The following blog was written by Alissa Fountain, supervisor of Children’s Minnesota’s HIV program.
My 13 year old daughter, Rubie, is an interesting and complex young person. She is an avid reader, loves video games and tells terribly corny jokes. And right around her 12th birthday, she shared that she is transgender. Unbeknown to us, she had started using her chosen name and she/her pronouns at school a few weeks prior and was now ready for the rest of the world to know her true self.
Processing this information was a huge privilege check. I had newly formed concerns about my child’s safety in the world, worried how she would be treated at school and in the larger community, scared for her physical and psychological safety in her teen years and beyond. I simultaneously held the knowledge that her intersectional privileges of being white, middle class, English speaking and often “read” as male confers safety and access that is not often the experience for transgender and gender diverse people of color and other marginalized populations. I felt relief knowing that South Minneapolis, where we live, is generally accepting of LGBTQ+ people and that we are lucky to have access to Children’s Minnesota Gender Health program for gender affirming care. In those first weeks, we also quickly connected with TransForming Families Minnesota, a local organization providing support groups and community building for families with gender diverse youth.
Rubie’s extended family has been nothing short of accepting. When I sent email sharing her name and pronouns, the responses were all positive. Her friend group quickly modified their language. A social worker at her middle school astutely noticed that she was being marked absent due to the name discrepancy and helped us complete the right paperwork to modify her name in the school system. I distinctly remember the first email that came through addressed to “Rubie.” She came tearing out of her bedroom yelling “Mom! Look!” and proudly showed me the email with a huge grin on her face. I wish for that affirmation for all transgender and gender diverse people.
Rubie has chosen to continue with a similar gender presentation as she did prior to her gender identity shift. This means that she “looks like a boy” to most people she engages with. To me, this has heightened the need for systems to normalize asking everyone about names and pronouns—so transgender and gender diverse people are not singled out and treated like the outsiders. She automatically feels safer in systems that routinely ask every person their name and pronouns, she notices inclusive language on intake forms and posters in stores that ask customers to use gender neutral language when addressing staff. She needs to know that her family and community members are actively opposing anti-trans legislation. She needs to safely be able to use public bathrooms, play sports, and know that she has legal recourse if she faces discrimination in the workplace, housing or other areas.
It breaks my heart that our relatively smooth journey is not the experience for all transgender kids. What I want to see for my child, and all transgender and gender diverse youth, is both celebration and normalization of identities. Celebration of the bravery, vulnerability, resilience and strength it takes to show up as your true self in a world that isn’t always welcoming. Normalization of name, pronoun and gender presentation variation. There is not a singular transgender experience, and on this Transgender Day of Visibility, I bring our family’s story forward to show just one example of what this journey can be.
Children’s Minnesota Gender Health Program
Children’s Minnesota Gender Health program Children’s Minnesota is a resource for your family during times of transition. The Gender Health program is an exclusively pediatric, multidisciplinary gender health program, and includes pediatric gender health, endocrinology and gynecology physicians as well as social work.
The Gender Health program provides compassionate and comprehensive care for transgender and gender-diverse youth. We’re dedicated to serving as an essential medical partner and resource for transgender youth and families along their journey. We are here to help, every step along the way.