Life is crazy, isn’t it? One minute you think life is perfect: you’re married to your very best friend, you’re able to grocery shop and not worry about how to pay for it, you have six beautiful and healthy children, your hair looks good and you’re surrounded by friends. But then you turn around and all of a sudden life changes, and that great stuff is still there, but new things develop. And it’s not just in the blink of an eye, it’s something that has been happening all along. Like when your kids get taller but you don’t realize it until they’re measured and the change is right in front of you, unmistakeable and not hypothetical. You knew changes were happening because you aren’t stupid, but they’re so small over a long period of time that they all just happen when you aren’t really paying attention.
I’m not new to change. I’ve been through huge changes myself. Changes in mental health, changes in friendships, changes in career. All these changes happened slowly, over a long period of time. And changes happen to everyone. They happen without you knowing it until the road is a dead end and you’re faced with it head-on. I’m learning how to deal with really hard changes and I’m well equipped to deal with minor ones.
But when changes with your kids happen, it’s different. It hits you a little deeper, a little harder and when changes come with tears and uncertainty and the changes aren’t little and aren’t easy fixes (because a fix isn’t always necessary), it hits you in the gut. It hits you in the heart because you know these changes aren’t going to be easy. All I want to do is scoop my child up and take them to a place where these changes would be embraced and celebrated and everyone would be as proud as my child as we are and would still see my child as beautiful and full of every potential possible (except maybe soccer, because there’s no skill there). But do you know what my child can do? Huge things. Hold the hand of someone who needs help, stick up for friends that are being bullied, read books and do math, ask deep questions about issues that matter and then act on them; my child can do huge things.
And it has nothing to do with their gender. That’s a fact, not an opinion and it’s something you all need to know. We all (well most of us I hope) teach our kids that it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, you can do anything you want to do with your life. And that’s the truth.
If you know Alice, why do you like her? If you know of her based on what I’ve written on my blog or Instagram, why are you interested or why do you think she’s cute or funny? If you liked her because of her long hair or because she’s a girl, that’s not good enough. See ya.
Alice is smart. She asks questions and then tries her hardest to come up with her own logical answers. Alice is patient with younger children. She cares about what happens and without being asked will go out of her way to make them happier and safer. Alice is generous. She shares what she has and doesn’t mind. Alice is a loyal and fun friend. She isn’t a bully and she only knows how to be good to friends, she doesn’t know the meaning of backstabbing. Alice cares about people in the world, regardless of whether or not she knows them. She’s concerned about people who don’t have enough, who aren’t safe and who need help. Alice loves treats and she loves video games. Alice loves her siblings and her teachers and her friends and snowboarding and skateboarding and being outside. She’s a monster on a bike and watch out if she’s on roller blades.
But now Alice is Luke.
It’s a big change, but not a sudden one. When Luke was little, he never asked to wear dresses. He never wanted to get all made up. In fact, I remember once when Maria put on her “Paying it Fashion Forward” fundraiser and Whitney did his hair and makeup amazingly. Luke cried. He didn’t like it. But Luke is shy and doesn’t like rocking the boat, so he went along with it, even with tears in his eyes.
It started a few years ago when Alice said, “I wish I was a boy.” Little kids say things like that, I wasn’t surprised or worried or anything. I laughed, I’m sure. But that turned into, “I want to be a boy,” which eventually was, “I am a boy.” And it stuck. It didn’t go away. His feelings never wavered.
“Mom, I don’t want to wear a dress. Please. Can I wear comfy clothes? Can I wear Jamie’s pants and just a plain shirt?….Can I please cut my hair?….Can I cut it shorter?….Can you call me “he” and “him?”
And slowly, Alice became Luke.
When Whitney buzzed Luke’s hair he said, “Now people who don’t know me will really know I’m a boy.”
I’m a researcher. I don’t just accept things at first mention. I look into it. I analyze it and know my stuff. I asked Luke more times than I should have if this was a real feeling or if maybe he was just a tomboy. I asked if he thought maybe later he would feel like he was actually a girl. I asked over and over “are you sure?” And eventually, I understood. When Luke came to me with tears in his eyes wanting to talk about it. I knew it was real. I knew it wasn’t a phase. I knew we’d have big changes ahead and I knew it was going to be okay. Yesterday he said, “Can you please stop asking if I’m sure?”
My sister-in-law, Lily, was put into our family on purpose. And I’m awfully selfish and I think the purpose was for me and my little family, not Patrick. Sorry, man, but I’m gonna be bold and say he owes me. I’m not sure for what, but he does. Before telling anyone about Luke, I told Lily. Why? Lily accepts people for who they are, not who people think they should be. Within days of my texting her for advice, incredible books showed up at our door (“George,” “I am Jazz,” “Who are you?” along with others) and I received emails from people she knows who are helping us navigate this. And then Lily said, “Let me know when she wants us to start using different pronouns.” Who is this girl?! Gosh I love her.
