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MARCH 23, 2011 9:32PM

But what will people think?

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                  There are many who dare not kill themselves for fear
                  of what the neighbours will say. Cyril Connolly

As Ruthie transitioned, we were confronted with varied reactions from the people in our life:


My first semi-unsuccessful chat, was with a neighbor. I told her Ruthie was born in the wrong body. She seemed to listen well enough, and so I asked her, "I don't want people talking about us behind our backs, if you hear anybody with questions can you tell them to address us directly?" Soon after I discovered she had been talking about us to a mutual friend to the tune of "how could a child that young possibly know??" I could have explained...


In the school yard I overheard children sniggering as they passed us. I bristled, but at least Ruthie was oblivious. ADHD can have it's benefits.


Before Ruthie transitioned she was having trouble in the lunch line for her feminine behavior. I called up the cafeteria worker to explain the situation. She said, "Oh, I understand. You know my sister's gay." Same with the dentist assistant's cousin. Likewise the middle school secretary's daughter. 


Not long after baseball season started Ruthie changed her name and pronouns--luckily it was at least a co-ed league. Before we broke the news to the team I told a fellow baseball parent whom I didn't otherwise know. Hearing our story she burst out in tears, overwhelmed, saying what an amazing thing for this child to leave China and get to start out anew in a loving family who accepted her.


The same mother above met me the next week and told me she had been defending us at church. She told her fellow parishioners that they didn't know our family, so who were they to judge? Similarly, a friend who lived in a different school district bumped into me at the supermarket  and enthusiastically informed me that she'd been standing up for me. Grateful though I was, there was a side of me that didn't want to know strangers around town were gossiping about our family. Ignorance might have been bliss.


Three casual acquaintances surprised us by sending cards and one by calling  expressing their support. In a note Ruthie's teacher wrote:

I was very impressed with how the whole 3rd grade handled the talk this morning. They were the ones reminding me to change her name tag and when I called her L by accident they reminded me.


My brother wrote, "I guess your husband's family was finally due for a girl grandchild! Congratulations...you can count on us to accept her choices. Cindy will have to share the spotlight now." Even more so my mother was thrilled to have another granddaughter to shop for and promptly took her to the mall.


Gay friends would tell me that "he" probably was just gay. Others would tell me "he" would grow out of it (and still do.)

A friend told me she had been a tomboy her whole life, only hung with boys, excelled at sports and would have agreed to be a boy if somebody had asked her. Maybe, but she never insisted she was a boy.

Others would pinpoint any "boy-like" behavior in her and claimed proof she was "really a boy." She loves to duel with sticks and run around crazily, hence she's a boy? People have trouble understanding there is no real gender duality, rather a gender spectrum. 


One doctor we saw just ignored the information, even though her name on the file had been changed. He continued to address Ruthie as "him," even commenting on the scabs and bruises on her legs that "boys will be boys." After two such appointments we found a new doctor.


TYFA monitored closely the more well-known "hate groups" for reactions to our news (so we didn't have to see it.) While there were many  nasty discussion for weeks, they eventually petered out. Some sent hateful letters to Ruthie's school principal. Luckily no one has ever been mean to us personally, which isn't always so for families with transgender children.

 And so...

Overall we've been relatively fortunate. Ruthie still gets some jabs from classmates, which is upsetting, but she rallies. As long as she's not stealth there will always be unwanted attention. If I can give back by writing and helping others through this process, then it will be worth it.

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Loving Ruthie's story!
I second TWC. Loving Ruthie and her story and the way your writing captures the love in your family, even while you sensitize others.
All I can say is that you're a good writer and that you're brave. My son, who recently turned 11, used to wish he was a girl, but now thinks differently about it although he still will occasionally dress up as a girl and pretend he is one. As he gets older, his girly traits are disappearing although he remains an extremely sensitive child. My guess is that he'll end up being gay, but who knows for sure. I just allow the transformations to take place and will always defend him if he gets teased by his own brothers. No matter what or who, my love is a constant...and he knows that.
So happy for the update. I was just thinking about Ruthie earlier in the week. She doesn't know us, but she has a huge group of well wishers. You do too!
Patricia, thanks for your comment. I'm really struggling with writing, as I've been avoiding my creative voice for 20 odd years.

