An entire New Year stretches before us! Like many, I’ve set my intentions on what I want to accomplish this year. I remain passionate about helping create positive change for transgender and gender nonconforming kids. I want to see their parents love them more and worry about them less. And I also want to work harder to make our world a safer and more equal place not just for transgender and gender nonconforming kids, but all LGBTQ+ people.
I’m a list and post-it note person. I set monthly, weekly and daily goals for myself. You probably have a list or calendar filling up, too. But I know how we feel about ourselves moment-by-moment is what really counts, regardless of the day or the year. I was reminded of that this week at neighbor Nicole’s fourth birthday celebration. Her 7-year-old cousin Ray had an important nonverbal message for everyone in the room. As for Ray’s dad, well, not so much.
Ray, Nicole and the other kids danced to Disney tunes in the middle of the room with feathered boa from the “Take a Selfie!” prop table. They spun around, jumped and giggled. Ray proved quite the dancer, twirling his green, yellow and purple boa overhead like a rhythmic gymnastics ribbon.
At a song break, the girls left the dance floor. They exchanged their boas for sparkly crowns, Mardi Gras beads and oversized sunglasses. They posed against the “selfie” backdrop while an aunt took photos. Ray kept dancing.
Ray didn’t care that he was by himself. His grin filled his whole face while he mastered more moves with the flowing feather boa. That’s when Ray’s dad walked over and took away the boa. “You don’t need that,” he said.
Ray stopped dancing. His face fell.
“He does need that!” I wanted to say. But I didn’t know his dad or Ray for that matter. All I knew was that in the moments before, Ray had been full of spontaneity and joy.
Later, Ray and the girls were back on the dance floor with their feathered boas. Ray’s dad called him over. “Give me that,” he said, sliding the boa from Ray’s neck. “You’re getting feathers all over the place.” Ray opened his mouth to speak, but instead turned and walked away. I’m sure he noticed that while there might have been a feather or two on the floor, no one was taking boas away from the girls.
Again, I held my tongue, and it was hard for me. I had just witnessed a father controlling the behavior of his son. So I knew Ray’s father expected him to conform to society’s established ideas about what’s appropriate for children to play with. His dad had assigned a gender to an accessory and was teaching that to Ray. Was Ray confident in those moments? Did he feel good self-esteem? Ray’s wide eyes and downturned mouth said probably not. He looked confused, and I didn’t think he was feeling too good about himself at that moment. As a result, I feared someday Ray would be made to feel shame for his choice of playthings or activities.
Maybe Ray is a gender nonconforming kid, maybe not. Either way, I was reminded that more parents and families need to see toys as just toys, colors as just colors, clothes as just clothes and kids as just kids.
To create positive change in our society we need to bring up confident, hopeful, optimistic and resilient children. We need to empower all kids with the freedom of expression and joy that comes naturally to them. And we do that moment by moment, with love, acceptance, support and respect.
For the families of transgender, gender nonconforming & all kids.
It’s the first week of January, so I have four* suggested add-ons for your list of New Year’s resolutions. Especially relevant are the ideas that affirm our collective desires for freedom, joy and personal growth. Please feel free to share them with every adult and child you know.
- I will approve of myself, my characteristics, my abilities, my likes and dislikes, my inclinations and disinclinations, realizing that these form my unique individuality. I have them for a reason.
- I will approve of and rejoice in my accomplishments, and I will be as vigorous in listing these – as rigorous in remembering them – as I have ever been in remembering and enumerating my failures or lacks of accomplishment.
- I will remember the tremendous energy, joyful spontaneity, possibilities and potential that lie within me to create that which I can imagine for myself.
- I will realize that the future is a probability. In terms of everyday experiences, nothing exists there yet. It is virgin territory, planted by my feelings and thoughts in the present. Therefore I will plant accomplishments and successes, and I will do this by focusing on how I want and expect the future to be for me.
Let’s shape a bright future for all in 2018!
*This list is adapted from one given to Jane Roberts and Robert Butts by Seth on New Year’s Day, 1979.
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