October is LGBT History Month. To honor transgender people and their unique histories, I will be featuring transgender people and parents of transgender children all month long. Through sharing their stories, I hope to raise awareness of this amazing population of people who still struggle for basic human rights.
By Marjorie Kay, proud mother of three, one of whom happens to be transgender
A pediatrician’s office should be a safe, supportive, accepting place where children’s privacy is respected. Today, and in several previous visits to ABC Pediatrics, yours was not that for my daughter. I believe this was not your intent, and I am hoping that, together, we can find a path forward that is supportive for my daughter – and for all gender variant children.
Since we moved to here, I’ve been more than satisfied with the great care my children have received at ABC Pediatrics. The time you spend with the children, the fact that we rarely have to wait and the fact that you take the time to talk to me as well – all of these things are important and done well at ABC Pediatrics. I value and appreciate ABC Pediatrics. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t share any of this information – I’d simply take our records and move my children to another practice. But I do care, and I think you do too.
Despite repeated requests, your office staff refuses to call my child by her chosen name – Jacie. Five short letters that mean the world to her. Each time we visit and your staff member shouts out, “Jake!” when it’s our turn to be seen, you chip away at the self-esteem we’re working so hard to build up. You may not notice the slump in her shoulders when she hears this. You may not notice the smile slide from her face. But you are hurting my child each time you disregard her identity. You’re shouting to the world that she’s different. You’re her reminder. We’ve never had this problem anywhere else – not at school, not at church, not on the school bus, not at activities. Only in your office.
I completely understand the need to use her legal name on documents – we do that at school, too. But at school, not one teacher, administrator or employee – not even the bus driver -- has ever had to be asked twice to support my child by calling her Jacie. In fact, I brought in a nationally recognized trainer Kim Pearson from Trans Youth Family Allies to conduct an in-service at the beginning of the school year. The school and staff were wonderful – open to the topic, engaged and asking questions. They took the time to learn and care about my daughter. I extended the invitation to ABC Pediatrics, but no one was able to come. I’m trying to build the bridge – I need you to step across.
So what can you do to support my daughter? Have a staff meeting with your office staff. Let them know that when you call my child into the back, call out, “Jacie!” That’s it.
I know you have a lot of patients and you can’t know each one. But you need to know mine. Why?
- More than 50% of transgender youth will have at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.
- 90% of transgender youth reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression. (GLSEN. (2001). The 2001 national school climate survey: the school related experiences of our nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.)
These are just two of the horrifying statistics my daughter faces just for being herself. And she can’t be herself in your office.
My goal as a parent is to continually affirm my child gender identity expression – it’s one of the most significant self-esteem boosters that there is for transgender kids. Difference isn’t wrong -- it just is. And as for my question – what’s in a name? The answer for my daughter is, “Everything.”
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Special thanks to Mary Tyler Mom who inspired this unique and beautiful way of honoring LGBT History Month.