To be fair, the guidance counselor didn't out her to the entire Middle School student body; just to her teachers, teachers that may see her out in the hallways, administrators, the school psychologist, her future high school teachers and administrators, two friends and one set of parents -- and me.
I'm not sure you could describe me as outraged (although that is certainly how I'd describe myself now...) I was probably more stunned. I'm not sure exactly why an 8th grade counselor felt the need to involve herself in a 13 year old's private life in this way.
And honestly, it was a bit hard to move to outrage because no one around me seemed to share my concern. When I vented to some friends and family, the comments were squarely focused on Kgirl.
"Isn't she too young to be gay?" Too young to date certainly, but not too young to know that she finds Mila Kunis way hotter than Channing Tatum.
"I doubt she's really gay, she's might just be saying that..." There are a lot of things that kids could say to impress family and friends, but somehow I doubt this is one of them...
"How does she know she's really gay?" Probably the same way you know you're really not...
Names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike.
Kgirl has always been a tomboy; dolls and dress-up and boy bands have never interested her. She is dyslexic and ADHD and has borderline anxiety disorder (which she hides by being tough). She was adopted from Russia. Golf is her favorite sport. There is no shortage of things to make her feel outside the mainstream.
Midway through the year, the counselor said she'd like to meet with me and apparently, the only point to the meeting was to tell me that she believes Kgirl may be gay. Um, okay. I wouldn't be surprised, nor will I be upset.
A few weeks later, I was called back in to tell me that Kgirl is, in fact, gay and she has a "girlfriend" (or whatever the eighth grade equivalent would be). She told me that I should consider getting Kgirl into counseling because "something like this could be confusing." I'm sorry -- a 13 year old girl announces she's gay and you think she's confused? Are you also meeting with the parents of straight kids and telling them that their kids may be confused? I'm fairly certain there are a lot more "straight" kids that are confused than the other way around.
I confess that when Ms Meddler told me the news, I was a touch sad. (Okay, okay, initially I actually was doing a happy dance in my head. My impetuous, impulsive, slightly rebellious, and somewhat gullible daughter would not be getting pregnant in high school!!!!!!!!!!!!!! woot woot woot!) But once my private celebration was over, the touch of sadness set in -- my daughter didn't feel like she could come out to me, she needed an intermediary. But I'm glad she had someone she could trust...
And then things got weird.
I was called in for a third meeting and this time Ms Meddler told me that Kgirl is actually Kboy. The first thing Ms Meddler wanted was for me to sign a form for the high school so that she would be registered as a boy when she started there in the fall. She gave me a phone number for Children's Hospital Boston Gender Management Clinic so I could arrange for an evaluation. Up to this point I had been patient and pleasant about this intrusion into our lives. I never wanted Kgirl to think that I was angry about her being gay, so I swallowed my annoyance over and over again. This time I pushed back.
Yes, Kgirl has short hair and she dresses in boy's clothes. In my day, we called that "butch" (Turns out we still do...) Just what in the hell are you basing this on?
Turns out that Ms Meddler talked to the family of Kgirl's girlfriend. It did not go well.
The mom was adamant that her daughter was not gay. The daughter, Makayla, agreed saying that she's not gay at all, it's just that Kgirl looks like a boy so obviously she's dating a boy. She's really not gay. Really. Promise, not gay.
She was not referred for counseling.
Mom no longer allowed Makayla to text Kgirl or talk to her on the phone. If she called the house, Mom hung up on her. Makayla and Kgirl regularly got together with another two girls, but that would no longer be possible -- they had to choose whom to invite and they usually chose Makayla. During lunch, Ms Meddler tried to maintain the friendship between the four girls, helping the other two adjust to the "special friendship" between Kgirl and Makayla. But the tiny group just fell apart.
