The past 48 hours have been devastatingly painful for our family and other families supporting gender variant or transgender children. As we heard that the new administration would rescind the thoughtful guidelines the Obama administration put into effect last May to protect trans children’s rights at school, found here, we called and sent messages to our local and national politicians. Wednesday we awoke to find that indeed, the guidelines had been formally rescinded by the new administration. As the parent of a nine-year-old visible transgender son, I’ve spent the past 48 hours reading every single article I could get my hands on to educate myself about the ramifications of this newest assault on our community and to also prepare myself to talk to my son. He and I have a very beautiful relationship and speak openly about most every topic, so my son is very well informed about the reality of the world we live in. My hesitation to wait 48 hours to speak to him was more about me gathering my thoughts and gaining strength to take on his worry when I approached this conversation with him.
In my research and reading, an alarming fact began to emerge: the glaringly absent voice of the child in this narrative. As a parent who also happens to be an educator, I believe steadfastly that uplifting a child’s voice is essential in building their agency as a human being and empowering their role as a citizen in our democratic system. It is with that intent in mind, that my son gave me gracious permission to share his thoughts with the world. He wants this narrative to shift as well: he wants children’s voices to be heard, his own voice honored. He wants adults to know what he thinks. So, here it is adults:
An Open Letter to Adults from a Transgender Child
Why do people go to adults, not kids? This is about kids, not that much about adults. Adults don’t go to school. Also, adults shouldn’t tell kids what to do. It’s not fair what bullies say. It feels mean that adults are making decisions for kids. Kids have a life, too. Kids should do whatever they want to be themselves. When the adults are mean, they teach the kids to be mean, too. It’s kind of creepy these people are making decisions for you and they’re not even transgender or kids. It’s mean. Why can’t kids do what makes them safe and why should adults get to tell kids who they are and kids know the best about them because they are themselves.
Kids in other states will be crying every single night and want to be someone else. They’d want to be someone else with the problems they have now. If I travel to another state, now I need to bring around a card [gender affirmed birth certificate] in other states that don’t allow transgender people to go into the bathroom they want? Now I have to prove it? Why did they do this – why don’t some states like children to be themselves? Maybe all the transgender people can live together where people support them – but it’s not fair. They should live where they want to. I feel sad because I have to carry a card now and this wouldn’t happen if Hillary Clinton were president. Why would he even be president? We need to change the law of how to have a president.
I feel really sad right now. Kids should tell their parents what’s right for them. People think that kids are just people who have fun, people with no problems, and have no voice in the world but they are wrong. After you read this, go up to your kid and ask them what’s right for the world. Adults need to listen to children because children have ideas, too. Children are scared to tell about who they are to adults because they don’t want adults to not let them be their true selves.
I’d say to other transgender children: it’s okay, every transgender kid is cheering you on. Even though you’re going through all this peril, you have transgender kids on your side. Even though it looks like there aren’t any transgender kids at your school, there just might be one who doesn’t want to have anybody know. Now kids are going to want to keep their true selves inside and not tell anyone. It’s bad.
Transgender kids and bully kids get out of bed the same, they eat breakfast the same, they go to school the same, they sleep, eat, play, have lunch, dinner, and bedtime the same. But when they get to school, everything is different because bully kids think their moms and dads aren’t there so they can bully people.
What about teachers? They sometimes have boy lines and girl lines and you have to go in either one. What if you’re a kid and you’re both? Where do you go? This also goes to bathrooms – if you’re in the middle, which bathroom do you go in? What if some teachers support their transgender students but principals don’t support kids, will the teachers get fired? They shouldn’t be principals if they don’t care about all children.
This is going not to just people who are transgender but to everybody. This could also happen to people because of their skin color. Maybe they might get suspended for their skin color. It doesn’t matter what their skin color is, it’s who you are. It’s not like transgender kids chose this, it’s just who they are. What happens if in the future that there are no states that support transgender and people of color anymore? They might get murdered. That would be so bad. That’s like murdering yourself. That actually might happen because some people are really mean.
In our brain, we have two sides: one side is love and one side is hate. Like my mom has a big love and a little hate. I have big love and a little hate. My brother has big love and a little hate. But the president has almost all the way hate and almost all love is going to go away from him. What if the president was a kid? How would he feel? What if he was a transgender child? We have to change their minds. We need someone very powerful to do that – to change their minds – and the very powerful one is children.
Adults think they are so powerful because they can control the kids, they made the kids so kids are like slaves – but they are not. They are like adults, like people. Actually, maybe in the future, there’s not adults and kids, it’s everyone equal with each other. So when people bully children because they are different they are just bullying themselves because they are different, too. We’re all different in different ways. Nobody can match up someone: our brains are different, our bodies are different, our hands, feet, and faces are different.
If you are reading this, I want you to know: cherish this letter because this is what children say but they’re too scared to tell you, adults, because you’re the ruler of them and they think they’ll get in trouble.
Published with permission from a young transgender child in our advocacy network, with all content from the child represented in original unedited form to honor his voice and agency.