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'I'll Go With You': Vowing to Support My Transgender Son

One mom struggles to navigate bathroom discrimination and Initiative 1515 with her son

Published on: June 07, 2016

My son Wilder came out to me as transgender at 11 years old. He is now 12, and it's been almost a year. He doesn't identify as transgender and only identifies as a boy. Wilder stopped using his first name (Autumn) and now uses his middle name (Wilder), and he only uses he/him pronouns. He dresses in stereotypical "boy" clothing and has cut his hair very short. He has already begun puberty and is very developed for a 12-year-old, including having a period and large breasts. He would rather have long hair and not bind his breasts, but this is difficult because he wants to be seen in public as a "boy" and this goes against "what a boy should look like." While I had some initial shock and fear, I have been 100 percent supportive of Wilder and have become an advocate for him as well as others facing issues such as Initiative 1515.

From the moment Wilder came out, he was adamant that he was a boy and that he would be using the boy's/men's restroom when in public. Wilder's father doesn't live in Seattle, and Wilder is often out in public with me alone. This is definitely a difficult position for us to be in. While the law is on our side at this time, we fear that it will change and Wilder will no longer be protected, at least under the law. I am already uneasy with Wilder using the men's restroom for safety's sake.  If the law was not on our side, it would be even more scary. 

The simple act of needing to pee for my child is a complicated and scary action. While we are facing these issues surrounding the bathroom, we also don't want there to be a segregated bathroom for transgender individuals for so many reasons, including the fact that my child does not identify as transgender. Transgender bathrooms are another form of discrimination, could cause additional focus to be placed on people who are already discriminated against, and could increase hate crimes on transgender people. 

Every time my child is made to feel different or afraid of being who he is, it effects his self-confidence and is emotionally painful. Transitioning while going through puberty is frightening. The realities of severe depression and suicide are real. I believe that people should be able to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. I have spent numerous occasions standing outside of a men's public restroom afraid of what my child might face inside the bathroom alone. When he has taken too long, I have actually walked in myself to check on him. So far nothing scary has happened, but it is constantly on my mind.

I want people to know that transgender youth and adults aren't making a decision to be trans. They are being true to who they are.

As the founder, head of school and teacher at Taproot School, I have created with my staff an inclusive school where gender is honored as a spectrum and you choose your pronouns and bathroom. We are inside a community building, and this has been a learning curve for those sharing the building, but they are working hard to understand. My third–fifth-grade group has written a letter that we sent to our state officials in hopes that it will help. We are a small, tight-knight community, and all of my students have known Wilder for years and saw his transition, so this is very personal to them.

Wilder is in a small private school, and while initially it was difficult for some of the staff to understand, they have been supportive. They don't have gender-specific bathrooms, and it hasn't been an issue so far.

I want people to know that transgender youths and adults aren't making a decision to be trans. They are being true to who they are. Having certain genitals does not make one male or female. Gender is a spectrum, and you can identify as male, female, both or neither. It is fluid. At school we have many students who prefer to use the pronoun they, and one student you uses he/him and she/her interchangeably. I also want people to know that every single day is a struggle to not be judged and misunderstood. That it is crucial for friends and family to be 100 percent supportive. Depression and suicide are my major concerns. It is a hard road. The world is set up for the gender binary, but the percentage of people living out or closeted who don't fall within this binary is significant. I want people to be respectful of other people's wishes to be who they are.

I've heard many people complain about the bathroom laws from both sides with a sort of "does it really matter" attitude. That type of thinking makes me think of the quote: "Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because its is not a problem to you personally!" by David Gaider. As well as: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor" by Desmond Tutu.

There is a campaign called "I'll go with you." It would be great if as many people as possible could join and be available to support those who need a buddy to go with them. You can make or buy buttons to wear.

Obviously the bathroom issue goes way beyond having to pee. Forcing someone to use a bathroom they don't identify with is discrimination to the very core of someone's being. Telling people they don't know who they are. Trying to control how others feel, think and need to exist. Using the toilet has become a political act, and that is just ludicrous.

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