So what now? Now, we use different pronouns, he asked us to do this just this weekend. Now, Alice is Luke, he asked us to call him that to see how it feels. Inside, the soul hasn’t changed. This kid is still fiercely wonderful and incredibly kind. But now he’s a bit braver, more confident. Yeah, it’ll be hard to remember to call him by his new name. Luckily, he knows this. He understands this is a big change. In fact, he said, “I know this will change my life.” And big life changes take time to process.
Will that feel strange to you? Will you feel uncomfortable? Will you not know how to explain that to your kids or to your friends or to people who might ask you? I have something harshly honest to say to you: I don’t care.
I don’t care if you don’t like it.
I don’t care if you think it goes against nature, if you think he’s too young to make a decision like this or if you think we’re wrong for calling him Luke and “he” and “him.”
I really, truly, honestly, don’t care. If you don’t want to be our friends or even acquaintances because of it, please don’t. And please delete me from your social media because you don’t deserve to see the pictures of my beautiful children. And I dare you..no, I double dog dare you…to ask me about it, to start a discussion, to show me your side of it, why you’re right and I’m wrong. Let’s see how it goes. I’m a lover, but I’m also a fighter. And when it comes to protecting my children, don’t challenge me. I accept that there are other beliefs and I respect those other beliefs. I want you to be true to who you are, just like I’m asking that Luke be allowed to be true to who he is. I don’t want to now force all of my friends to climb aboard our train and automatically change their thinking because you know us. But what I do expect is respect, and I expect that from all my friends in my life, not just on issues like this. I will respect you. Please respect me.
If you don’t like me, I’m good with it, I really am. But if you don’t like my child based on his gender, that’s where I draw the line. Please respect us. Please love Luke. If you aren’t able to do this, you aren’t our people.
I know that when she became he to all of us, my sweet, shy and sensitive child was happy. When I told him that it would mean going to school with a new name and being a boy, his face quietly but brightly lit up.
Nothing we’re doing is permanent. If he decides later that he’s genderfluid or something different, I suppose there will be new changes to face, won’t there?
Luke said, “I’m afraid people will tell me I can’t be a boy.” I told him, “People don’t like you because they think you’re a girl. They like you for real reasons. Also…new people you meet won’t ask if you’re a boy or a girl. That would be super weird.” There were chuckles. “So it’s okay to wear boy’s underwear and boy’s clothes and have short hair and introduce yourself to people exactly how you want to be to them.” And Maria piped in with, “And if they’re mean, then just ignore them. They don’t matter.”
Early on, I asked Lily, “Do you think I’m overreacting? I don’t wanna automatically assume but at the same time I don’t wanna dismiss what she’s feeling,” and she replied, “No. I don’t think you are at all. Worst case scenario, it is a ‘phase’ and you are being a supportive parent and helping her figure out stuff. Best case scenario, you are being a supportive parent and helping him figure out stuff.”
I read a study that said 57% of transgender youth who lived in unsupportive homes attempted suicide. I’ve read announcements from Christian churches about how transgender people are a danger to children, an abomination, how they are crazy and delusional and how the trans should be prayed away.
I will tell you what I know about Luke. I know that Luke will be the child who will invite yours to a birthday party, even if your child isn’t popular or cool or a good friend. Luke will be the friend who will ask your child, who is alone on the playground, to play. Luke is the one who will hold a friend’s hand who needs it, both literally and metaphorically. Luke is the one who will be the child praising others in the classroom, boosting them up, encouraging and loving, not bullying and putting down. This eight year old isn’t a mistake or crazy or delusional. This eight year old is amazing and beautiful and someone you should be so lucky to love.
And let’s be really clear on this: I didn’t write this for all of you. I didn’t write this so that all of you will know all the inside information about my family or feel more comfortable around us. I wrote this for Luke who not only approved it, but asked me to please show it to ‘everyone.’ I did it so that he’s not met with looks of disgust or surprise when some hear me call him by his new name instead of Alice. I wrote it so that everyone knows that in our little community, Luke isn’t going to be the token ‘different’ one. He’s not transgender so that you feel more cultured and for your benefit. And I ask that he never be treated as such. He’s one of the boys. And like Danny said when Luke came to him with tears in his eyes telling him, “I actually am a boy, not a tomboy, I feel like a boy and I am a boy,” a nice response might be, “Welcome to the boy’s club. By the way, Luke is a great name.”
PS: I need to take beautiful portrait of Luke and then his name and photo will change on my blog.
PPS: The family and friends we’ve told have been amazing. Even if our beliefs don’t align, we are still loved and respected and that’s something that I’m so grateful for. I ❤ You.