Our youngest, DJ, has always been everyone's darling. Before we knew DJ as our daughter, we knew JD, our son, as that universally lovable kid. JD was the kid that cracked everybody up, made people feel special, and had a genuinely laid-back quality that made it nearly impossible to be angry with him. Militant was not JD's style, and certainly not DJ's style since DJ is even softer, and more sweet tempered than her "fraternal twin" JD.
I have a theory about "babies" of the family. By "babies" I mean the youngest or last born child in a family, particularly if there are at least 2 kids in the family and at least a few years difference in age between the youngest and oldest born child. My theory is this: these kids are so used to having a minimum of four people doting on them and treating them as if they are the most beloved person on the face of the earth, on a daily basis, that they assume, naturally and without guile, that everyone they meet will treat them the same way. It makes for a very refreshing, self-assured yet innocent kid. My other theory is that raising DJ's brothers killed enough of my brain cells to render me a less anxious, and thereby better, mother to her than to her two brothers.
I can be militant about causes that I find important. Bulldog, well, I call him Bulldog for a reason: can you conceive of an actual bulldog that does not come across as militant? Our older two children can be militant, like their mother, about causes that incite their passion. They come by it honestly as a result of DNA and example. DJ, however, has never been one I would describe as militant, until recently.
OK-perhaps I exaggerate because her style of "militant" would be like seeing Tinkerbell in motorcycle leathers. She may look tough on the outside, but on the inside, she's still pure honey, and posies and butterflies. So how does DJ's "militant"-ness manifest itself? Nothing drastic, just different from her "norm."
We've discussed her fashion sensibility, but it's worth mentioning again because it keeps changing and getting more edgy. Just last week, she showed me a picture of shiny red and black zebra striped leggings that she thought were the bomb. What?! This time last year, you were smitten with a blush colored camisole top comprised of layers of ruffled fabric. It was ethereal, it was darling; it was what almost any mother would be delighted to see her daughter wear.
Less than 24 hours later, she showed me a picture of what she hopes to have tattooed ACROSS. HER. CHEST. Then she goes to the mall with her friend and comes back with sparkly blue eyeshadow and sparkly green eyeliner, which she decided to sport today. I hate it. Bulldog hates it.
"Oh for God's sake, she thinks she's Cyndi Lauper", I cry to Bulldog. If you're less than 30 years old, Google her. And just so you know, DJ and all other young folks, you didn't invent BAD ASS. Loud animal prints in colors never seen in nature? Pretty sure Madonna did that back in her younger years. Hair teased into ridiculous shapes that defy geometric theorems and gravity? Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette....please, it's been done for decades. Horrid blue eyeshadow, with thick black eyeliner? Does anyone else remember Tammy Faye?
Yes, it drives me to distraction. To Bulldog's credit, it's only mildly annoying. However, without even consulting each other, we've somehow managed to arrive at the same method of handling this newly militant approach to self expression-we're ignoring it. It worked when the kids were trying out words like, "Bullshit" and "Damn it"....and, besides, I got nothin' else. I mean, really, do I want to make our otherwise great kid become sneaky and resentful because I think she looks over-the-top?
The trick is to NOT complicate the issue with the fact that she's a trans girl. Truthfully, underneath, I worry that her pushing the fashion limits will just draw attention to herself and that she may appear to be trying to make a statement that while she may be "different" she's still deserving of being treated as if she were the "same." And what's wrong with making a statement, truly? Well, nothing, except that it can piss people off.
I don't want people mad at DJ because underneath, I'm worried that people will reject her. I want her to just go with the flow, keep her head down, lie low. Way to set the bar high for your kid, right? I didn't have this approach for my kids who were born in the "right" body. In fact, I applauded them when they marched to their own beat; I can't change the rules just because I'm more afraid for this kid. In my defense, this fear is not unfounded. The statistics for trans kids is pretty disheartening. Harassment, both verbal and physical, happens at a far more frequent rate with trans kids than it does to those kids whose bodies and minds match. So, yes, I have reason to be afraid but that doesn't mean I should react. DJ needs to find out who she is just like any other young adult. I can't deny her that to spare myself worry. It wouldn't be fair to her and she's already had enough unfairness as it is.