I hadn’t really intended for this blog to be a place where I would ask for advice from others. Unfortunately, I am lacking of additional outlets/resources where I might be able to get advice on my current situation, and even google was of no help this time.
Last night was my oldest daughters 11th birthday slumber party. All of the little girls in attendance were all children from the neighborhood, most of whom I have known for years. One of the girls, who lives a few houses down from us, is what her sisters refer to as a ‘tomboy’. I myself was a tomboy growing up, and in my opinion, this goes way past just being a tomboy. The girl does not like to associate/identify with anything that is of a traditionally female role. She wears boys clothing and shoes, acts like a little boy, and even shaves her head to look like a boy. I have always been under the impression that the girl was perhaps transgender, but I never really thought much of it. I’ve known the girl for a few years, and she has always portrayed herself as more masculine than feminine. This was never an issue for me, and obviously wasn’t an issue for my daughters who have been friends with the girl for years, so I never even thought to ask any questions about it. All of that changed last night.
Perhaps it is because there was a recent news story about the tragic suicide of the young transgender youth, Leelah Alcorn, or maybe it is just that the girl is getting older (11 now, but looks 13), but people are starting to pay more attention to it. Last night, a few parents almost did not let their daughters stay for the party because they thought I was letting a boy stay the night. I uncomfortably had to correct them, but I was caught a bit off-guard about how to correct them, as I myself do not really know the details of the girls situation. I do not know if she prefers to identify as male and if she is in fact transgender, or maybe she is to young to even really be aware of what transgender is. Maybe she really is just the most extreme case of ‘being a tomboy’ that I have ever seen. I had never thought to ask her, and when the thought finally did enter my mind last night, I was too worried that the question might make her feel uncomfortable. Normally, I try to avoid gender identifying terms when talking to/about her, and try to use her name as often as possible, but I have made slip ups in both directions. Even the other girls at the party who have been friends with her for years sometimes slip and refer to her as ‘him’. She does not seem bothered by this, and responds just the same no matter how you refer to her, which further fuels my belief that she is comfortable with identifying as male.
My daughters party last night was very girly in nature, and the girl made sure to make it clear that she was only there because she was my daughter’s friend and would most likely not be partaking in any of the ‘girly’ activities, which included things such as makeup, nails, decorating shirts and making tutus. I told her she was welcome to participate or not participate in whatever she liked. When the girls did nails, she changed her mind and decided she would like A nail done. Just one. Just to see what it was like. During makeup, she didn’t want to put on makeup herself, but let the other girls put makeup on her ‘as a joke’. During the making of tutus, she quickly exclaimed “I am not making a tutu!” but the way she watched all the other girls gather their ribbons and tulle, it seemed to me that she really wanted to join in. I said to her in a joking manner (though I was completely serious, but didn’t want to come off as pushy) that if she wanted, she could make a tutu for my husband to sport around. She loved that idea, and immediately gathered her desired tulle and ribbons. She seemed to really enjoy all of the projects and ‘girly’ activities that we did last night, while still trying to maintain as much masculinity as possible. It reminded me of the way a little boy might act at a girls party. And yes, my husband did sport the tutu. I have pictures to prove it 😛
This morning as I woke up, fed and sent all of the children back to their homes, I couldn’t stop thinking about the situation. This was mostly fueled by the reaction I received from the other parents last night. I started thinking about how I would deal with this situation further down the line. As the girls get older, they are going to continue to want to have slumber parties. If I continue to include this particular little girl, are other parents going to have an issue with it? Am I creating a situation that they might not be comfortable exposing their daughters too? Will this girl even still be taking on a masculine role a few years down the line? I decided the first thing I needed to figure out was how the child herself felt, and how she would prefer to identify. I don’t want to make her uncomfortable by asking her though. My next thought was to go talk to her mother about it, but in all of the years we have been neighbors, she and I have only spoken once, and she doesn’t come off as the most approachable person. My home is the default go-to location for her children anytime they get locked out of their home, but she has never come to my home herself. I am worried that trying to talk to her might offend/upset her, so maybe that isn’t a great plan. My next idea was to just ask my daughter. I decided to go ahead with this plan, but that ended up being unhelpful as well. Apparently, in all the years of friendship, my daughter has never cared or thought to ask why her friend dressed like/acted like a boy. On one hand, I am thrilled that I have raised my daughter to view everyone equally regardless of gender/sexual orientation/skin color/etc. but on the other hand.. that isn’t helping me right now!! 😛
It is for this reason that I am now asking for public advice on how to approach the situation and what would be the best course of action. I have absolutely no problem with the girl being friends with my daughter or staying in my home, regardless of what gender she identifies as. I would however like to know what she prefers to identify as, so I can avoid making any errors that might make her uncomfortable. I would also like opinions on how I should handle future situations, such as slumber parties, as the girls get older. I don’t ever want to do anything to make the girl feel like she is being excluded from things just because she may be transgender. Any help/ideas/opinions on the situation would be greatly appreciated!