Everyone knows the right wing oratory. When it comes time to adress LGBT…especially T, rights, the religious conservatives are all, “Think about thew children!”
I do. All the f’ing time!
Let’s think about some of the children whose stories I have recently run across, shall we?
Let’s think about Tom Sosnik.
I am no longer Mia. I never really was. And now I finally stand before you in my true and authentic gender identity as Tom. I stand before you as a thirteen-year-old boy.
For a while, I dismissed the fact that I hated my body. I pretended to be content with what I was assigned until, at a certain point, I broke.
I went through a series of horrible breakdowns. And I would stand under the water in the shower crying. I knew I wasn’t happy.
I really hope that you all will support my decision to embark on a harder route in life as the boy I truly am. Any form of support I receive with much gratitude and I hope that everyone can really support me because you guys are like my second family. And if you support me, I’ll feel like the luckiest boy in the world. Thank you for letting me share my story.
In my heart, I am still the same person. Whether you like that person or not, it’s me.
Tom adds: “To all those struggling to embrace their true and authentic gender or sexuality, I want you to know that if no one else accepts you, I always will.”
Two stories out of Reno intertwine.
When Jessi Arroyo was four, Jessi’s mother taught her child to pray.
Pray to God and he will listen. Ask for whatever you want.
Mom, I want to pray to God and wake up in the morning with a penis.
Elvira tried to explain basic anatomy and how what Jessi wanted was not possible.
You don’t know anything. I’m a boy.
Diaz kept this to herself.
One day Courtney Rodarte’s child suddenly proclaimed, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a girl.”
The Rodartes asked their child to explain how this could be.
I don’t know how I know. I just know.
There’s no parenting manual on this.
Diaz and Rodarte had arrived at the same fork in the road of life.
Their destination: Realizing their children are transgender, born into one gender’s body but believing they belong in the other.
Family therapist Mary Minten takes up the story. She made transgender children her specialty nine years ago when she set up her practice in Reno.
She found the group more unserved and unguided than any other in the area.
I see a lot of fear. Everybody’s taught they have a boy or girl, period.
Minten became so overwhelmed with clientele that she had to send the Rodartes to a colleague.
In February the Washoe County School District formally acknowledged the existence of transgender students for the first time, adopting regulations requiring equal treatment.
When the American Psychiatric Association decided to no longer classify transgender as a mental disorder…
…[it] explained the importance of standing up for the transgender community, marking a national shift toward acceptance among medical professionals that extends to the public. In 2013, the California Legislature cemented transgender-student protections in state law. An increasing number of local school districts have done the same across the country, not to mention state education departments like Massachusetts.
Transgender is on its way to being recognized a medical condition of the body, not the mind.
That doesn’t make life much simpler or safer for these children. I’ve heard from transgender youth being bullied, physically assaulted, refused service or attempting suicide, which occurs at a 41 percent rate for transgender people.
Families make all the difference, Minten said. They can stand between a transgender person and the edge, or push them over it.
She’s heard it from the mouths of her clients, children to young adults.
“My dad and mom don’t love me,” patients tell Minten when their parents force them to repress their transgender identity or don’t accept it. “Families don’t realize their impact, what it is for a parent to refuse a core part of their child.”
When Diaz found the term “transgender”, the pieces fell into place.
It explained her daughter’s refusal to play with Barbies, her fondness for superheroes and LEGOs, wanting to be called Jessi instead of her full name soon after she could speak.
We can do this two ways. We can deny or accept it.
Rodarte and her husband faced a similar revelation with their son Isaiah midway through kindergarten. Transgender explained their son wearing T-shirts on his head like a wig, preferring all things pink and sparkly, and much more.
But they didn’t let anything change at school throughout the rest of fall semester. He stayed Isaiah.
Rodarte questioned it.
We have been telling our kids, ‘You can be whatever you want.’
When Diaz finally chose to allow her child to have a gender-neutral haircut, he finally smiled.
I’ve never seen my kid smile, ever. It was a real smile. Not a fake smile. “The more I did, the happier my kid was.
When Jessi turned 5, he told all his friends and family that he had chosen the name Christian.
When Elvira asked why he chose that name, he said, “Because of Jesus Christ, Mom.”
From then on, Jessi has been no more. Diaz boxed all of Jessi’s things, keeping them in a storage unit.
“It’s my baby I lost. It’s for me,” said Diaz, only realizing later that she had to mourn the loss of Jessi before accepting Christian. “Regardless of what I feel, I have to put his needs before mine.”
Also at the age of 5, Isaiah Rodarte became Izzy.
