I have been taking a break from blogging the last few days due to life (catching up from the disruptions of the week prior). There is still more to tell about the week my dad died, especially some things more germane to the topic of this blog. But today I want to share with you an exchange I had last night with my kids.
We were in the living room after having just finished dinner, when Dawn (the precocious six year old) says to me out of the blue, “Daddy, my teacher asked me in class today what your name is.”
Now, this statement immediately raised my eyebrow for a number of reasons, all of them beginning with What would possibly prompt her teacher ask her that?
I had to ask the follow-up question. “What did you tell her?”
“I told her that your name was [Birth Name], but that you were going to change it to Alison.” And then she looked up at me sweetly. “Did I get it right?”
I should mention at this point that my daughter’s teacher is not aware of my trans status. While I am slowly being “out” publicly, it had not yet extended to telling my children’s teachers (though the principal and school counselor know). I could only wonder how she reacted to Dawn’s answer.
“Did she say anything about why she wanted to know?” I asked.
“She said that she didn’t see you often and so she didn’t know what your name was.”
I was still wondering about the why? I know that some of the parents at the school know about me — I’m Facebook friends with some of them — but was it possible that things were more widely disseminating? And even if it was, would that prompt a teacher to pull a child out of line and ask a question like that so directly? I didn’t know and neither did Dawn, and an answer to the riddle wasn’t forthcoming.
“I got it right, didn’t I?” she asked again. “You’re changing your name, right?”
“It’s the same reason you shaved your beard,” she continued. “Because you’re half girl.”
I was amused by her interpretation of things, but the parent in me couldn’t leave it uncorrected.. “No, it’s because I am a girl, inside.”
“Yeah, but you’re also a boy.”
This was going to get complicated. I tried to bring the concept down to a six year old’s level. “Well, I was born a … I mean, when I was born I had boy parts, but not a boy’s mind. I’m like a boy on the outside but a girl on the inside.”
She nodded and left it there for a bit, her attention wandering the way a six year old’s attention tends to wander. But Dawn has a mind like a steel trap when she gets a subject into her head, and so not too much later, she asked me out of the blue, “What kind of dress would you buy, if you were going to buy a dress?”
I’m used to random questions from Dawn, so I just shrugged. “I don’t know. what kind of dress do you think I would buy.”
“I think you would buy a brown one,” she said matter-of-factly.
I couldn’t resist that opening. I motioned for her to follow me and led her into my bedroom. I do, in fact, own two dresses, though one is too big on me and about to be sent off to the thrift shop. I went into the closet and pulled out the other one, a sleeveless, dark blue maxi dress with an orchid print and held it up to her. “This is the kind of the dress I would buy.”
Her jaw dropped a little and she grabbed the dress at the waist, pulling it taut. “Is that a queen size?” asked my daughter the fashion critic.
I said that it was. My son Daniel happened to be lounging on my bed reading comic books at the time, and he looked over the top of one at me. “Yeah, but you look smaller now,” he said. “You lost weight.”
“Why thank you,” I said, “I have.”
Dawn dropped the dress and started to peek around me into the closet. “Do you have a red dress in there?”
“No,” I said, “But I think I have a red skirt somewhere.”
“Well I think you should wear a red dress,” she said. “You should put on a fashion show for me some day, and you should wear a red dress in it.”
I laughed out loud. “A fashion show? Maybe. It wouldn’t be weird for you to see me in a red dress?”
I was absolutely not expecting what her reply was. In fact, I wrote down Dawn’s next words after she said them (texted it to my ex, actually) so I could remember precisely what she said.
She said, “No, daddy. It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy. It just matters what you need and stuff.”
I couldn’t help but hug her after that. My little girl gets it. She may not understand every nuance, but she gets it where it matters. My son, too, has taken all this in stride. Dad’s a girl; okay, so what’s for dinner? seems to be his angle. I am, I think, a very lucky woman.
And you know what? I’ll gladly give her that fashion show someday … just as soon as I find the right red dress.
[Incidentally, I never did find out why the teacher wanted to know my name. However, just to play it safe, I gave Robin permission to talk to her the next day and let her know what was going on. The teacher was totally cool with it.]