Tuesday, 11 June 2019

About Noah

I've sat here for the last 10 minutes struggling to find an introductory paragraph for this post.

Because, for some reason, it's a topic that just doesn't feel easy to bring up in conversation. And I guess that in itself is a huge factor as to why I've felt emotional and awkward about it over the last few months.

Because it's one of those topics that everybody seems to have an opinion on - whether they have any lived experience of it or not. It's a topic that divides people. A topic that some people feel so very strongly about that they feel the need to resort to hate and cruelness.

But the truth is - it's something that's part of our lives, and for that reason...I feel the need to address it here.

If you've followed me for a while then you probably know me as a mother to three little boys.

But my middle son, Noah....well it turns out, he's not so sure that's the case.

You see, ever since Noah could talk...he's always spoken about his future grown-up self as female.

He's always said that he's going to be a lady when he grows up, that he's going to wear dresses, that he's going to be a Mummy.

We used to correct him - we thought he was just confused about his sex and so we told him that he was a boy, but he usually corrected us and insisted he was a girl.

We thought this was probably just a phase, and didn't think much of it - he was still only 2 years old when this started after all and we're not the type of people to freak out about something like that.

We've always had a real mix of toys in the house - from superheroes to princesses and everything in between. We strongly believe in letting children play with whatever they choose to play with, letting them be themselves and express themselves freely, and we're also not the type of people to worry about whether or not our children grow up to be gay or straight (not that toys have any influence on this, of course!), or anything in between. They are what they are, and that's fine with us.

Throughout the years, Noah has always been more interested in the more stereotypically "girly" things than the "boyish" things his brother preferred - he's never shown an interest in nerf guns, soldiers, superheroes, or cowboys like his older brother.

Instead he has always loved Princesses, baby dolls, barbie dolls, LOL surprise, and of course - his beloved dress up outfits! He has always preferred wearing dress up costumes to normal clothes, and always dresses.

He loves pop music (Little Mix and Katy Perry especially!), fashion, playing with my make up and his favourite colours are pink and purple.

He decided at age 3 that he didn't want to have his hair cut anymore, instead he wants to grow it long "like Rapunzel" and says he won't be happy until it reaches his bottom.

All of this is 100% fine with us. We like our children to be able to express themselves and to be individuals - we try not to mould them too much and instead prefer to let them be who they are.

And as a result of that, we have 3 very unique little characters - each of them are so very different from each other, with wildly varying interests and personalities.

But recently things started to become a bit different... over time, it has become apparent that actually - there may well be more to Noah's preference for "feminine" things .

Noah started to talk about himself more and more often as a female - insisting that he is actually a girl, and becoming upset if we referred to him as a boy.

Then one day a few months back, we were on our way to the park for the afternoon when - out of nowhere - Noah suddenly became hysterical, crying.

When we asked what was wrong, he screamed that he didn't want to go out to the park wearing the boys clothes he was dressed in because - in his words - "I'm a girl, not a boy! You're making me be a boy and I'm not a boy! I need to be in normal girl clothes, not dress up!"

It was the first time he had ever expressed a desire to dress in everyday girls clothes, rather than just princess dress up costumes.

I was so upset by how devastated he was, and hated that he thought we were trying to force him to be something he isn't...But being parents to 3 boys, we of course didn't have any girls outfits at homes so simply allowing him to change wasn't an option.

We were conscious of not wanting to upset him, so we spoke with him about what would make him feel better - and between us we decided that the following day we would go to a store and let him choose some clothes for himself.

So that's what we did. And he was delighted. He chose 2 dresses, a top and a pair of leggings with unicorns on, and a pair of unicorn shoes.

Since then, we've allowed him to make his own clothing choices when getting dressed each day.

Some days he wears his "Boys" clothes....some days he chooses the "girls" clothes.

But no matter what he wears, he insists that he is a girl.

When the other children refer to him as their "brother" - he corrects them and says he is their sister. Something which I honestly didn't even think he'd be aware of, but he is.

