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When my youngest child started pointing at little boys in picture books, saying, “That’s me,” I was surprised. At first, we corrected her. “You’re a girl, but you can pretend to be this boy if you want to.” Then, after discussing it, we decided to take it at face value. We stopped correcting her. Yet I didn’t change pronouns or toss out dresses and pink shorts and other articles of clothing which were passed down from my older child.

If anyone was equipped to deal with a transgender child, it was us. When the time was right, we would change pronouns. We’d let him start hormone therapy as soon as he was ready. We would refinance the house to pay for top surgery. We would do almost anything to ensure that the transition was smooth.

When I cut Phoebe’s hair, I used clippers, using a YouTube tutorial as a guide. I left some length on top, skater boi style. The difference was pretty striking. She really did look like a boy. After the haircut, I noticed that I felt some loss around my perception of my child as female. I felt fear about how my child might be treated. My child attends a Montessori school filled with people who are like-minded in terms of empathy and rejecting cultural stereotypes, but kindergarten at a public school is only two years away. And what then?

That said, her hair looked adorable. The very next day, she wore her favorite sundress. After a few days, Shea pointed out that her sister’s old pictures didn’t look like her anymore. “Phoebe looks weird in pictures with long hair now,” she said. “I like her short hair better.” More importantly, so did Phoebe. She reveled in the fact that she no longer needed the tangles brushed out of her hair.

Strangers made comments like, “So why the short hair? Did her sister cut it?” They would give me a knowing look, as if to say, “I’ve been there!” Or this gem: “Did she have lice?” I shrugged and said, “She wanted it. And we all love it.” One stranger at the swimming pool asked why my son was wearing a girl’s swimsuit. I can understand people being curious, but the questions point to one thing — if your child deviates from gender norms, be ready to explain why.

The other day, when we were driving, Phoebe revealed that she didn’t want to wear “girls” clothes anymore. I asked her: “Tell me about the clothes you like. What kind of shirt do you want to wear?”

"Boys’ shirts."

"What does a boys’ shirt look like?"

"Blue. Black. With cars on it or dinosaurs or sharks."

"So you want a shirt with cars or dinosaurs on it. Maybe even a shark!"

"Yeah, and blue!"

We went to the thrift store that week. The boys and girls clothes were all on the same rack. She picked out a gray shirt with a red 1965 Mustang on it, and a brown Diego shirt. Some khaki shorts “like Daddy’s.” She couldn’t have been happier.

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-When Gender Norms Didn’t Work For My Kid | Erika Kleinman for the Huffington Post Gay Voices  (via gaywrites)