Early this morning, March 31st I changed my profile picture, complete with frame. #TDOV I hash tagged. You see, I am the mom of a beautiful and confident transgender child and in the society we live in visibility is life. We’ve gotten word this week that our government won’t count us, that our government won’t protect us, that our human rights are subject to whims of state legislatures, and that money is more important than us. Visibility, being seen, sharing stories is life for so many in a world so hell bent on believing that transgender people don’t exist. So, in a small act of alliance I changed my profile picture for my baby, my strong and feisty daughter.
Tomorrow morning, early, I’ll wake up and edit my frame again because you see, April is Autism Awareness month and that same rainbow baby is diagnosed PDD-NOS with moderate SPD. All those fancy words mean that I have a high functioning kid who has some intense sensory issues. Intense could be an understatement. Life with my kid has been one surprising journey after another and has required a lot of learning along the way.
It was Easter, about five years ago, and it was time to eat but my then son was sitting at the back patio door opening and closing, opening and closing, opening and closing. Weird, sure but at first I didn’t think anything of it. What almost two-year-old doesn’t like messing with doors? The second I took him away from that door, you’d have thought I ripped an arm off and it did. Not. Stop. This meltdown lasted at least a half hour and was the worst thing I’d ever seen. That was when I knew it was autism but I convinced myself it was a result of prematurity and didn’t seek a diagnosis for another two years. Besides, soon enough we had other issues to contend with.
I will never remember the first time I believed that my son would likely grow up to be gay but he was probably a little older than two. As a person whose gender expression tends to be nonbinary and the only female in the house I owned a handful of “girly” things. Despite having toys galore this kid would find bags to wear over his shoulder, nasty black chunk heels, camisoles turned into dresses and pillow case wigs. I was so worried about the affinity for feminine things that I gave away a pair of red patent leather flats that he had dug out of the closet. We couldn’t get a handle on it, and then he learned to speak.
Having an autistic child who was already fighting an uphill developmental battle due to being a 12-week preemie is a strange and bizarre dance in and of itself. We didn’t get words until almost 18 months and there wasn’t any solid pattern until two. When the speech came the words ‘girl’ and ‘she’ got dropped all over the place in choppy perfect diction. I do remember sitting in the speech therapist’s office when she was working with him on pronouns and he kept saying “she” in response to “You are a…”. She’d correct and again he’d say she. The therapist said, this is just common. In my head, I retorted, ‘nothing about this is common.’ I knew. I didn’t know what I knew but I just knew.
I spent the next two and a half years arguing, debating, demanding, and disciplining my child for believing he was a girl because that’s what I was taught would fix it. All the while in my skeptic brain knowing that it would never work. You see having a transgender child who also has autism is interesting. The best way to reach my child is to get down to her level, to enter her world and I can’t say I was exactly willing. At five we hit a wall and this kid had had enough. “I’m Rosie! I’m a girl! I’m a SHE!” So many times a day for longer than ever before. It was like a mantra and if we fought it the resulting meltdown was just unbearable. So eventually we capitulated. I began to dig into scripture, I began to dig into the internet certain there had to be an answer somewhere. I watched videos of Jazz Jennings, I read interviews with Laverne Cox, I watched specials with the Lemay and the Whittington families, an impassioned speech from Debi Jackson and it was like watching all the struggles, all the difficulties we’d had kept in private being publicly revealed, explained. It was a splash of relief. We called the doctor, met with a specialist and allowed her to socially transition. Let me tell you the progress that came after we weren’t worried about the penis factor anymore, it was incredible. Allow a kid to be themselves and just watch them blossom.
I have an autistic transgender daughter and she is my hero. I couldn’t imagine living in her body and dealing with all the different feelings and sensations and discomforts that she deals with and still manages to be such a loving and considerate person. I can’t imagine being inherently different from everyone else you meet but knowing that you are incredible and letting the entire world just slough off your shoulders. She who would have pink out days every day of the week but is also completely at home in sport pants and black tee shirts, who lives in leggings and skirts, who is fiercely protective of her little brother, who believes she has love powers, who gets excited about dates, keys, and phones, who could tell you your phone model just by sight, who is ADHD and temperamental but who is always quick with a sincere apology after a meltdown. She is the most wondrous thing I’ve ever made in my life. My beautiful bundle of contradictions and anomalies. Being her mom is never easy, but I’m a better human for it.