XX vs. XY

“When did you know for sure?”

Everyone we meet wants to know the answer to that question when they hear we have a transgender child.  Some, perhaps, so that they can calm unspoken fears about the possibility their own tomboy daughter or feminine son might be gender variant.  And most others because they are genuinely interested.

I remember Sam always gravitating to traditional male activities…male friends…male play.  From Match Box cars and CAT bulldozers to baseball jerseys and Bob the Builder reruns…Sam was all boy, even if he was a girl.

At the age of three a well-meaning preschool teacher sent a photo home with Sam.  The woman just as pleased to share what fun our child was having at school as Sam was to be hand delivering a picture that was sure to make the refrigerator hall-of-fame.  As I studied the photo of three young children playing ‘House,’ a sick feeling began to grow in my stomach.  In front of me were two girls engaged in traditional gender role-play, happily assuming the coveted parts of mother and child, and then there was Sam, complete with a fake beard, sport coat, top hat and a grin from ear-to-ear.

When I asked Sam what role ‘she’ was playing the tone, more than the answer, caught me off guard.  With a confident, don’t-you-get-it-mom inflection in ‘her’ voice Sam proclaimed, “I’m the DAD!”  An even more incredulous tone ensued when I asked why ‘she’ was playing that part.  “Because that is who I am!” ‘she’ explained with frustration.   At that point I was hoping the answer would have been, “…because they made me be the Dad,” for I would have much rather dealt with a daughter not standing up to ‘her’ classmates, than a child who was starting to tell us in the only way ‘she’ knew how, that there was a disconnect between mind and body.

The early years were filled with more of these types of anecdotes than I care to remember, each one providing varying degrees of uneasiness for my husband and me.  But it was the revelation Sam came home with in 3rd grade that provided me with my proverbial ah-ha moment.

In 3rd grade students at our local public elementary school get their first lesson on the subject of chromosomes.  Nothing too complex mind you, just the basic information on XY sex-determination.  Well as it turned out, that day proved to be monumental for Sam, who jumped off the bus in the afternoon eager to share something important.

“I know what is wrong with me!” Sam exclaimed, grabbing a piece of paper and a pencil with an eraser before the back door was even closed.

“There is nothing wrong with you,” I replied, scared of where this conversation was going.

“Look mom…” Sam said, as ‘she’ wrote in large letters XX followed by XY.  “…girls have XX chromosomes and boys have XY,” ‘she’ went on.

Okay, I thought.  So far I can deal with this discussion.

Sam continued, “Something happened to my Y – it was supposed to be a Y but it turned into an X (erasing the bottom stem of a sloppily drawn Y) and that is why I am a girl when I was really suppose to be a boy.”

All I could feel at that moment was an excruciating pain in my heart thinking about the magnitude of the internal struggle my child must be enduring for ‘her’ to come away with this self-diagnosis from a simple 3rd grade science lesson.

I did not try to deny Sam’s feelings any longer; instead I picked up the phone and called my husband at work to share Sam’s revelation.  It was that afternoon we both knew we were facing something bigger than we had once thought.  While difficult at the time, we will always reflect positively on that day, for it marked the beginning of our journey down a new path – one that would help our child become who he was really meant to be.


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9 Responses to XX vs. XY

  1. Seth says:

    Thank you for blogging and your thoughtful, compassionate narrative voice. I have very much enjoyed reading the first few posts and will continue to read them as you write them.

    The LGBT community has had an internal struggle for a long time. The L’s and the G’s often at odds with one another, and both dealing uncomfortably with the B’s and even more so the T’s. Sounds convoluted I know, but it’s my hope that blogs like yours will help a G like me better understand my friends and neighbors’ experiences.

    Thank you again.

    • Matt says:

      “Sounds convoluted I know, but it’s my hope that blogs like yours will help a G like me better understand my friends and neighbors’ experiences.”

      I second that!! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

  2. Sam has wonderful parents! The seas will be rough at times for Sam and you, but the more people like you write like this, the better it will get for everyone else. Thanks for sharing this very special journey with us all.

