K’s big sister is a big swimmer. She started synchronized swim team at 5, at which point she was already able to do the butterfly stroke across a pool. Needless to say, when you have a fish for a child, you spend a lot of time at the pool (she would be there every day if I let her). One of the pools that we go to is attached to a big gymnastics facility. K has always been fascinated with the kids while they are doing gymnastics. She just watches them in awe.
In January (pre-transition), we finally started K in some classes. Since I wasn’t sure how she would like it, we went with a place close to us, just a small dance studio that happened to have gymnastics stuff. I mean, at just shy of 4, she didn’t need all of the crazy fancy equipment. This seemed like a good way to try it out. I will always remember how on her second week of classes, she came jumping up to me with a fancy blue tutu outfit with this big smile on her face. “I’m so happy that I found a sport that I love,” she said. I had never seen such joy on her face. I had to immediately call her dad and tell him how happy she was. It was so great to see.
Flash forward to this summer. While big sister was at her own camping experience, I found a gymnastics camp for K to try. It was just 5 minutes away from big sis AND it was at one of the big fancy places. She so excited, we even picked her up a new outfit to commemorate it.
When we went to sign up, I was faced with a minor dilemma. We registered online and we had to put in Name (obviously) and gender. Since there was no “name” and “preferred name” spots, I decided to just go with the new name, even if it isn’t legal yet. I also marked the F box. I kept that window open for a day before I hit submit. While it didn’t feel like lying, I wasn’t exactly sure that it was legal. After all, what if there was an emergency? After consulting a few other trans mommies, I decided to click “send” and talk to the coach once we started.
That brings us to this past Tuesday. K was so excited about starting at her new gym that she had to dress up for it. Since we were already wearing fancy gymnastics clothes, she decided that we should also wear her shiny black tap dance shoes. Obviously. When we walked into the gymnastics facility, K was on cloud 9. It was everything that she had imagine. I, on the other hand, was terrified. I felt like I needed to talk to someone there and I didn’t know how they would respond. In retrospect, I probably should have called beforehand. K would be crushed if we had to leave for any reason.
I went up to the front desk and asked them if I could speak to a manager. The receptionist seemed curious, and confused. “Is something wrong?” she asked. “No, my daughter just has a medical condition that I wanted to talk to them about,” I said. While I don’t consider being transgender a medical condition, this seemed like the easiest way to get her not to ask questions. She wanted to know if it was put on our registration and she seemed bothered when I told her no. I was started to feel a bit of panic build inside of me. Crap. Would I have to add this to her file? Would everyone know? I was hoping that she could be stealth and just be any other girl in that class.
The coach came out, a young 20 year old. When I told her that K was transgender, she just said, “OK.” It was absolutely no big deal to her. At all. There was no “Well we’ll have to figure something out.” There was no hesitation, no facial twitch to make me think she was holding something back. Nothing. Complete acceptance. I thought it was important in an emergency that someone have K’s legal name and gender, but I mentioned that I hadn’t put anything in our paperwork. She just responded with, “Why would you? It’s none of their business.” That was the moment that I knew everything would be OK. K was with a safe teacher.
At the end of lessons, I mentioned that we would probably continue after camp ended. Once K turns 5, I noticed that they group classes by gender. Before committing to this facility, I wanted to make sure that they would continue to not only be accepting of K, but also to allow her to continue taking classes with her identified gender. I was told that she “thought” it would be OK, but I should talk to the facility director tomorrow.
Yesterday, I asked Ally (the teacher) if she could point out the director to me so that I could talk to her. She just smiled. “Oh, I already talked to her for you. Put K in the girls classes. This is a non-issue and no questions will ever be asked… at least until puberty but that’s a LONG time away.” I could have just hugged her. “If we switch coaches, do you think that they need to know?” I wondered. “Nope. No one else here needs to know. The director is aware so in an emergency she can take care of it.” I left there feeling amazing. This wasn’t going to be a battle, at least not with them (parents who find out may still pose a problem), and for me, that was huge. That’s how her swimming lessons handled it too. I hear stories of parents fighting for these very things, and while I would fight for it, if we were at a facility that had taken a negative stance, I don’t think that I would have sent K there even after we did win.
K’s coach had a lot of questions for me, but they were really good questions. It turns out that she is in college right now, getting a degree in pediatric nursing. She absolutely believes that kids at K’s age know their “true” gender, but she wanted to hear our story and know how it all came about. She seemed like a great person to educate on the subject, someone who would be in a position to spread that information forward and to use it every day in her professional life. Maybe she will. I hope so. I hope that our story makes a difference, somewhere, to someone.