This mum’s refreshingly obvious approach to raising a nine-year-old trans girl is a masterclass in parenting
‘If you don’t want a trans kid, then don’t have kids,’ the saying goes.
One mum in Vancouver has taken this to the next level with her unflinching love and support for her transgender nine-year-old, and on reading her parenting tips it’s safe to say that they should be required course material for anyone planning to start a family.
Writing for CBC, parenting blogger Anne Bruinn describes the process of her child coming out as a girl aged four, and how she’s since navigated school, family and friends with a trans kid in tow.
Anne’s refreshing take on parenting – “We tell Ryder she is just a girl who was born with a penis,” she writes. “No biggie.” – could hardly be more welcome at this time.
Suicide-prevention organisation The Trevor Project just found that nearly a third of trans and non-binary youth have attempted suicide in the past year; anti-trans bills are being passed across the US; and right-wing governments the world over – including in the UK, Hungary and Poland – are using the pandemic as cover to attack trans and non-binary citizens.
For a trans kid, a hostile debate in the media – regardless of any kind of consideration for the feelings or views of the children themselves – about their lives, genitals and healthcare, is truly heartbreaking to consider.
For Anne, the issue is far simpler than cisgender commentators make out. “Peoples’ opinions mean nothing,” she writes. “Nobody is more important than our children.”
“Someone once asked me if I had taken her to a psychiatrist. I looked at them like they were mad and said, ‘Why would I do that? She’s not mentally ill. She’s happy and well adjusted!'” Anne says, adding: “And that was the last time I spoke to them because I don’t need to explain things to anyone.”
Ryder, who is now nine, grew her hair long at the age of three and wanted to wear dresses and pigtails to preschool. “We knew from the very beginning that our child didn’t fit the mould,” Anne explains.
At four, she “sat on the couch crying heavy, sobbing tears” and told her mum: “I want to be a girl! I want to be a girl!”
Anne calmly replied: “You can be a girl. Of course you can. Be a girl!”
Describing how the school “knew exactly what to do”, Anne says that she was reassured that Ryder was in a safe place when the principal walked her to the single-person bathroom every day of the first week.
While some people still “falter” with using female pronouns, “Ryder doesn’t mind; she just rolls with the punches,” Anne says. “We all do. We’ve never used the word ‘transgender’ in her presence so if she knows it, it was taught at school.
“When people ask if we have kids, we reply, ‘Yes! Two girls.’ Ryder is gentle and sweet and friendly and clever. And so funny! She loves to laugh, play games, do magic tricks, and play with her friends (all female).”
Moreover, Anne has another straightforward answer for the anti-trans crowd, who often claim that being trans is “just a phase” that children will grow out of, and that by affirming a trans child’s gender the parents are doing them harm.
“Maybe she’ll decide she wants to be male when she’s older,” Anne says, going on to point out the blindingly obvious.
If that happens, “then we’ll just switch pronouns again,” she says. “We’re flexible like that.”
Her child “lives in light and joy, and it radiates from her like sunshine” Anne adds.
“We have given her space and courage to be herself, but she has given us an equally precious gift: the strength and resolve to put our children’s happiness above our fears.”
While Anne acknowledges that not all of the people around their family have been as supportive, she says there’s a very simple solution to that. “If she had a problem at school and was being bullied, we would move schools. If someone has a problem with her gender, they are cut out of our lives.”
In the end, Anne says, it’s the simplest thing of all to love and support her trans daughter.
“We would move heaven and earth for her,” she says. “What wouldn’t you do for your child?”