After considerable prodding, I did call the clinic, but the intake evaluator did not feel Kgirl was a candidate. I found her a counselor that was trained in gender issues, but Kgirl wasn't interested in talking. Ms Meddler continued asking me to sign papers to declare Kgirl as Kboy. I mentioned that Kgirl has never done anything to establish herself as a boy, like adopt a boy's name. So the next day, Ms Meddler asked Kgirl what boy name would she like to use? Arrrgggghhhhhh
We had an IEP meeting with the high school and Ms Meddler brought up Kgirl's gender issues. I again said that she will be enrolling as a girl, however, I want some assurances that they can provide a safe environment for her. They mentioned the high school has an active chapter of Gay-Straight Alliance. That's it? That's the best you can do? There was a survey done at the high school a couple of years ago where 30 kids self-identified as LGBT but only 3 were out. It seems at least 27 students did not consider it a safe environment. They again mentioned the Gay-Straight Alliance and said about 95% of the members are straight. Yeah, somehow that doesn't make me feel better...
And then school ended. She quietly dropped using a boy's name. She didn't flinch when people referred to her as "she". The anger and tantrums receded to nothing. She was the Kgirl I used to know.
I didn't want to be unsupportive if she wants to become Kboy someday, but I really, truly, deeply feel that Kgirl has heard so many negative things -- through the media, through school yard taunts of being a "faggot" -- that she thought life would be easier if she switched to a boy. I wanted to make sure that she knew being gay was not a negative. So I make sure that she meets gay couples raising kids and living lives very much like her parents. I show her "It Gets Better" videos that I find interesting. We shop at J.C. Penny's because they proudly stood up for Ellen when the Million Mom Bigots attacked her.
And I brought her to a club for LGBT youth. Her first night, she came out happier than I had seen in a long time. She told me that she met someone who was considering gender reassignment surgery. So you are still thinking you may want that? "No, maybe. I don't know. I'm so confused!" Confused is good -- it means you are actually thinking it through instead of just going with someone else's vision of you. I'm pleased with this. Very pleased. And then she said it: "It's just easier being a guy digging on a girl than a girl digging on a girl..."
I'm not sure how to advise her to get through her high school years. I feel that she should come out -- be loud, be proud. I think that hiding is what gives bullies their power. When someone calls her "faggot" I would love for her to calmly say "we prefer the term gay." However, I wonder how difficult her life would become if she does come out. Will straight girls want to be friends with her or will they be worried that people will assume they are gay? Will she be able to date if others are still closeted? So I say nothing except that I'm here if you ever need to talk...
Life in high school will not be kind to a girl who looks like a boy. I'm ecstatic that Mass Department of Education recently issued directives on how to handle transgender students. Kgirl is not comfortable using the girls' room or the boys' room. She has to walk to the nurses office. She gets changed for P.E. there as well. I know that Bill O'Reilly sees this as the ruination of America, but I'm grateful.
And as aggravating as this whole episode has been, in a weird way I am grateful to Kgirl's Counselor. Kgirl turns 40 shades of red if she overhears the word "puberty" so I know that she was never going to come forward and tell me. I knew I could never ask. So instead of years of secrets and lies, she will never had to hide. She will not spend any sleepless nights wondering how her parents will react when they find out. She knows she's accepted and loved; she can live an authentic life. And that is worth all the grief that we've gone through over this last year...
But what about the kids whose parents aren't so accepting? What if Makayla is actually gay? How will she ever come out to her parents? This fall, I talked about this whole awful experience with Kgirl and she said that she never did come out to Ms Meddler. Ms Meddler asked her if she was gay. She referred to Kgirl as "he" and asked if she could help come up with a name -- something that Kgirl never thought to do until that moment. I know there are a significant number of kids who know their parents may reject them if they find out they are gay, so in those circumstances I hope they have an adult they can turn to -- a teacher, a guidance counselor, a friend. As I said earlier, I'm happy that Kgirl will not have to hide the truth from us, but this entire episode was orchestrated by the counselor and I wonder how many students have been outed to their parents. And how many kids have been damaged as a result... And who will they turn to then?