Advocating at School

A few weeks ago I was juggling the kiddos in and out of the car to get to swimming lessons on time. I missed a couple calls in the process. When I finally got the chance to check them, I heard one of those messages I have learned to be nervous about. The school. Always in regards to J.

Immediately my heart races and I can feel the inner mama bear grow inside me.

For all of J’s years in school, I have received calls and had meetings about his struggles. We discuss what he is struggling with and then move on to how we might support him at home and how the school might support him there. Sounds great right? And it is. I am privileged to live in a progressive neighbourhood and school district that have always gone above and beyond to help where they can. And it’s not always about gender. There’s anxiety and reading and friendships to work on. AND ... it weighs on me. Sometimes I wish I could hear the good. Sometimes I don’t want to advocate.

When you have a young transgender child, you become their advocate immediately. It isn’t my son’s job to explain who he is and how he should be respected. It is mine as his parent. I have given him language to help him with questions from his peers, but he has rarely had to use it. Kids are either accepting, or they know it is rude to ask and they don’t. At least for now.

So, when I got this call the other week, I jumped into my advocate pants and called his teacher back. It was well into the evening now and she was obviously at home, taking the time out of her home life to talk to me about J. Have I mentioned she is AMAZING? Oh ya, I did.

But instead of talking about an emotional outburst in class. She shared something GOOD. Something positive. Something encouraging. J noticed that when he logs into the school computers and devices, his birth name is listed at the top of the screen. It is pretty plain as day for anyone to see. I guess he had mentioned it to the Librarian at some point, but it didn’t get changed, and now he was asking his teacher for it to be changed to his chosen name. Of coarse, his teacher was already on top of it when we spoke and the name would be changed right away. The reason she had called was to praise him! Praise him for his bravery in standing up for himself. More than once, he had to trust an adult and ask for this to be changed. He advocated for himself.

J’s teacher went on to describe a classmate who had come over to help with the “computer trouble” and as the teacher politely asked for privacy as to not out J, J simply turned to her and said “don’t worry, he knows my old name”. J was not embarrassed or ashamed of his own story. I was so proud of him.

All this isn’t to say that he will always be confident in himself and able to advocate, we all need help with this at times. But what it does tell me as a parent is that I need to keep advocating for him in the calm and affirmative way I do. Because J watches and hears even when I don’t notice. And when I’m not there, he can do it for himself.

Listen to episode 10 here.

— Lucy