How many times must I learn this lesson? Never say never. As a parent of a 15 year-old transgender child you would think by now I would know better than to make concrete assumptions about how anything will play out in Sam’s life. But that is exactly what I did when it came to the subject of Sam attending high school dances. I completely wrote it off as something we would never, and I mean NEVER see him do. You see I had chalked that rite of passage up to something he would not be able to experience given his circumstance. So you can imagine my sheer and utter surprise when he informed me he intended to go to his school’s homecoming dance this fall.
The familiar chirp alerting me to an incoming text message went off late morning on an unusually warm day in September. I glanced at my phone to see a text message from Sam on the screen. Given the fact he was at school, I grabbed the phone quickly, thinking something might be wrong.
“I’m gonna go to homecoming!” The text read.
“Oh dear God,” I thought to myself, “What in the hell is he thinking?” As I looked at those five words on my phone screen I began making a mental list of all the reasons why he shouldn’t go. Doesn’t he know that kids like him don’t go to high school dances because they get picked on? Doesn’t he understand most parents, not to mention their children, don’t completely understand his gender variance and would probably not be comfortable having their daughter be his date? Doesn’t he realize the worry I am about to experience might just push me over the edge?! And what about a suit? He doesn’t own a suit so that settles it – he can’t go!
Instead of raining on his parade with my irrational list of excuses I did my best to hide my fear and texted a message back to him.
“That sounds great! Who are you going with?”
As I typed the words I realized, I had never been so happy to be having a conversation via text messaging as I was at that moment, for if he had seen my face he would have known instantly that I was terrified of the rejection and humiliation I thought he had before him.
“I found a great group. Some kids from band!” He texted back to me.
My fear began to subside. This actually could be okay I reasoned. A bunch of kids who probably don’t have dates, all going to the dance as a big group. While it wasn’t done when I was in high school I knew this was an acceptable practice today and I allowed a wave of relief to wash over me. But before I was able to fully enjoy my respite from fear, a third text from Sam appeared on the screen.
“I’m going to ask Madison!”
Madison is a wonderful girl and has been one of Sam’s best friends ever since he was three years old. Smart, compassionate and kind, not to mention wise beyond her years, Madison is someone who has always appreciated Sam for Sam. She also is someone who understands what he has been through and has supported him through thick and thin. All that said, I was still worried about him asking her to be his date, fearing the situation might be too awkward even for the best of friends. But that was my worry not theirs. Sam proceeded to ask her to the dance and she graciously accepted the invitation without hesitation.
The next couple of weeks leading up to the dance were filled with firsts – buying a suit for the first time, ordering a corsage, being responsible for purchasing advanced tickets with his own money and making reservations – the typical things any boy would have to do when taking a date to homecoming. We stood back and watched in amazement as he did those things we never thought we’d see him do. Madison and Sam went to the dance with a nice group of kids from his band class. They posed for pictures, ate dinner at an Italian restaurant and went to the dance, where they danced the night away (yet another thing I never thought he would do) without so much as one person making them feel uncomfortable. And they had fun. Lots of fun. So much fun that Sam happily announced at the end of the evening, as he climbed into the car and before the door was even shut, that he planned to go to the homecoming dance his junior and senior years as well.
Never say never indeed. Lesson (finally) learned.