When my daughter Cameron was born, my husband and I were overjoyed. We dressed her in pink princess gowns and gave her dolls and elaborate dollhouses, but she was only interested in dinosaurs and her brother’s toys. “Great,” we thought, “she loves her older brother so much she wants to be just like him.”
At age 3, Cameron started referring to himself as a boy and took the role of a king or prince in pretend games. We didn’t worry about it and let Cameron develop into a “tomboy.” But as time passed, and school started, Cameron’s appearance presented problems when girls in the restroom were confused about why a boy was there.
One night Cameron said, “Mommy, why did God make a mistake with me? I was supposed to be a boy.” My heart sunk and I knew at that minute that this was not a phase and that Cameron was not “just a tomboy.” Recently, we saw a television ad supporting HB2 and it upset Cameron so much that he ended up crying for thirty minutes asking how people can be so mean. On November 8, I realized I had never imagined that an election would cause me to fear that my child might hurt himself.
I had heard of and met transgender people through my work as a librarian. I reached out to the community, but none of them were familiar with transgender children. Through searching the Internet, I found Insideout and Upsidedown, which are geared towards gender non-conforming children and their allies. Insideout is for ages 13-19, and Upsidedown is for any age up to 12.
We took Cameron to an Upsidedown meeting where we met a transgender girl who boldly introduced herself, “Hi my name is Sara, and I’m transgender.” Cameron smiled and they played for the next few hours.
Through meeting other children at Upsidedown, my shy Cameron finally had the words, understanding, and bravery to say, “Mom, I am a boy and I am transgender.”
Our family is so grateful for Upsidedown. Cameron looks forward to the meetings every two weeks where he can be himself without worrying about criticism or judgment from his peers. My older son enjoys meeting the diverse group of kids and siblings to learn that he is not alone in being the older brother of a transgender child. As a parent I have made friends with other parents in Upsidedown who have become my support network in times of joy and sadness.
The difference in Cameron is astonishing. Within a few weeks of visiting Upsidedown his teachers said that he had become more confident and outgoing at school.
Please consider making a donation – better yet an automatically recurring donation – to make sure this group continues. You can donate online at insideout180.org, or by mailing a check with the enclosed pledge card. We hope that you will attend the Upsidedown Open House December 18 from 2-4pm at Upsidedown’s permanent space, The Rainbow Room, at Calvary United Methodist Church, 304 E. Trinity Ave. in Durham. This is a free, all-ages event, planned by youth in Upsidedown. For more info visit Insideout online at insideout180.org, or contact 919-923-7884 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to see you there!