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.
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.