Unfortunately, we did not take a family vacation that summer where I could wear my new bathing suit. The last week of school, my 3rd grade year and Jenni's 1st grade year, we had a little problem.
During that last week of school, another 1st grader name Tyler Durham decided to share a word with his classmates that he'd learned from his 5th grade brother:
As in, "Jenni, my brother says your brother is a.. a.. faggot!"
That was bad, but Jenni's innocent, instinctive response ended up being worse: "My brother isn't a faggot. He's turning into a girl!"
Well, that news shot home to many parents. First they were upset that a 1st grader was sharing the word "faggot" with fellow students. But then, by the last few days of school, a parent of one of my 3rd grade classmates put 2 and 2 together: my chin-length hair that was always sculpted into a boys style with a lot of styling gel; my skinny build only having stayed skinny while I grew taller over the last year; the obstinate way I refused gender classification in kindergarten; the way I was only really friends with girls (the few friends I had); my features and skin no starting to look softer; and then Jenni's outburst in an attempt to defend me from a word she didn't even understand. A phone call was made to the school and to the schoolboard. By lunch time on my last day of school, my parents and I were in the principal's office.
The principal and assistant principal explained to us that that several parents were concerned about which bathroom I should be using, and some parents suggested that I not be allowed to get too friendly with the girls, and that there had been several calls that my parents should have to register my status with the school district so that all parents can be aware. The principal stated that the school district did not agree with these parents. We were not required to register a status with the school, and they were on our side.
I'd never seen my father so mad in my life. His swarthy face, inherited from his French sea-captain father, was dark. He stood up, and asked them (I'll never forget this) "When these parents called and demanded that our child be asked to 'register' his 'status,' what did you say to them?"
The principal stuttered a bit. "We told them that we would look into.. the matter and advise them if there was anything they needed to be concerned about."
"And, is there something for them to be concerned about?"
The assistant principal, a lady named Ms. Bass who I'd always liked, interjected. "No, sir, I mean, we obviously don't know what prompted this from the other parents, but if your son was going through a procedure that would change his gender, then..." she trailed off.
"Then, what?" My father asked, sternly.
"Well, then, at whatever time your son's gender is officially changed, we would like to be notified so we can assist the staff in helping students through understanding this change."
There was a pause before my father spoke. "Ms. Bass, have we indicated to you that my son is going through a process to change to a female?"
"Have we asked for any special accommodation from the school for the process that my son is allegedly undergoing?"
"And, as a public school, are you allowed to treat a child differently than other children based on his or her sex?"
"Of course not, sir."
"So, on what should be an enjoyable last day of school for my son before summer break, why are we sitting here in this office?" My father asked.
"Mr. Mordeaux, we just want to let you know that other parents are calling, that they might be contacting you, and that we are here to offer any assistance you or your child may need."
"This could have been handled with a phone call to our home. Our son is our son. At this point in his life, he is a he. Should he decide to transition to another sex at some point in the future, we will notify you once it is a legally recognized change. Until then, this is a private matter. Whatever is between a student's legs, most especially the legs of a child, is not something that other parents need to be 'advised' about. And, if you feel that you DO need to advise other parents as to what is between my child's legs, let me 'advise' you that I will have a lawyer up here so fast it will make your head spin."
"Mr Mordeaux, we just-"
"We are leaving, and Christian is coming home with us. We will take him to get his belongings from the classroom and then we are going home. If private citizens have a question about my son, they can contact us directly. We're listed in the phone book."
"Mr. Mordeaux, we're just trying to help and to partner with you."
"There is nothing to partner about."
We left the room with that statement.
I actually didn't need to go back the classroom that day. I quietly told my father that I had everything I needed, so he and I went out to the car while Mom went to pull Jenni from her classroom.
I sat in the back seat, watching him brood in the front seat.
He had his head down, looking at the steering wheel. "I'm sorry. I know that was probably embarrassing. I just will not have your life become the center of a phobia.. circus. I will not.. let the other parents put you through a nightmare because they can't come to terms with.. modern society. While you're still a boy, you will use the boy's room. When you become a girl, you'll use the girl's room. Period, end of story."
"Thank you, Daddy."
He picked his head up. "What?"
"Thank you. I was scared in there. You protected me."
He sat there a moment, looking at me in the rearview mirror. "You're welcome, Julianna. I love you."
"I love you too, Daddy."
Two days later, we made a decision as a family: we were moving.
After we got home from school that day, there were two messages on our answering machine. One was from the pastor at the church we used to go to (he said he wanted to 'chat' if we needed to do so), and the other was the parent of a girl from my class. Mom and Dad did not return either call.
That night, at dinner, the phone rang two more times and we did not answer it. No one left a message.
The next day, the phone was ringing at 8:30am. It was a local blog writer who wrote about transgender issues, and he wanted to speak to me. My mother said that there was nothing for any of us to say on the topic. There were four other calls that morning, none of whom left messages. By dinner time, the house phone had rung around 15 or 16 times that day.
That next morning, Dad sat us down together and hooked up his laptop to the flatscreen TV in the living room. From there, we all picked out a few rental houses we liked in a town about forty five minutes away. I hated our house, and our neighborhood, and was ready to move. Jenni, however, started to cry. She blamed herself for the whole thing. My mother just held her and whispered in her ear that Jenni had honest and defending her family. There was no blame, Mom told her, and that change could be a good thing.
Jenni smiled a bit, and then she rejected a house on the screen, a house that Dad liked, because the third bedroom looked too small on the screen.
Dad assured her that it wasn't too small.
She assured him that it was.