Right now, things are pretty breezy. I consider us a lucky family. The ones who get to make this social transition while their child is young.
But sometimes I see stories, and I can’t help but think about how hard life can be. I see how hard life is for parents of transgender youth. The teenage years are hard enough regardless of genitalia not being what your peers expect… not that it is anybody’s business what is in your pants.
I recently read a post in a Facebook group I am a part of. And really, it brought me to tears. A family’s daughter had made a friend at summer camp. She went to use the bathroom one day, just like everybody else.. And someone decided to be an asshat, and peek under the stall. And then she was outted, to everyone, at summer camp.. Which brought on many mixed reactions, a few feelings of betrayal, confusion, and a little embarrassment too.
How would you feel if you found out that a friend of yours actually had a vagina, where you thought a penis would be? Does it even matter? Has anything changed about your friend. No.
For most transgender children and youth, the details of their genitalia are not a secret. But this information is certainly private. We live in a world where their lives and livelihood still depend on these private details being kept private. And most transgender children and youth will share these intimate details with only a select few people whom have earned their trust. Cisgender youth also don’t just walk around regularly talking or showing off their genitals. At least I don’t think so, anyway…
But we don’t get to control other people’s emotions. We don’t always know what our new friends experiences have been to this point. Their upbringing. Have they been taught that transgender people are weird, and scary? Have they been taught that they are deviants? Have they been taught that they are worthy of love and support? My hope is for the latter.
Our world has a LOT of catching up to do. We are likely decades away from people seeing gender identity as a completely separate entity from one’s genitalia at birth. And in the meantime, there are going to be some pretty awkward transitions and experiences for those who befriend our transgender children. Hopefully ones that provoke love for human existence, empathy, and kindness.
But at 5… The bathroom conversations are still pretty simple. And, I am going to share one of those with you now.
See my 5 year old has no shame over people seeing his genitalia (yet). So, when his three year old friend wanted to see him use the bathroom yesterday, he let him. This little kid is fresh off of potty training, and so there is a heightened interest in penises and vaginas.
“Do you have a penis Z?”
Mom anxiously awaiting a response, forcibly trying not to interject and see how Z handles this one.
“Where is your penis, I can’t see it?”
“It’s just a very small penis. It is in there. You just can’t see it. It’s a micro-penis.”
I think to myself, alright… That was handled, for now. Three year olds don’t ask too many questions. And, it is actually kind of true. Small penis. A micro-penis I suppose is pretty accurate at this point. And he certainly has fulfilled this small child’s curiosity.
But what will we do when he is 14, at summer camp.. And a nosy kid peeks under the bathroom stall and sees my kid sitting to pee, when most other 14 year olds would be standing at the urinals?
And this is why we need to be having conversations with our children about gender being exclusive of genitalia. And this is why we need to be talking to our children about friendship being exclusive of hanging with whoever is male, and whoever is female. And why we need to talk to our children about PRIVACY in the bathroom.
Because I dream of a day where our transgender youth can use the bathroom without fear of being “outted” by the nosy kid at summer camp. Because really, there is nothing to out. Penises are penises.. And vaginas are vaginas. Cool.
More on bathrooms, summer camp, and how we see bathrooms differently now in Episode 3 of the Podcast.