When I hear of boys like yours, and the tom boy described above, i sometimes have doubts. If we just let Ruthie be a "girly boy" or as some call them "pink boys" might she end up "just gay?" I always check in with Ruthie and let her know we will follow her wherever she wants to go, even if it means the embarrassment of saying she is a boy after all. Ultimately, we follow her lead.
"there is no real gender duality, rather a gender spectrum"
- Outstanding, Succinct, Total.
This is a fascinating story and she is truly blessed to have been adopted by you and your husband.
I always appreciate your posts. Wherever Ruthie's path leads, she is so fortunate to have your support. I went to high school with someone who led her life as a gay woman, but always maintained she was actually male. Puberty made a huge difference in "her". When the hormones came into play, the male aspects came out more and more. Ultimately, as an adult, "she" went through drug addiction and alcoholism and suicide attempts. Finally she got help, got into therapy, started in a program where she took hormone therapy and lived as a male for a year, working in construction, growing a beard, living the life. Then and only then would they consent to do the multiple surgeries. When they did..they found fully developed and functioning undescended testicles.This was in the 70's. "She" has since gone from being a psychotic female to being a rather normally neurotic male. "He" is now married and doing well. I can only imagine how much easier his life would have been had ANYONE understood and supported him as you have done for Ruthie.
This was truly a brave and beautiful story. My daughter who is a lesbian spoke of how she knew at a young age that she had different feelings but felt she could not come to my first wife and I and it broke my heart when she told me this. I thought she knew that I would be ok with it. I love my daughter and I am so very proud of her. She lives such a wonderful life with her married partner.
This was such a wonderful story for me to read this morning after ready the terrible hateful things done by The Westboro Baptist Church. There is so much hate and ignorance and you found individual's that were there and supportive.
Thank you so much for this.
This was truly a brave and beautiful story. My daughter who is a lesbian spoke of how she knew at a young age that she had different feelings but felt she could not come to my first wife and I and it broke my heart when she told me this. I thought she knew that I would be ok with it. I love my daughter and I am so very proud of her. She lives such a wonderful life with her married partner.
This was such a wonderful story for me to read this morning after ready the terrible hateful things done by The Westboro Baptist Church. There is so much hate and ignorance and you found individual's that were there and supportive.
Thank you so much for this.
You are a brave family. Ruthie is a brave girl.
Another wonderful chapter in Ruthie's story. We (the world) have so much to learn about gender issues, and Ruthie, you and your family are holding our hands as we walk the path. Thank you for that.
I am a biological female who is married to a FTM (female to male) transgender. He's in his fourth year of trnsition and I know would love to read this article. Thank you for shedding light on this. My heart is with you and I applaud your story. :)
There is a lot of love and courage in this story. You are an example of a well informed mother, focused on supporting and loving her child.

I often hear of loving relationships with cisgender (non trans) women marry affirmed males. I have never heard of a cisgender male marrying an affirmed female. Wish I would.
I have been following Ruthie's story with interest and some empathy. One of my daughter's classmates is a girl who identifies as a boy (pardon me if I get the terminology wrong). In your support of Ruthie, you remind me of this boy's mother, who is unwavering in supporting her son's choices. As far as I know, this child fits in seamlessly with the other boys and, apart from a first grade teacher who insisted on placing him with the girls when the class was divided by gender, there have been no obvious problems at school that I know of. Mind you, we live in a fairly LGBT positive city.

When I first met this boy, I was initially a tad confused about his placement on the gender spectrum; I asked my then five year old daughter and she responded: "She's a boy." From the mouths of babes-- she had instantly processed what the rest of we adults were struggling to get our heads around!

As for empathy, my children's dad came out as gay a few years ago, so they too will have lots of experience with 'what will people think.'

All the best to you and your family-- Ruthie has the best family imaginable to help her in her journey, wherever it may take her.
All the best to you, but, if this child is in third grade, he or she is only 9 years old or something close to that. Has this child been taken for medical and psychological or psychiatric treatment to see if there is something else going on? A change of sex is pretty serious and one does wonder if the child should be making that decision at such a young age and one also wonders if the parents should not first, before allowing such a radical (and one assumes irreversible) step to take place, seek professional intervention.

If I missed that step, or evidence of it, I apologize.
And if you'd never allow your child to, say, decide to smoke in the third grade, you might want to at least seek real help before you allow your child to "transition" in the third grade.

Thanks for your concern. I hope to educate without sounding offensive.

Firstly, Ruthie is now in 6th grade and has happily lived as a girl for three years with no doubt.

Secondly, you can't possibly imagine we entered this journey without research and forethought. Think about this: if i told you my child had a rare childhood arthritis would you suggest I was wrong, that we couldn't possibly know, saying this before you yourself had even checked into the research. How could you assume that we HADN'T checked our research? There is a double standard going on here.

What used to be seen as "how can a third grader know" has been replaced for the most part by experience which has shown that toddlers will tell you as soon as they can talk that they are "a boy" or "a girl." See 20/20 "my secret self" on youtube. Many believe identity is formed through a hormone wash in the brain. Either way, it has nothing to do with sexuality or sexual preference.

When did you know you were a girl?

As I had written, if I missed that step - about psychiatric intervention or something akin to it, I apologize.

I think most people identify very early as the gender into which they were born and I am sure there are also people who do not. I am saying, however, that a toddler is not in a position, in my view, to know for a fact that he/she is transgendered and I was expressing a hope that parents of a child expressing such a view will seek psychiatric help for that child.

BTW, I said nothing about sexual orientation and this is not about that issue so, frankly, I don't know why you raised it.

This is about very young kids identifying as the sex other into which they were born. I hope you got help for the child and didn't just assume that the child knew best.

The "hormonal" washing you speak of is, I believe, theoretical and I have no problem with the theory, of course. It, the washing, has been said to result in all sorts of things, and may well do so. However, is there perhaps something else going on with this child? Is the child perhaps seeking to please the parents? Is the child reacting in some way to something picked up in society that says this is cool? Is the child truly transgendered? Has this been evaluated?

I have no idea. Had no idea. Thus, I raised the issue.

If I offended, I meant not to.

Peace to you too.
If your child self-diagnosed his arthritis, I would definitely question you accepting it.
While I understand lack of info would be confusing to me, I think you missed the arthritis example, which proves my point in the first place.

If somebody told you their kid had arthritis you wouldn't jump to the conclusion that he didn't. You would naturally assume it was true. Why is that not the case for my story?

As for a child thinking being trans is cool? On what planet? It is a huge stigma. Ruthie gets bothered almost daily.
Good Lord, you didn't offend me at all. Not so. Don't give it a thought. I like to educate too or at least ask some relevant, to me, questions.

All the best.
I can't imagine what you're going through, what she's going through. What a process, at what a time in history. Hopefully, a few years from now the "pioneer" phase will be over and others won't have to travel the same difficult, largely unmarked trail.