  3. Karin says:

    Beautifully written! I found you through Sarah Hoffman’s facebook page and am so glad I did! I’ve read all of the posts you’ve written, and I am anxious to hear more about Sam’s journey so far! Keep writing!!

  4. Tracie says:

    Love your blog!! We are raising a gender creative six year old who loves all things pink and sparkly! When he was younger he would tell us all the time that when he grew up he wanted to be a girl….at the moment he identifies as a boy but is expressing a budding desire for more feminine clothing. It is a journey that we are very open and accepting of and know that it will be an evolving journey as he grows up, which is why it is so nice to connect with others who are on similar journeys. Raising a child with gender differences can be very isolating especially in small town communities! I am looking forward to reading about your experiences and would love it if you checked out our blog….catchingourrainbows.blogspot.com I will definitely be adding your blog to our blog roll!!

  5. I think it’s great that you’re writing about this. My son Trey knew starting from the age of 2 that he “was supposed to be a boy”, and that when he grew up he was “going to be a boy.” His dad and I used to say, “Sweetie, it doesn’t work that way, you were born a girl, you’re a girl,” because that was our understanding at the time.

    It took until he started in his high school’s GLBT group for him to figure out he is transgender, and he hasn’t looked back. His journey has been very mixed: at my house, his step dad and I were completely supportive, but his dad and step mom are Modern Orthodox Jews and have been struggling with this., still calling him “Rachel” and “she.”

    Since we moved away he has been living with them full time and is living life as a male everywhere. He got his legal name and gender change last September, and hasn’t followed through on what he says he wants to do in order to set up testosterone and top surgery. Sam is much larger than Trey and already passes, as far as my perception goes; Trey is only 5′ tall and 85 lbs, so it’s hard for me to imagine him ever passing as anything more than a cute gay boy – not female, but no MALE about him either. Maybe once he’s been on T for a while and has surgery…

    I’m happy for Sam and for you that you all figured this out so early, I wish Trey’s circumstances had been different and that we all had, and had been supportive from the beginning.

  6. Autumn says:

    Sam is truly so lucky to have you BOTH as parents.
    The unconditional love you give is absolutely awesome! Wish I had parents like you.

  7. Pam says:

    I found this blog through a friend of a family member on the IMATYFA site. I am just getting started good on your blog starting with July 2011. This is really fresh for me. My daughter, who just turned 18 last month, just told her brother, dad, & myself two nights ago that she is transgender… she feels more comfortable as a boy than a girl. I know that all situations will differ. But from what I have read so far is nothing like my experiences with her as a child. She hated baby dolls but loved to play with Barbies. She never acted interested in playing with her brothers toys (trucks, soldier dolls, etc) not that I would have stopped either of them playing with each other & each others toys. She loved to play in the mud but only after she put on her “grown up” dress up clothes from a box of costume dresses & shoes used to play dress up. I’m not sure about any ah ha moment or think of a 20/20 hind sight moment to tell me that this daughter of mine is in any way shape or form masculine or thinks she’s masculine. I know it’s possible I could be in denial… it is very fresh for me. But I just don’t see it. No drawings, no acting like a boy, no playing like a boy. She has an equal amount of friends of both sexes. She has gay friends & straight friends. She makes good grades & doesn’t do drugs. She’s definitely not athletic but artistic… always reading, writing, & mostly drawing… which has gotten her accepted to a good art school in Atlanta. The only un-normal thing she has done is she couldn’t care less when she got her drivers liscense (she still has her permit). She knows that both her parents love her no matter what. And we’ve reinforced that since her coming out to us. I did ask her that she not do anything permanent for now… not that any of us could afford it… still not sure how we’re going to afford college. Sorry to ramble but like I said this is very fresh for me & I’m trying to understand more. I will continue as time permits to read your blog. I’m hoping that it will help but so far I have more confusion because my daughter’s childhood seems so normal compared to the experience with your child… unless she did a good acting job on me to hide it.

  8. Jess says:

    I’m just now finding this blog for some reason. This post in particular has me transfixed. I know this child. I have this child. My kiddo is now 11 but has been “out” 2 years now. I am anxious to read more.

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