Trans kid in the changing room – The thoughts of one mother
Recently I found on my Facebook a post from a friend – someone who I like and respect. It said – “I am stumped and confused. Should a transgender student, who already plays sport team games with the girls, be allowed unrestricted access to the girl’s shower and changing rooms?”
I can understand and empathise with my friend’s struggle to find a place in their world for this completely new and unexpected challenge to views and values. Here is a parent who wants to be fair but can’t help being protective of their own daughter. It also made me realise that transgender issues are not only for parents of transgender children to face...
I know that there is no shortcut to an easy answer, but I also know that I can’t afford to ignore the question without at least trying to find the reason why it is so, and see where I stand.
The initial reaction and how I view the situation will vary deeply, depending on which parent I see myself as. The parent of a girl who already inhabits a changing room, or the parent of a girl who – despite feeling completely entitled to be there – still has to fight and struggle for her place… then to be under threat of ridicule at best, violence at worst.
As a parent of an “inhabiting girl” – guessing also what my friend was trying to sound out – I would be “stumped” too. The transgender issue seems quite remote to most of us and we are not very well informed. So my first reactions would be of fear – as it often is about the unknown, and of a need to protect my child.
My worry will be that my girl will be exposed to a male… or a person “wearing” male genitalia.
I understand that depending on the age and perhaps family background – cultural, religious, and purely social - it may be a difficult concept to bear for many.
Will I want to leave my girl’s experience of that sight completely to chance? And surely there is a fear that there is a potential of some sexual context.
I had to accept already that I may not have much say over my children’s introduction to the world of gender and sex anyway – given the exposure to those sights via sexting, snap-chats and so on. But this is a new thing. Is it more dangerous and difficult though, because it is not virtual but real? Or maybe more containable and manageable exactly for that reason... because it is about real people with real feelings, not about dehumanised sights.
But then again, maybe I am thinking too much? Maybe my daughter would have no problem at all?
And then again, am I really ready to let my child decide - that would probably depend on the age. Still then again, by making it about age is only deepening the sense of taboo about, well, about what exactly? The fact that people are built differently? The more innocent and uncontaminated the child, the less of a “problem”. Toddlers are completely at ease and undisturbed by “plumbing equipment”. Perhaps if there was no taboo created by adults introducing their own views that are poisoned by notions of “indecency”, “sin” and “morals”, they would remain so. But I guess we first contaminate them as a society and then try to protect them from the consequences of that contamination.
And – the most difficult one - will I be able to look this other mum in the eye and say “your child is not welcome in my world because it would mean I have to change too many things in it that feel nice and comfy?”
As a parent of a “trans girl” I would be saying – this child is a girl. She already does sport with girls and there is nothing more natural for her than to be with girls in the changing room. Where else can she go? Back to the boy’s shower – when they already see that she is not one of them? A car wash?
Where will she be safe?
She is not a sexual predator who wants to snoop on your daughters. She is one of our daughters stuck in the wrong body… struggling with her body image like any young person, only with so much more to overcome!
Is there anything in terms of the physical attributes that your daughters haven’t already seen? Probably not.
Is there a threat of sexual advances or innuendos? Well, my daughter doesn’t even know her sexual preference yet - she is too preoccupied to claim tenancy rights to her own gender!
She needs your help.
I need your help!
I had to struggle just like you to understand what this whole thing is about and hoped that maybe it will pass. But when I found out that my child is unhappy to the point of suicide I knew that I have no other way than to work on refurbishing my world and my views, by using all the love I had in me. Because there needs to be at least one place for her to be safe, unjudged and accepted. My heart and my home.
I need your help to make her safe world bigger.
I have to say, I can’t find in my brain any “elegant” and logical explanation that will accommodate all the views, some of them opposing each other. The only way forward is through the heart, because the heart can hold a paradox and inconsistency. The heart can prioritise compassion and kindness over logic. Any parent’s heart is capable of that. And most parents’ hearts can extend beyond their own child to the children of others. Especially that any parent who has to take a stance in the above situation comes from the same place – wanting their child to be safe and happy.
The transgender question is new, it challenges our views about gender and it’s role that have been staying safely unchallenged for thousands of years. There were so many other issues - hunger, slavery, women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights - we managed to question and change our views around them all and eventually come out proud of being human. I hope we will find a way to welcome and embrace this one too.
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About Anna Jezuita
Anna is a BACP accredited counsellor providing a range of services in South West London and via Skype.
She uses person centred approach, and CBT based acceptance and commitment therapy and mindfulness based cognitive therapy to help with the wide range of issues from depression, addiction, low self-esteem to relationship troubles.