My trans 7-year-old has a mes­sage for Don­ald Trump

For Jen Aul­wes’s daugh­ter, the bath­room rules aren’t about pol­i­tics. They’re per­sonal.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - Jen Aul­wes lives and works in Min­ne­ap­o­lis with her hus­band and three kids. out­look@wash­post.com

Last spring, when I heard Don­ald Trump say that Cait­lyn Jenner could use what­ever bath­room she wanted at Trump Tower, I breathed a sigh of re­lief. There weren’t many things Trump and I agreed on, but this was one. Surely, I hoped, if he be­came pres­i­dent, he would ex­tend the same courtesy to my 7-year-old daugh­ter, Henry.

That hope was de­stroyed Wed­nes­day night, when Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion re­scinded the fed­eral or­der that pro­tects kids in pub­lic schools so they can use the bath­room that fits their gen­der iden­tity. We had told Henry that she could use what­ever bath­room she wanted be­cause the pres­i­dent said so. Well, the for­mer pres­i­dent said so. The new pres­i­dent said no.

The first time we knew that Henry was dif­fer­ent, she was 2. When she found her cousin’s Bar­bie doll, she lit up like a Christ­mas tree. “The hair, Mama,” she cooed. “Look at her looong hair!” Henry con­tin­ued to show us, in ev­ery way she could, that she wanted to live as a girl. This was new ter­ri­tory. What do you say when your 3-year-old boy asks to be Ra­pun­zel for Hal­loween? In our house, you say yes. So be­gan a long jour­ney: Elsa socks one day. A sparkly shirt the next. Soon, she was grow­ing her hair out and lov­ing nail pol­ish and tu­tus.

One day, she asked me if she could get “real” girl clothes — not just cos­tumes but clothes a “real girl” would wear. So I took her shop­ping be­fore her first day of kinder­garten, and we in­vested in her first girl wardrobe. Par­ents are usu­ally anx­ious about their kids’ first day of school, but this added a bizarre ex­tra layer of panic for us. We met with ad­min­is­tra­tors and con­tacted her teacher. She needed to be her­self, but we wanted to make sure she was safe, too.

For­tu­nately, she would be. We live in Min­ne­ap­o­lis. Our school district, our city and our state have some laws and poli­cies on the books to pro­tect Henry and her rights. Min­nesota is prob­a­bly one of the safest states in the coun­try for kids like Henry.

By this point, it was clear to ev­ery­one who knew Henry that she had no in­ter­est, or com­fort, in be­ing a boy. She was a lit­tle girl and de­ter­mined to live as one. She had no po­lit­i­cal agenda; she was 5. She had no idea that there were po­lit­i­cal agen­das con­cerned with who she was. She only knew that she had to be who she was.

We did the re­search. We got on board. We asked her about us­ing dif­fer­ent pro­nouns, and she said, “Yes, PLEASE.” She wanted her par­ents to af­firm who she was, to honor it. She’s de­cided to keep her name, Henry (“It’s my name, Mom”), although that could change. It’s up to her.

Bath­rooms are a big deal for Henry, a point of clear anx­i­ety and worry. She al­ways searches for a family re­stroom in pub­lic places, or one where she can lock the door and avoid other peo­ple. “I looove this bath­room,” she’ll say when she finds one of those. But Wed­nes­day night, I told her that Pres­i­dent Trump “took away the rule” that said all kids could use the bath­room they felt most com­fort­able in; I told her this only to ex­plain why I was ask­ing her per­mis­sion to share her story. Oth­er­wise, I wouldn’t have bur­dened her with a po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated move in a far-off city that wouldn’t change her life here. And what did she say, my some­what shy, peo­ple-pleas­ing kid? She said: “I don’t care. I’m go­ing to use the girls’ bath­room, any­way.” “Rise up,” I whis­pered un­der my breath. I quickly made sure she knew that she could still use the girls’ bath­room at school and noth­ing had to change right away. But even so, I have my own new fears — fears I can’t bear to put on her shoul­ders yet. I worry that this re­ver­sal will give an un­der­handed, whis­pered per­mis­sion to dis­crim­i­nate against trans kids like her. If we move across the state line to Wis­con­sin or Iowa, is Henry any less a per­son? What will hap­pen to chil­dren in ru­ral, con­ser­va­tive towns across the coun­try? Will school ad­min­is­tra­tors have to make a choice be­tween get­ting state and fed­eral fund­ing or treat­ing all stu­dents with dig­nity and re­spect?

Even against all those fears, though, I found some­thing that gives me hope. Last year, in neigh­bor­ing South Dakota, Gov. Den­nis Dau­gaard (R) had a bill on his desk that would have banned stu­dents from us­ing the bath­room that’s right for them. Many peo­ple spoke out, and at one point, Dau­gaard ad­mit­ted that he had never met a trans­gen­der per­son. The lo­cal trans­gen­der com­mu­nity in­vited him to meet with them. He did. A few days later, he ve­toed the bill.

It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to deny a per­son’s hu­man­ity af­ter you’ve shared a cup of cof­fee with them. Most peo­ple in our lives, peo­ple all across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, had never met a trans per­son be­fore they met Henry. But af­ter they spend a lit­tle time with her, learn a lit­tle more about her, not a sin­gle one would in­sist she use the boys’ bath­room.

I would wel­come Trump if he wanted to visit Min­ne­ap­o­lis and meet Henry. He’d prob­a­bly get a kick out of her “big league” My Lit­tle Pony col­lec­tion. Af­ter he met her, I can’t imag­ine he would think she be­longs in the boys’ bath­room, ei­ther.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.