Follow The Leader

I sat next to my husband slumped down in my seat, bracing myself for the fallout.  In fact, if there were seat belts on the theater chairs, mine would have been fastened and if the lights had not already been dim, I would have donned dark glasses to hide the tears I was sure were about to come.  We were attending the 8th grade band concert and it was the first time Sam had decided to wear the boy’s performance attire, that being black pants, white button-down shirt, a tie and men’s dress shoes.  Fearing the backlash I begged him not to, but the thought of wearing the designated girl’s outfit turned his stomach more than any ridicule he may receive from his classmates for being true to himself.

The curtain opened and the band filed in as I slid further down in my seat.  Amidst the crowd of self conscious middle-schoolers was Sam, head held high, actually proud of how he was dressed for the first time in his life, he would later tell me.  I quickly scanned the audience to observe any obvious, outward reactions, my radar on high alert, my nails dug into the armrest, but nevertheless at the ready.  There were a few people whose body language implied surprise, and some whispers here and there, but in reality they could have been talking about anything, and most likely it wasn’t about Sam.  The thing is, when you are in a situation like this, with a child that is not like the rest, you can’t help but assume everyone’s attention is focused on your kid.  You imagine a huge, cartoon-like magnifying glass hanging over your child, accentuating their every move, exposing all their differences, and broadcasting their thoughts in bubbles above their heads for all to see.  Complete nonsense?  Yes, I know, but that imaginary magnifying glass is something I have yet to shatter no matter how hard I try.

When I finally came to my senses, realizing that we had once again evaded the worst-case scenario that I had already re-played one hundred times in my head, I sat up straight, ashamed for doubting my child.  I clapped the loudest of any parent in that theater and even yelled the dreaded “WOO HOO!” a shout-out made famous by proud moms all over the world, when he stood to perform a saxophone solo.  He knew what he had to do for himself, to feel good about himself, and I should not have been reluctant to follow his lead.

Lesson #522 learned.

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3 Responses to Follow The Leader

  1. Sara says:

    Woo hoo indeed! Good for Sam! (And good for you too. Maybe you were scared, but you let him be himself, and you were there to support him and that matters.)

  2. Rev2bebt says:

    Just found my way here via Mombian, and wanted to say how glad I am to have read this. Sam is lucky to have you, and sounds like a neat person. Would you let him know, please, that there’s folks in New England wishing and praying for love, peace, health and happiness for him and your whole family?

  3. Becky Henry says:

    Leslie, every time I read your posts or stories I keep thinking the same thing: “If people would only mind their own business none of this would be an issue.” You and Sam and all the other families living with gender variant children are teaching the world to be more accepting. It’s not an easy thing I can see. It is important and I’m grateful for all you are doing and am so glad to support the work you are doing in any way I can.

    I have noticed since I’ve met you and been learning so much about this topic that most people are very tuned into (and seem to find it important) the gender of other people. And feel free to comment on it. This is baffling to me. But I am really conscious of people making comments about other people’s bodies because of the work I do with families of those with eating disorders. We have a phrase that we have all taught our children to say when Someone From High School or Somebody feels it is necessary to make a comment about weight or appearance. It is, “My body is not up for a topic of discussion.” I’d love to find a kinder gentler way to say that but have not found it yet. It seems that if people would just not comment on other’s bodies then life would feel kinder and gentler and more accepting for all.

    I too wish for peace, health and happiness for Sam and all people.
    Becky Henry
    Hope Network, LLC

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