The Shrek movie played on repeat in our household when it was first released. If you’ve never seen the movie, during one scene, Shrek (an ogre) tries to explain to Donkey that he’s more than what people imagine about being an ogre. They happened to be walking through an onion field, so Shrek uses onions as a metaphor. Donkey, of course, doesn’t understand the similarity: “They smell? They make people cry?” So, Shrek erupts and exclaims that onions have layers and so do ogres. Trans children, like all humans (and animated film characters), also have layers and live full lives beyond their gender identity.
The Breadth of Trans Existence
Transgender kids are students—some with neurodiversity and some with giftedness. They might love reading and anxiously await the release of the newest book from their favourite author. Trans children enjoy extracurricular activities like martial arts, visual arts or acting and are currently practicing for the end-of-school performance. They’re daredevils on their BMX bikes, challenging themselves to new tracks. They’re gamers celebrating their latest level-up. They’re begging their parents for a dog and promising they’ll walk it every day.
Gender-diverse youth are learning to drive and interviewing for their first part-time summer job. They’re passing notes in class and laughing at jokes, and creating memories. They’re embarrassed by their parents and think they know more than them. They need to clean their rooms and eat their vegetables. They make mistakes, learn from them, and then make different mistakes. Life is so much more for them than their body parts and what clothes they wear.
Who is not letting kids be kids?
A repeated comment on my social media posts and one of the loudest rallying cries I hear from people who oppose trans children is to “let kids be kids.” I’d love to! Every day that I don’t have to validate my kids’ existence to someone spouting hateful rhetoric, I’m letting my kids be kids. Funnily enough, the people demanding to let kids be kids are the exact people who focus on children’s genitalia and sexuality without understanding what being transgender as a child truly means.
Defining Transgender: Transgender and nonbinary people have a gender identity (how they think of themselves) or gender expression (how they dress, talk, and act) that differs from the sex or gender they were assigned at birth. Trans children first undergo a fully reversible social transition to the degree of their choosing that consists of changing their wardrobe, pronouns, name, and hairstyle.
When kids are reduced to just one portion of their identity—in this case, their gender and expression—the option to just be kids has been taken away from them. Some are removing their right to play sports despite the physical and mental health benefits. What is more childlike than playing?
Trans kids are not seen by some in society as fully realized human beings because everyone is so focused on the debate around their right to exist.
I speak to other parents of transgender kids and teens on a regular basis, and I can tell you that we are all exhausted and exasperated from having to fight for our child’s right to be themselves. My transgender son and daughter are authentic, beautiful, giving, smart, and caring people who deserve to be seen as more than their body parts or who they will date one day. Think about what they could accomplish if transphobia was removed from the equation. Really, they’d do exactly the same things they have been doing, only without the hate.
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