Rodarte and her husband accepted it, buying Izzy a purple and blue gown from the Disney movie “Frozen” for Christmas. Izzy wore it every night of the holiday break.
“That was the kicker for my husband,” Rodarte said.
Izzy refused to go back to school as Isaiah two days after the school break. So the Rodartes had a talk with the school principal and Izzy was introduced to her classmates.
Diaz recounts many troubles she and her son encountered. They moved four times that first year.
Neighborhood kids find out about Christian. Soon, their parents know and keep them away, sometimes pressuring property management to push Diaz out of her apartment.
Diaz couldn’t get Christian a dental appointment for months, accusing her of trying to sneak another child in on her daughter’s insurance.
Though a devout Catholic, Diaz even distanced herself from her church.
Parents make a lot of painful choices.
Conflicts not only happen with religion, but family, friends and schools. For this reason, parents’ support and protection is vital
Diaz had to educate each new school Christian attended.
In second grade, there was a problem.
The principal asked Christian for the definition of transgender, trying to see if his condition was real.
Christian was stunned, didn’t know what to say.
Diaz stepped in.
“It’s OK. These people are dumb. Please teach them. This is your turn to be a teacher,” she said for all in the room to hear. “I don’t care. I need to empower my kid.”
Christian answered the question. “It’s when you’re born with the wrong body.”
That school forced Christian to use the nurse’s bathroom. In reaction, Christian didn’t drink anything before going to school…or all day long…running to the bathroom when he got home, and then to the refrigerator because he was dying of thirst.
Christian is now 10. The family has achieved some stability, settling in the same apartment for four years, well received by a gay property manager.
A new principal was appointed at Christian’s school, one who follows the new regulations regarding the treatment of transgender children.
Izzy Rodarte is now 6, still in the kindergarten class he started as a boy. So everyone knows.
Accepting Izzy was easy for students, said Rodarte, remembering a recent lesson the teacher gave on Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I have a dream” speech.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” King said.
A boy in Izzy’s class made the connection. He said “That’s like Izzy’s dream.”
A 6-year-old said that. I’m not worried about the kids. It’s the adults.
Every morning, I park the car and walk to the (school) playground. I can see the parents look at me.
Izzy is still Izzy. Always has been. Just happier. I have a healthy kid. I just hope the world can change for the better.
And then there is Cee Cee Ott. Cee Cee is 9. In third grade, Cee Cee went to a charter school. Staff there were aware she was transgender, but it was kept confidential. In the middle of the achool year, Cee Cee’s health started deteriorating. Her mother discovered that the school was requiring Cee Cee to use a private bathroom. In order to avoid using that facility, Cee Cee had stopped eating and drinking. Her eyes started to have the appearance of being sunken.
People in (Washoe) schools sometimes didn’t get it.
Shanna Ott and Brock Maylath of Reno’s Transgender Allies Group convinced the staff to let Cee Cee use the girls bathroom.
They really try to make you feel like it’s fine (to use a separate bathroom), when it’s not. My kid doesn’t have a medical problem.
It kept coming up. Everyone had the best of intentions, but some school leaders made the wrong decisions.
–Katherine Louden, the school district’s counseling administrator
Some people work on fear of just not knowing.
–District counseling specialist, Keeli Killian, aware of the misconception that transgender is a choice or rooted in sexual perversion
We know the children, and they’re the ones in danger.
We’re trying to do the right thing.
Shanna Ott joined the fight to change the school district policy.
Judy Chiasson, Los Angeles’ director of equity and diversity, has heard all the fears. The main concern: Predatory students will take advantage of the regulation to get inside the opposite sex’s bathroom and locker rooms.
We’ve never ever, ever, ever had any of those fears realized. The district has not received one report of sexual misconduct by transgender students in all the years. If anything, the transgender student is going to be the victim.
Chaiasson notes that transgender students tend to be extremely modest.
They also don’t want to betray their identity
Cee Cee spent days dreading an upcoming choir concert, knowing she’d have to change clothes at school.
Nothing is being hidden, Ott asserted. The family is not ashamed. Cee Cee is not abnormal. She’s just a girl.
This is who she is. Why do we have to prove she’s a girl? No one’s telling you to prove your gender.
Following up on its new regulation, Washoe is amending its sex education curriculum to define transgender for the first time, doing so in the eighth grade, according to Kathryn Weber-Karp, district coordinator for Sexuality Health And Responsibility Education.
A bill in the state legislature would prohibit such education…in the name of “thinking about the children. You know, “the normal kids.”