An actual conversation with someone on the school bus…
“Well I’m really open minded; I don’t have a problem with gays at all I mean you can’t help who you love. It’s just Transgender people; I don’t like them at all”
Me: “Well, why not?”
“It’s just abnormal, you know.”
Since my younger sibling is transgender I explained (calmly and clearly, without losing it) what transgender is.
“Oh well, that doesn't seem that bad. I just don’t like it when they do it randomly”
My little sister Etta is transgender, she is 9.
A lot of people seemed either shocked or confused when I tell them this. I’d show them a picture and they look at me and say…
“That’s your little brother though, why? Aww, must be a phase”
Nope, this is not a phase. I know that for a fact. Since she was 2 or 3 she played with my toys rather than my brother’s. She preferred pink and she started nicking my long tops and wearing them as dresses. Etta is also autistic so at first we thought it was something to do with the autism, but after some researching we found out that she was Transgender. The older she got the stronger this desire to be a girl became. So no, this is definitely not just a “phase”
The best way to explain Transgender to you is that Etta is a girl trapped in a boy’s body.
Girl’s brain, Boy’s Body.
She refused to have her hair cut; she now has longer hair than me. She prefers all the female characters in her favourite TV shows to the male characters and now everything she owns is pink. We have a running joke that she is more girlish than me, my sister and my mum put together. (She’s also much prettier)
And If you haven’t already noticed, I call her ‘she’ rather than ‘he’.
Today is a big day for Etta, from today Etta is now known as a girl at her school (and in September it will be on the records that she is “Female”). She can wear the girl’s uniform, she can use the girl’s bathroom and she will now be known as a girl to the teachers. This is fantastic! She is now being acknowledged for who she is and her class mates are fine with it (which is an added bonus really)
Yesterday a transgender expert went into Etta’s school and had an extended assembly with the school to explain Transgender.
As an example she asked a boy to stand with her. She asked him “If I said you weren’t allowed to wear boy’s clothes, you had to wear dresses. That you’re not allowed to play with your toys, because they’re boy’s toys how would you feel?”
“Well, I wouldn’t like it. Because I’m a boy”
“That’s how transgender people feel”
It’s a good point actually. Because Etta knows that she is a girl.
Some of the adults/parents are not so supportive. My family do get some rather hateful stares thrown at us when walking Etta to school. There was one example of a parent holding the large metal gates for some children, the parent saw us and closed the gate on Etta. Thankfully Mum was fast enough to catch the gate before it hit Etta in the head, but still.
It’s quite upsetting when people think that my mum has forced this on Etta, because it’s “Cute”.
And this is usually when I start to get angry.
Why the hell would we force this on Etta?
When researching the topic I have heard of suicide attempts and self-harming incidents by Transgender children as young as 6 … 6 year old! Not just because of bullying but because they feel so uncomfortable with their bodies and they’re hurt that people don’t see who they are and accept it.
Here’s an example of a Transgender 6 year-old’s shocking suicide attempt from the Huffington Post.
“Was there a tipping point?
Well, one day we had a blow-up in Target. It was Halloween, and up until then we'd allowed Danann to pick costumes, like a witch or vampire-princess, which were female but not particularly feminine, more gender-neutral. But this particular Halloween, Danann saw a very frilly Southern Belle dress and just had to have it. I said no, as I knew Bill wouldn't approve. Danann began kicking, screaming, trying to hurt me. I got the kids into the car, when Danann went ballistic, scratching herself to the point of bleeding, hitting her head on the car, trying to break the window. I locked the car doors, drove straight home, and the minute I unlocked the car Danann bolted from the car and ran straight into traffic. She was almost hit. The driver stopped the car and ran over to Danann, asking if she was OK, and Danann said, "Why didn't you hit me? I just want to die. I just want to die and have all of this be over." That's when I knew we needed to change things, because what we were doing clearly wasn't working.”
I’m going to be very truthful to you now; it’s taken a while for me to get to grips with it. I had a dream about two years ago, I dreamt that Etta was a toddler again, she was Henry, Etta looked like a boy and when I woke up again I got upset because I missed my little brother. But then I realized that Etta was never really my little brother, she was just too young to say no to all the boy-ish clothes. I feel awful, awful that I wasn’t the best sister in the world. I’m bad at coping with change and this was quite a big shock. It took me a while to finally call her ‘her’, I have had many thoughts such as “Why can’t he be normal”-“This isn’t fair”-“I want Henry back” But then I did some thinking (and shouting at myself) and I’ve finally seen that I was being insensitive and stupid. Etta is Etta, she is an amazing little girl and I love her. I will never forgive myself for how I thought and how I behaved.
Because Etta is also autistic it’s very hard to hear how she feels. When talking to her you have to be very patient because she sometimes talks through quotes from films and books, it’s confusing but you get the hang of it quite easily. But last night I watched a documentary called “I am Jazz” which was about a transgender child.
All I could do was cry, when Jazz was explaining how she felt I just broke down. For the first time in 7 years I heard what Etta was trying to tell me through another child who was Transgender.
If you have time, do go watch it, it may change your mind about Transgender people/children.
I’m writing this because it needs to be explained, I was scared of explaining this because I was afraid that people would take Etta the wrong way, manipulate what I say and tell a wrong grotesque story which puts her in a bad light.
I love my little sister and I am terrified of that happening. I hope that we have left this manipulative nature behind us.
Thank you so much to Lou for writing that, she emailed it to my this morning and I immediately emailed her back saying "Can I blog this?" I hope it helps make everyone think, and makes people happy. Thanks all.
PS I reviewed a play this week, if you want to read it.