Still Waters Run Deep: A Letter to My Trans Child

When you were a wee one, an insightful preschool teacher of yours once said, in his reflection of the way with which you navigate the world: your child is very quiet at school and observes those in the world around with such intention…you know, still waters run deep.

That image struck me so vividly—it stuck with me.

Yes, indeed, still waters run deep my Earth Day child.

When you were three, you looked up at me with worry in your big brown eyes when the woman adorned in princess regalia from crown to slipper asked all the little party goers to share their favorite princess. You whispered to me, “Mommy, I don’t have a favorite princess but I know my favorite dinosaur.” I looked into your down turned eyes and encouraged you to share your perspective, because goodness knows dinosaurs are far more interesting than her request of a commercialized princess image.  With the confidence of someone twice your age and a proud smile spread across your face, you declared to the circle of over-ruffled 3-year-old girls, “My favorite dinosaur is the T-Rex!”

My heart smiled at your fierce individuality. It still smiles today.

STILL WATERS RUN DEEP

The summer you turned seven, you declared with sureness in your voice that reflected the fact you had given this immense thought: swim trunks and rash guards were the way to go at the beach and pool. Cargo pants, hoodies and a smart new shorter haircut were the way to go at school. All of the too big hand-me-downs in your brother’s closet were what reflected your authentic self and should become your new wardrobe for school that fall.

To be honest, at first I was worried. How would the larger world around you react, especially the kids at school, with love and openness? Would you feel safe? They had only known you for two years living life outwardly as a girl—now this change of appearance?

But, in your true steadfast nature, you didn’t think it was going to be such a big deal—Mommy, it’s who I am and I want my look to reflect the way I feel inside.

You taught me a huge life lesson that summer: don’t worry what they think, what you are most comfortable in that reflects your authentic self is the only thing that truly matters. Your insight and wisdom at seven surpassed my own thinking at five times your age.

STILL WATERS RUN DEEP

It was the summer you turned seven that we also, for the first time, started attending a new welcoming church as a family. One Sunday morning, a member of the Board of Trustees welcomed the congregation and visitors with her usual wording: We welcome all people…and affirm all gender identities. Your big brown eyes opened wider than I’d seen in a long time, a knowing smile danced across your face and you turned to me: “Mommy, that’s me…she said gender identities!”

You sat for the rest of her part deep in thought, mesmerized by the fact that someone had publically welcomed who you are, in this new space we’d come to. You thought a moment more and whispered, “Mommy, because, you know, I’m a transgender boy.” I smiled, nodded my head, and squeezed your hand.

You felt affirmed, celebrated. I felt peace. We had found one of the first places away from home where who we were as a family was held in love. That moment was powerful for me; even more transformative for you. That Board of Trustee probably never knew the impact she had on you, but I do. I am still thankful every time I hear that small gesture of language on Sundays: it means the world to our family.

STILL WATERS RUN DEEP

My heart ached the first time you came home from school with tears in your eyes because some unkind girls in the lunch line had made you feel upset for being who you are, questioning why you’d ever want to be a boy instead of a girl, and shaking your shoulders back and forth as if to ‘shake some sense into you.’ It was the first time you’d felt bullied and unsupported by anyone around you. It was the first time I’d been unable to keep you safe. We talked about how most children would be supportive or curious about your journey and to tell me when that happened so we could talk about your feelings. We also talked about how some children would be unkind because they just didn’t understand your journey and to tell me when that happened too so we could talk about that as well. You realized just how long your journey would be in life that day. I realized just how hard it might be to root out darkness with light, as Dr. King once said. Although your journey would be long, and at times hard, it’s the only one you know to travel as it’s your life’s path. Your reflection from this experience and the wise insight you gained only served to solidify your steadfast nature about your authentic self.

STILL WATERS RUN DEEP

Along your journey, you formed a special friendship with one of the teachers at the new church we were attending. As I heard him tell his transformative story of being a transgender man to the congregation one Sunday morning, I knew you had to meet him. He has become a powerful mentor to you, encouraging you to ask any questions with open and honest dialogue. One of your enlightening conversations one Sunday lead you to quietly contemplate something he had told you, with which you responded to him with sureness in your voice, “We’re vagina bros!” To his delight, he responded you were.

What an incredible statement of connectedness and affirmation between two people following similar life paths, however divergent the details to each path might be. I’m grateful you have such a positive and honest mentor to support you on your path.

STILL WATERS RUN DEEP

When you were eight on your last day of school, you, daddy, and brother paid the local barber shop a visit. Up until then, you had been accompanying me to my local salon to get a semi-short haircut. You knew, though, that shorter hair reflected the vision you had for your outward appearance to reflect your inside image. The three of you all got smart cropped new haircuts for the summer. The visual transformation was remarkable—especially the intense stare in your eyes and emotion on your face upon gazing at yourself in the mirror. The pride and peace your face reflected was a moment we will all remember vividly. You had come into your authentic self.

STILL WATERS RUN DEEP

It is with hope in my heart, surrounded by our loving family, close circle of friends, and our supportive community who represent warm people who fiercely stand on the side of love and celebrate the diversity of all life’s gifts, that I’m proud to celebrate the journey my Earth Day child continues in his life. I am excited to watch him thrive, experience the possibilities of life ahead, and to support him with love as he journeys along life’s path.

It is my hope and wish that we can all find a space in our heart to open a dialogue with those loved ones that need our fierce advocacy, now more than ever before. Embrace your innate instinct to love all children the way they should be loved, encouraged, supported, and admired.

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Published with permission from a mother of a young trans child in our advocacy network. -C

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