My son, Aaron, is a seventeen-year-old transboy. Looking back, I realize that Aaron has never truly changed. Aaron has always been a boy – a boy that was dressed in girls’ clothes, given girls’ toys, and held to the social expectations of a girl. When Aaron was three, I registered him for an art camp for four- and five-year-olds. Aaron demonstrated exceptional artistic talent at a very young age, and I assumed that she would be able to blend in with the group of older children since her artistic talent far surpassed that of most young children. Upon arriving to pick up Aaron at the end of the first day of camp, the teacher approached me and said that he “needed to have a word with me.” Being a teacher, I knew exactly what that meant. I looked at Aaron, who was grinning from ear to ear, as the teacher explained that Aaron had punched a boy in the stomach while waiting in line at the sink. Aaron replied that the boy had said, “You’re just a dumb girl.” Clearly, Aaron was a girl in our eyes. Evidently, Aaron had acted inappropriately, especially in society’s eyes, where girls aren’t supposed to engage in physical altercations with boys. The teacher gave me a stern look and recommended that I adhere to the age requirements when registering Aaron for future classes because Aaron was “obviously not as mature as the four- and five-year-old girls”.
At the age of three and a half, Aaron began preschool. Over the course of the two years that Aaron was there, the teacher’s comments included statements such as, “Aaron doesn’t like to play with the girls. At recess, Aaron collects bugs and keeps them in her pockets. When we try to talk to Aaron, she just gets defensive.” I heard similar comments from Aaron’s kindergarten teacher. I assumed that Aaron wasn’t like a typical girl because Aaron always played with her older brother. I assumed that Aaron didn’t like what the other girls were doing in school because Aaron was so bright and didn’t have the same interests. (At the age of four, Aaron told me he wanted to be a neonatologist when he grew up… and he actually knew what a neonatologist was!)
When Aaron was ten-years-old, Aaron began dressing more like a boy. When I would take Aaron shopping for clothes, she didn’t like one thing I would select and we would usually leave the mall arguing. Needless to say, I don’t have fond memories of the trips to the mall, but I’m certain those memories don’t compare to the nightmare
that the shopping experiences must have been for Aaron.
One summer, when Aaron was eleven, Aaron wanted to go to baseball camp. Aaron was the only girl at the camp, and I was worried how she would fit in. At the end of the first week, Aaron didn’t want to continue due to the teasing that took place. I expected it to be difficult for a girl to attend a baseball camp with all boys. I had no idea at the time what the true struggles were that Aaron faced at this camp.
The following summer, Aaron had a great deal of trouble sleeping. One night around midnight, he came to my door, knocked, and asked if we could talk. We sat in the living room for about an hour before Aaron spoke. Then Aaron finally said it. Aaron told me that he felt that God had made a mistake and that he felt like he was a boy trapped in a girl’s body. Aaron told me that he hated himself and wanted to know why this happened. I had no answers. I had no words. I had no idea how to comfort him. Here my daughter sat before me telling me she should have been a boy. I saw the tremendous anguish my child was experiencing and I knew I had to find help for my child.
The next morning, I researched gender issues online and I found a psychologist in our area that was familiar with these issues. Aaron was eventually diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder. Although we were learning about transgender issues as a family and making progress in our understanding of Aaron, this hasn’t been an easy journey for Aaron. He has had to struggle with bullying and maltreatment by students and adults at school. He has had to watch other boys have the life he wanted. He has had to deal with so much more than the average teenage boy.
Over the past two years, Aaron has been physically transitioning to male. I refer to his transition as “physically transitioning” because Aaron has always been a boy – a boy that was dressed in girls’ clothes, given girls’ toys, and held to the social expectations of a girl. Aaron is and always will be Aaron – a gifted artist, musician, and philosopher. He is also one of the bravest people I have ever known. Aaron is a soldier in a battle for self-acceptance and societal-acceptance, and I am so proud to be his mother. Aaron has taught me what it really means to love someone for who they are and that there are times when you need to challenge both personal and societal belief systems. The piece of art that I have chosen to display on this website was drawn by Aaron at the age of 16, and I feel this piece best depicts his battle with gender identity. As you will note, the soldier is not alone, and I hope that other children will find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their struggles with gender identity.