreational activities. These seem to change almost cyclically. This means we may start out with something in the fall, change things up in spring, and then change them again in the summer. Sometimes, things stay the same. Like many families, we are in constant motion. One of the activities that we have participated in for years was attending zoo classes at Milwaukee County Zoo. I don’t condone animals in captivity, but this zoo is amazing. I find their teachings to be incredible and they actually try to help animals by teaching people (little people) at a very young age, about animals and their habitats.
Peyton has been attending zoo classes since the age of two. We are pretty familiar with the education staff at the zoo and they remember us because we are not your typical family. September 2016 Peyton was pretty into his transition when he was slotted to attend a class. At the zoo he was not known as Peyton. He was known by staff by his female name. Having a child transition at the age of four is a phenomenal event. Four year olds are fairly oblivious to their surroundings. They don’t notice the looks, they don’t hear the words muttered under ones breath. Frankly, they are so self involved in the “me” that they don’t care about the world around them. This caring about others comes with time, but at four, it is just not there. Peyton is still very much about him. He is slowly learning about caring about the world around him, but for now, because of his delays and his age, everything is all about him. This is not the case for me. I see the looks and hear the mumbles. I say this is a phenomenal event for many reasons. The most important one being that by a child transitioning at such an early age, we as mothers are able to remove the burden from our child’s shoulders to some extent and carry it on ourselves. We’ve all been judged before. We’ve all been looked at in a way that makes us feel like an outsider or an outcast. It doesn’t feel very good. I can not begin to imagine what a teenage child feels like transitioning at their age. I imagine that this is why the suicide rate is so high. That is a time which is so confusing and the world around you influences you in so many ways during this period of your life. Add to that the desire to fit in and you have an almost toxic combination. For me to be able to deflate all the looks and words is something, that I believe, will be incredibly beneficial for Peyton in the future.
Walking into class with Peyton was very difficult for me. This process of transitioning is difficult on the person transitioning but also on their family. Thankfully at this age, it is a lot easier on Peyton. The first few times I had to explain to people what was going on, it was very difficult. His name was in all the paperwork at the zoo as his female name. Then you walk in and you have a boy with a girl’s name and it raises a lot of questions. I gave the teacher his female name at check in and he walked right into the classroom without a care in the world while I stood there and began my explanation of why my child suddenly looked like a boy. The teacher was very good and listened and then changed his name in the paperwork. This was the first experience that we had with “the outside world” with Peyton being Peyton. At school, because of rules and laws, his name had yet to be changed. I am so thankful that this was my first experience, because I felt that it was easy and hard at the same time. The teacher seemed to understand and was very accommodating about everything. After class, all of Peyton’s activities had his boy name on them and this made him so proud of himself. It all showed me that having to have that awkward conversation to change his name was worth Peyton feeling so good after class. A couple of days later I received a call from the zoo and my heart dropped. Peyton had used the boys bathroom versus the girls bathroom and they allowed this to happen. I’ll leave that for a different blog however.
Some places easily accept Peyton as Peyton. Others are way trickier and require arguing until the new name takes place. In the beginning, crazy to think that it was a mere 8 months ago, it was so hard to explain that Peyton is now a boy. In just eight months, it has become much easier to explain, when needed, that Peyton is a boy and not a girl. It is true what they say, with time everything becomes easier.