I have perfect hindsight. In fact I am fairly certain it is 20/20, given my ability to look back on Sam’s early childhood and be able to tell you exactly what was going on. Upon reflection, I recognize many of Sam’s actions and behaviors pointing smack-dab in the transgender direction. Nothing specifically causing alarm, but taken in totality, an undeniable pattern emerges. As you continue to read this post, it is important to remember two things: that gender has a broad spectrum and that no two experiences are the same. With that in mind, I share a few more anecdotes of what our family has encountered, pieces of our story that only recently came into focus, as we look back to help others go forward.
Mirror Mirror On the Wall: I have never seen a child any less interested in looking at their reflection than Sam. Throughout the years I would have him try on outfits and then say, as most moms do, “…oh, that is so cute on you – go look at yourself in the mirror.” Inevitably what would follow was his standard response, “No thanks,” which was never forlorn, just not at all interested (or so I thought at the time). In hindsight, I am sure it was because he loathed the girl staring back at him in the mirror (the one I had so proudly dressed in pink from head-to-toe … from the iridescent headband adorned with poppy flowers that matched the velvet dress, which complimented the white patent leather Mary Jane shoes). In his mind she didn’t exist and even if she did, he sure as hell wasn’t interested in looking at her.
Say Cheese: Pictures were just like mirrors for Sam; they captured an image that was as foreign to him as if I had superimposed a three-headed monster into a family photo where he had been standing. Truth be told, I imagine he would have much preferred to see a monster in his spot, rather than an image of a girl captured for posterity. Whenever we took pictures he would deliberately ruin them by smiling with a forced Cheshire cat grin, which he knew I hated. Another tried-and-true tactic he employed without remorse was to look away the second he saw my index finger hit the shutter release thereby reducing my shot to an awkward family photo that had no chance of seeing the light of day in a frame on the fireplace mantel, let alone the inside of a photo album.
Penis Envy, For Real: I suppose Freud would roll over in his grave if he knew I was offering a twist on his famous theory but here I go anyway. When Sam was three, she would try to sneak-a-peak of any penis within a one-mile radius. We even had a name for it – Penis Patrol – and joked that we most certainly needed to keep an eye on her when she became a teenager, if this was the way she was already behaving as a child. Sam did not discriminate when it came to being on Penis Patrol– young, old, acquaintances and family it didn’t matter, the fascination was there and being discreet was never a concern. And so we would laugh and make light of the situation with our friends, who shared our sense of humor and lack of concern for this atypical toddler behavior. Eleven years later, I am sure that behavior was true penis envy – not Freud’s version – I mean literally she was envious of the boys because Sam’s mind was telling her that she was supposed to have one of those too, but unfortunately it was missing.
So many things make sense now to my husband and me. Alas the major downfall of having 20/20 hindsight is the regret that comes with it. If I knew then what I know now, would I have done anything differently? Who knows. But I would like to think I would have been more accepting from the get-go had I known. So I dedicate this blog post to all the parents who might be wondering about their own kids and where they land on that gender spectrum. I gladly share glimpses of our family’s experience so that your sight can be 20/20 from the beginning.