Ahh, middle school—that horrible, confusing black hole of doubt and confusion that we mostly forget about by adulthood.
Each generation reaches puberty in a different world in which their parents matured. There were television, miniskirts, weed, hip-hop and social media in the past to fluxum the ancient 30- and 40-year-old parents of savvy kids newly flooded with hormones.
Well, this generation, which some call the “zoomers,” brings a doozy—comfort with gender fluidity. This is something truly radical to American western culture. But be advised, scientists assure us, LGBTQIA+ people do exist! Trying to ignore this truth has consequences.
A survey from 2011 showed that “41% of trans people had attempted suicide, as compared to 1.6% of the general population.” And that was before the current environment of Trump-y intolerance that pervades the US. Take for example the TikTok trend of following and barking at “gay-kids” that has been witnessed even here in the Bay Area. Those are middle school kids who just “look gay.” Which I guess means “boys” with long hair? Colored hair? “Girls” in pants? Any of these describe your kid?
Many kids in middle school right now, trans, queer and straight, are seeing gender differently than their parents do. They are increasingly comfortable with fluidity, while we elders will keep tripping up on pronouns. Yet it is important that we all keep working on supporting kids doing what kids have always done in middle school, which is to try things out, discover their bodies, choose what they want to be called.
The consequences to not supporting trans and queer kids and their allies are dire. As Planned Parenthood writes on their webpage, “How can I support someone who’s trans?” and “There’s still a lot of work to do to make sure everyone feels safe expressing their true gender identity and are given the same rights as cisgender people.”
So when your daughter is suddenly a “they,” go ahead, lock yourself in your room, cry, pull your hair, then … put on your big-non-gender-specific-pants and talk to the kid. Actually, listen. If they are talking to you this week. If not, just slide this article across the breakfast table with a supportive smile. Or share the link with a non-judgemental emoji. Remember, you can’t be brave if you aren’t scared.—M.G.