And lately he's started to correct me in public whenever someone refers him as a boy, too - for example when we went to see the nurse recently, she referred to Noah as "he" and he said "I'm a girl. Mummy tell her I'm a girl."

We've spoken with him about transgender people and how some people feel that they've been born into the wrong body...but Noah says that he was not born in to the wrong body at all, that this is just Noah's body - and Noah is, in his own words, "just a girl who was born with a willy"!

I'll be honest - this is a confusing time for all of us. Every day with Noah is different, and as neither of us have any experience with this- it all feels a bit like we're stumbling around in the dark trying to find our way.

We want to be 100% supportive of Noah no matter what  - and having briefly googled the statistics around transgender children and recoiled in terror at the staggeringly high suicide rates among those who are not accepted and supported by their families, we both agree that Noah's happiness and knowledge that we love and accept him is the most important thing.

We're not sure on how best to handle it all, other than to allow Noah to freely express himself and to follow his lead - changing his pronouns feels too daunting right now (and is also not something he has asked for as of yet) and so we're trying to use non-binary terms around him instead (they/their etc...I don't do this when I write about Noah yet as it feels too confusing just now.)

We're concerned too about how to approach all of his with Tyne and Sailor too, although both of them seem to be taking it in their stride and are very accepting. As Noah has always been this way I don't think they even realise that it's anything even slightly out of the ordinary.

 As someone who has always spent far too much of my time worrying about what other people think, I find this very difficult on a personal level - I know that this is going to open us up to a hell of a lot of criticism as parents and the thought of what sort of hate may lay in store for Noah as he gets older is absolutely terrifying, too.

 Whenever we go out in public with Noah presenting as a girl, I am constantly on edge - always feeling ready at any moment for somebody to say something negative, uneasy in the knowledge that at any given moment I may be required to jump to his defense.

 I also find it hard to be constantly faced with other peoples opinions on what is going on with Noah and what we should or shouldn't be doing about it - it seems that everyone around us is so keen to share what they would do in this situation or tell us what they think is the right way to handle it, but very few seem to understand that it is completely impossible to know how you'd react to this situation until you're living it.

 I used to think I knew what I'd do in a circumstance like this, funnily enough. I remember years ago, reading an article about how Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt were allowing their young daughter Shiloh to dress and identify as a boy. I remember stating that I thought it was silly of them to allow a child so young to make such a huge decision...I think I even said that I suspected they were encouraging it for publicity.

Well...karma certainly came to bite me on the arse, didn't it.

Because as much as I thought I had it all sussed out back then....I was completely clueless.

 I had no idea how much heartache and anguish a parent feels when their child is crying out to them, telling them that they are not the gender that you thought they were and begging you to recognise them and treat them how they want to be treated.

I had no idea how isolating and terrifying that feels, and what a huge responsibility it is to have your childs fragile mental health resting on your actions and reactions to their plight.

It truly does not matter how old a child is...if they are telling you that something makes them feel bad, then I believe that as their parent you HAVE to believe them. And you have to help them.

So for right now...we're kind of in limbo.

Noah is just Noah....we refer to him as "gender creative"...a term that seems to suit him right now. There is no definitive answer yet as to whether or not he is transgender, we're just waiting to see and following his lead.

You may notice that I don't share a lot of photos of Noah right now on my blog or on social media, and that I've done less YouTube videos etc recently....I'll talk more about this soon but for now, I'll just say that this is a deliberate move on my part....not out of shame, but simply out of a need for Noah to have his privacy while he's finding his feet and figuring things out.

We've decided that, if things are still the same once Noah reaches 4 and a half...we'll go to the Dr and seek some professional support and advice, to ascertain whether Noah is actually transgender and if so, how best to support him in his journey.

Maybe things will change as he gets older and this is simply a phase...maybe they won't and it's more than that. Who knows. (Please also note that people's guesses around this are not helpful, either...none of us know the answer to this)

All I know is....this feels scary, and lonely. And I'm constantly worried that we're doing things wrong.

But I also know that we're doing our best to handle things in the way that feels most appropriate to us.
And that, right now, Noah is really really happy....and that's the most important thing of all.

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