A while ago, I had a very deep conversation with a tradesperson. It was an unexpected occurrence to have such a deep, life-changing conversation with them and it really challenged what I felt was mine to talk about.
Somehow, as we were ending our transaction, we began discussing the idea of children believing their gender as something different than was assigned at birth. The idea that a person's gender is something that they feel in their emotions, their being, rather than the sex organs they possess was a concept that this person struggled to understand.
I don’t remember how we got into the discussion - but - I do remember thinking that this is not MINE to talk about. I even remember giving a ‘shut-down’ comment to them to avoid taking this on. I certainly did not feel qualified to discuss this. I commented to them “That is interesting” to which they asked what did THAT mean? I then said, “I have thoughts about this, but, I am not sure I should share them.” They then requested a conversation.
I felt so unsure about sharing this with them. I consider myself an ally to the LGBTQIA2S community. I have friends who are trans,and non-binary (enbie). I have spoken at length with some of them so I could understand how their lives changed when they began identifying as the gender they felt was ‘home’. And how FREE they felt as they started being truly who they are in the world. I have been put in difficult positions regarding others who do not understand this concept, where I stood up for a person’s right to not disclose what gender they were assigned at birth. But this is not MY experience.
And here I was with this tradesperson, who I will refer to as Elder. They were deeply concerned about their young, school age grandchild, I will refer to this child as Aiden.
Apparently, Aiden had understood from a conversation at school that they could be the opposite gender if that is what they felt was more correct for them. In the family dynamic this was causing much tension. Aiden was arguing with their parents, grandparents and other family that they were the opposite gender.
In our conversation Elder shared the thought that they believed this ‘phase’ that Aiden was in was directly a result of playing with specific toys thought to be ‘gendered’ by society. They were placing this cause on a daycare provider and felt that toys belonging to the opposite gender were the only toys available for Aiden to play with. When the name of the care provider was shared, I began to understand better, as I have substituted for this particular person and had actually met Aiden in that setting.
I was able to share that the provider had items that society labels as both ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ toys and I also shared that my personal view is that any toy a child is interested in playing with is appropriate for them to play with whether it is a toy car, or doll. Aiden chose to play with many different toys while under my care, both cars and kitchen sets.
Elder was also concerned about how the world will treat a person who might stand out as different, because they visually, or publicly look and act different from others who share their gender. I understand this as an all too valid trepidation. Though if this is Aiden’s path, it is far better for them to have the support and education they need, rather than to feel like they have no allies in the world (especially in their family).
After I began to understand Elders position, I began to share a bit about what I understand regarding not identifying with the gender a person is assigned at birth.
I shared about how I believe if a child asks a question or poses a position, they are developmentally old enough to have an answer and conversation regarding it. I shared that this concept can be very challenging for some adults, because those adults may have learned that children are to ‘do as their parents and guardians tell them.’ I shared from my experience as a foster parent, a daycare parent, a parent to neuro-diverse children and an ally to the LGBTQIA2S community.
I also spoke about my connection within the deaf community from when I lived in Ontario. I shared how the deaf community believes that having a cochlear implant (which is a major physical change to a body) should happen when the person is old enough to consent to that surgery, not when the child is a few months old. And that a person old enough to consent is someone who has been able to ask questions and form opinions. So, a five year old is qualified to start learning about cochlear implant surgery and how it will impact their life to have or not have it. While this was off-topic, it helped Elder understand that Aiden was old enough to start having answers to their questions.
When our conversation began, it felt like Elder (and the rest of their family) was against what Aiden was feeling and expressing. I know that for Aiden, if this is indeed their path, it will sometimes feel like the whole world is against them. I worry about this as the rate of attempted suicide is greatly increased for people who experience gender dysphoria and/or identify as other than heterosexual.
When our conversation ended, it felt like Elder might be open to educating themself as to what their grandchild is experiencing and maybe, just maybe, be a person that Aiden can come to as they navigate these tricky waters. And if Aiden has one port in this particular storm, a grandparent is perfect.
While I am cis-female, I have been learning a lot about the many genders that exist in our world and how the patriarchy has challenged them.
I may not feel qualified to discuss gender dysphoria, culture minorities, neuro-diverse or deaf culture (or whatever else comes up in my life), but I will not shy away from these opportunities to be a good ally for anyone I am able to. I will continue learning about what different people go through - whether it is living while black (or brown), LGBTQIA2S, deaf, neuro-divergent or differently-abled, we are all people.
If you or someone you know struggles with gender dysphoria and/or getting the support needed as someone in the LGBTQIA2 community, please reach out so we can find the resources you need, wherever you are. My work is inspired by helping create support so issues can feel less challenging. I often can see solutions especially when I am ‘looking in from outside of the issue’.
If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be feeling suicidal or in danger, the following resources can provide you with immediate help.”