Sometimes, the situations in which I find myself in my little microcosmic world are quite reflective of the current events and social climate of the concurrent macrocosmic world. I found myself in one of those situations tonight during my anniversary dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.
My daughter who is 10 years old has Asperger’s Autism. It is very common for children with this Disorder to have gender identity issues. Boys often are more gentle in nature due to their issues with coordination, so sports are not something that interest them. They often don’t understand the jokes that are being made when other boys are poking fun at them, which often makes them come across like a “sissy” to the other boys who are used to teasing each other and fighting back. It is often how boys play, by roughhousing with their bodies and their words. Boys with Asperger’s then find themselves relating more with the female gender who are much milder in manner.
Girls with Asperger’s, on the other, are not usually interested in dolls and dress up in the same way that the other girls their age are. They tend to gravitate towards the more boyish toys and games like cars, star wars, pokemon and Minecraft. They find these games and toys far more interesting. They are also easily annoyed by their hair. They typically like to keep it long and all one length so they can put it in a ponytail all the time, or they want to cut it short like a boy. Low maintenance is the key with the girls. They don’t like the feel of girl clothing due to their tactile sensitivities.
I knew my daughter had gender identity issues before I even knew she had Asperger’s. She began showing signs of this from the time she was 4 and would talk about how she wished she was a boy. Now, at 10, she wears almoat all boys clothing and she has cut her hair so short that it spikes up. Aost everyone thinks she is a boy.
People continuously call her a boy in my presence. I just ignore it, unless it needs to be corrected for a purpose, such as boarding a flight so that when they see her name that they don’t try to tell me that the name doesn’t match the child I am with. My daughter gets embarrassed very easily. She doesn’t mind being called a boy, but she hasn’t necessarily told us she wants to be addressed as one, or told us she wants us to call her our son or anything. But she doesn’t like us pointing it out to people that they were wrong. That is what embarrasses her. She’s in a weird sort of limbo right now and it is very hard for her.
She loves her short hair and has honestly felt better about herself and more comfortable in her own skin since she cut it. She doesnt have many friends at school, and never has. And that upsets her, but she has said that this year, on the whole, has been her best year yet, and she seems to attribute it to the fact that she cut her hair I think. And I don’t think it’s because the kids treat her any differently. I think it’s because she sees herself differently and feels better about herself. She feels more congruent.
However, one of the biggest issues she seems to run in to is with the bathroom. She is highly uncomfortable going to the bathroom in public. In school, she has had kids give her looks and say stuff to her about why she is going in the girls bathroom. In public restrooms people give her looks and she is now asking me to come with her again all the time, even though we had just started loosening the reigns and letting her go herself. Enter world of judgment…..
Tonight when my husband and I went out for our anniversary, we took her with us for dinner to the Cheesecake Factory. We had already had our alone date on Friday, so we were just celebrating a little on the day of with a dinner and brought her with us because we don’t have many sitter options, so getting out alone is a commodity for us. While we were there, she needed to go to the bathroom and asked me to go with her. Right as we were about to leave, I held the door open and fro. The outside, you could apparently see her and not me, and an older man begins to walk in to the ladies room. And he had a confused look on his face. When he saw me, I pointed to the door across the way and said the men’s room is over there. He said, oh ok, I was confused because I saw him (and pointed to my daughter a bit condescendingly-as if she shouldn’t be in there (as a boy) at that age). Needless to say, my daughter was highly embarrassed by this encounter.
As it is, my daughter already has a ton of things to struggle with every day. I really wish people would think before they speak or give condescending glances sometimes. And of course, that’s in addition to all of those who think having gender identity issues is some mark of Satan to begin with. I did not push a gender roles on my daughter. If anything, I pushed femininity on her. She still has a princess bedroom (that she despises). A 4 year old who knows nothing about the word transgender doesn’t chose this difficult life just to be trendy. My daughter is the furthest thing from trendy. She truly feels like she is trapped inside the wrong body. This has already lasted more than half of her young life. It is not a phase she is going through. She is not going to outgrow this. She moves closer and closer to dispelling all girlish things from.her life with every passing year. This year she has asked for a new Easter basket because the one she has from infancy is pink and frilly. Even things that hardly any one but the family sees, she wants to be boyish.
Transgender issues are such a hot button topic right now in the macrocosmos of society, and my little microcosmic world is playing out many details of the struggle right before my eyes. And the struggle is heartbreaking. Especially when it is your own child. And especially when that child has a plethora of other issues to handle on a daily basis as well. Please world, show some compassion. If there is any question in your mind and a child possibly looks androgynous, use a generic “sweetheart” or “buddy” or “kiddo” to address them just to be on the safe side, something that could possibly go either way. And pretty please, for the love of all that is good on this Earth…don’t give a kid or a person a weird look if you think they’re going on the wrong bathroom. They should know where they’re going and are probably right. How do you know anyway if that child isn’t a little girl who is just growing her hair back after chemo treatments???