I feel like I haven’t written in such a long time and I am feeling the need hugely! I thought today I’d keep going with some of our backstory of Sun. If you’d like to read the first part of this journey, please visit Part 1 of my It’s Not A Phase post. Today I am going to try and cover our journey from age three to four and a half. I’ll keep it as brief as I can, but if you haven’t been here before, let me advise you, I have been known to chat quite a bit. Ooops.
By the time Sun started Kindergarten at her long daycare centre, she was spending every spare second that she possibly could trying to achieve a stereo-typically female appearance.
Her head was constantly covered with a tea towel, jumper, shirt, anything she could find that would have the representation of long hair. She even went to sleep with it on her head, which seriously grossed us out most of the time, because we still had no idea that this was going to soon erupt into a more serious life-changing chain of events.
At any given moment, she was wearing female dress-ups, this usually was in the form of a princess or Elsa. OMG we watched Frozen so many times, but it made her happy, so be it! Thank goodness the obsession has waned a little now. Her time at daycare was spent in dress-ups at every chance and if, for some reason, they weren’t doing dress-ups that day, she was not happy.
Throughout all this time, expressing her feminine side at home, only with us, her family, around and at daycare, she still wore her ‘boy clothes’ out in public. It was OUR decision that she dress as a boy when we went out, because we didn’t want to have to explain ourselves to strangers. It was OUR confusion, because we didn’t know what was happening. It was OUR mistake. We were scared of how we would ‘look’ to members of the public. We were scared of what other people might say. She didn’t care. To this day, I feel like it was US who taught her shame and for that I will not forgive myself. I can easily, now I know the reason for her ‘dress-ups’, say ‘but I didn’t know’, but we as parents should let our children embrace their individual expression no matter what that may be, female, male, Spiderman, Ariel, and so on. No one cares what a four year old wears out and trust me, no average teenager is going to be caught dead wearing dress-ups around town on a daily basis, so you’ll know it’s not a ‘phase’.
At just over three and a half years old Sun changed, her behaviour went out of control. Her tantrums were excessive to say the least. She was a nervous ball of energy, her light-hearted, fun nature had changed to something quite delinquent. She avoided eye-contact with many, very close people. She would NEVER kiss us. NEVER. No affection what-so-ever. She began stealing from daycare. Every day we would have to check her pockets for things. Those things were hair ties, small female related toys, anything she could get on the sneak, she would. If she was in her ‘girl looking’ outfits and people came over, she would race into her room to change into her ‘boy clothes’, ashamed, before they could see her. Her older brother would make fun of her, saying ‘why are you trying to be a girl?’. This would end up in screaming matches of her yelling, ‘I am a girl’. She eventually began telling us she was a girl. Still, we thought she was playing around a bit.
We had our interview for school, for she would be starting in prep the following year (2016), and we told the principal about her desire for female ‘things’. We kind of laughed it off, saying we would ‘wing-it’ and see what happened once she started school. Our daycare, as with most I know, didn’t conform to gender roles for children, they allowed the children to play and express themselves however they felt like. We didn’t know, at this stage, if this was something she would ‘grow out of’ once she went to school where there were gender roles in place. Girls line up here, boys line up here, etc.
At some point during 2015, around mid-year, she started getting really serious. Her sadness was unavoidable and we had enough. Both myself and Captain Redbeard decided we would NOT see our kid unhappy because of our own notions of what people might think of us. We told her she could be who she wanted to be. We took her shopping for clothing and allowed her to navigate the clothes department. Of course, we ended up with a trolley full of girl’s clothing. We kept all her boy clothing in her room so she could have the option of wearing them if she chose to, but she never did. She wanted her very short hair to grow, so we let her.
Her fourth birthday was the first one I can remember filled with pure joy. She had an enchanted forest birthday party with some of her friends from daycare. She received all female related things as gifts from her entire extended family. We did a makeover on her bedroom, changing it from a pretty plain boys room, to a magical, unicorn filled treasure trove.
She was the happiest we had ever seen her and I can remember, and I always will, being teary because I was SO happy for her to finally be happy.
Around the end of the year she started saying things to us. Things that kids who know themselves to be the assigned gender DO NOT say. Things that she could not have ever heard from anywhere. We never spoke about her where anyone could hear. She only ever heard how special she was. I clearly remember running a shower for her one night, and her turning to me and saying, ‘Mummy. I wish I could be born again so I could be born a girl’. To hear that, as a mother who was so proud of the birth of her second son all those years ago, from a four year old puts a knife through your heart. What do you even say to that? I remember asking her if she felt like a girl. She said yes. I said, if you feel like you’re a girl, then you are a girl.
She wanted her penis gone. At one point she said she could ‘get a knife and cut it off’ and then she would be a girl. Launch the internal freak out!!!! I gently explained to her that if she still felt the same way when she grew up, she could have that body part taken care of by a doctor, but to do anything like that would hurt her very much and ‘mummy would be very sad if you got hurt’.
Children whose brain matches the physical gender they are assigned at birth do NOT say things like that. When I was a little one, I never considered I was a boy, I just always knew I was a girl, just as she had always known she was a girl. To know you are something, but see the opposite in a mirror must be so confusing, especially for little ones. It’s sad. As a parent it’s sad to think your own could be experiencing such turmoil with who they are.
Clearly, as these type of conversations continued to happen, I began to look things up. Sometimes Google can be a real butt-head, but in this instance I thank my stars that it was there. I began typing keywords in and eventually came across this whole other world I knew nothing of. Neither Capt Redbeard or myself had ever heard of gender dysphoria or transgender children. And so, the education began for us. We knew that Sun WAS a girl. We knew we were going to be heading down a road we could never have imagined, nor wished for our child. But we were happy and confident that we could manage. While this road is not one I would have chosen for her, there are worse and far more terrifying things out there. I kept telling myself, just as I tell my family, that we would not be given a destiny we could not handle or have the strength to endure. And so we will. And to date, so we have.
So from that moment on we let her take the reins. She is treated just like the other kids. She has the same rules, the same guidelines for life to become a kind human. But we let her lead us with her needs. We try to not think about the future too much. We take one day at a time, following her lead, letting her teach us.
She kisses and cuddles me now. A lot. I have my happy child, and in turn, that makes me a happy mother.