She hoped the people at the church would understand. Between cookies and coffee after the presentation, many came over to hug her.
When it came time for Tyler to make the switch at preschool, Jean and Stephen had to write a very uncomfortable letter to all the parents explaining what was happening.
“If I had a child with autism, I wouldn’t have to do this,” Jean sighed.
They struggled with whether to include the words “gender dysphoria.” “I didn’t want them to think there was something wrong with our child. Just something different,” she said.
They kept the medical term in there so other parents wouldn’t think this was just loose and creative parenting. “I don’t want people to think I’m just indulging a phase. That’s not what this is.”
Tyler’s sister, who’s 8, was much more casual about describing her transgender sibling. “It’s just a boy mind in a girl body,” Moyin explained matter-of-factly to her second-grade classmates at her private school, which will allow Tyler to start kindergarten as a boy, with no mention of Kathryn.
Staff members recently had a training session on gender identity disorder to prepare not only for Tyler but also for other transgender kids who may be arriving. This year alone, at least two other families have contacted the school about enrolling their transgender kids, according to its director of admissions.
Not everyone has been accepting of what Jean and Stephen are doing. Some members of Stephen’s family were incredulous when he sent them letters about Tyler’s transformation.
Jean and Stephen got into a huge fight with Tyler’s gymnastics coach, who insisted he keep wearing a leotard to practice because his registration form said “female.”
Tyler was miserable pulling on a leotard when the boys in class all got to wear shorts and a T-shirt.
“Finally, we just got someone to change F to M on the paperwork,” Jean said angrily. “Why does the coach care so much about what’s in my child’s underpants anyways?”
Jean has come home from the gym more than once infuriated because someone was gossiping about her child. Just the other day, she spotted a co-worker and another adult pointing and laughing at Tyler, who finally got to wear just swim trunks at the pool.
Jean marched over to them and said, “I can provide you with a lot of information about transgender children if you like.”
They clammed up.
“You never meant to, but you become this advocate. All day, every day,” she told me, clearly exhausted.
A recent family trip to Disney World raised the issue of how to handle the plane tickets. What if they booked the ticket in Tyler’s name, but the TSA did some kind of a full-body scan and saw that Tyler’s biology is female?
Like a peanut allergy mom with her EpiPen, the transformation of Kathryn to Tyler means the family always travels with a “Safe Folder.” It has birth records, medical records and the all-important diagnosis of gender dysphoria and the doctor recommendation that Kathryn be allowed to live as a boy. Jean never knows when an encounter with Tyler could result in a grown-up freak-out or even a call to Child and Family Services. It’s always a fear looming over the family.