My daughter was bullied for the first time two weeks ago.
Unfortunately, I’m not surprised. But that doesn’t mean it hurts any less as a mom.
When you’re a little girl that appears to be a boy, when you don’t fit into a perfect little societal norm box in this hateful world, bullies will find you.
She was on a play date in a different neighborhood. Her and her friends went to the community’s playground and met two boys around the ages of 10-12.
All started out well and fine, they all played together, until they didn’t.
The two boys began picking on my daughter, before even knowing she was a girl, making fun of her clothes, her shoes, her hair. When she corrected one of them for calling her an “ugly boy”, telling them she was a girl, they then called her a “tranny”, a freak, a fag, and gay. None of such terms were even understood by my child. Because she’s 8 and ignorant to such slurs and hatred.
She handled it well enough. She talked it out with me when I picked her up. She asked a lot of questions about the words they used and just seemed overall confused, but not overly sad.
She is the type to stuff emotions a little bit so I’m not sure the validity to her dismissive attitude but I was proud of her strength. We keep open communication about the incident and I made sure to tell her that these boys were just mean because they didn’t understand her and that they must have felt bad and ugly inside to do that to someone else, to which she responded well.
As for me? I didn’t handle it quite as gracefully.
I was so sad. I am so sad.
This is a tough pill to swallow for a parent. This bullying epidemic is some scary shit, especially when you bring the notion of social media into the conversation. It’s fucking terrifying.
I analyzed the incident for days. And by analyzed , I mean obsessed over it. And by obsessed over it, I mean I lost sleep, I cried and I thought about running away with my child somewhere it feels safer than this. Anywhere that posed promise for more open mindedness.
Because I know this won’t be the last bullying incident. I knew this was coming and it was the day I dreaded for years.
When my daughter’s gender identity adventures began at a very young age, of course I was hoping it was a phase. Of course I was.
Who would want their child to have a more difficult life? Who would want their child to be different, to stand out, to struggle? No one. Absolutely not one parent on the face of the earth.
But alas, she continued to express herself in the same patterns: “boy” toys, “boy” clothes, “boy” haircut, all with a bit of a masculine nuance to her mannerisms since age 4.
I’ve never labeled her transgender, as I’ve written and talked about publicly. Let me be clear here and interject- I would label her transgender, and let her socially transition, if she asserted herself that way, if she affirmed that in her heart she feels like a boy, if she ever went into depression or anxiety over it, or if she attempted suicide over it as many young children do when they’re trans. Because I now knowthat being trans a science based fact, because I’ve done my research, because I know families that have had a suicidal 7 year old because their brain doesn’t match their genitalia.
But thus far, that hasn’t been the case. We keep an open dialogue and yes, she sees someone that specializes in gender issues. Because it’s confusing as fuck, for her and more so for me. This is not a made up thing.
So, for now, she’s a girl with a very feminine name who looks like a boy and confuses so many strangers.
Which is where the bullies will continue to dive in. Because they’re afraid. Because whether you’re a child, a teen, a young adult, or full grown, fear breeds ignorance and ignorance breeds terrible behavior, as we have all been privileged to witnessing.
People are afraid of things and issues and other people that they don’t understand. They’re afraid and they react out of that fear. And the bullies aren’t taught to filter that out by their parents. Ignorance is perpetuated in their homes, it’s learned behavior. And that behavior translates into hatefulness. Just look around social media. Adults are the absolute worst offenders.
People ask me all of the time. “why do you write about this? Why do you put this information out to the universe to get scrutinized?”.
And all of this analysis of this first bullying incident solidified my answer- to preach the word of kindness. To maybe, just maybe, educate one person on what it is that makes my child different. To advocate for all differences.
I posted a little blurb about this incident on my personal Facebook page, trying to spread a message of kindness and teaching children to not say anything if they don’t have anything nice to say.
I received a private message from a person I knew from high school who stated that I set my child up for this bullying, that this is my fault, because I “let her dress like a boy”. To which I replied, I simply will not shove my child’s wants and needs aside, force her into a box, for the comfort of everyone else. No way. That would certainly make it better for everyone else wouldn’t it? But that is not allowing my child room to be who she is. That is not setting her up on a solid foundation.
She is who she is.
And that’s why I write.
To create a better world for her the only way I know how.
And to those that believe writing about this topic is over exposing her- that’s a fair concern but listen, she will grow up knowing her mother is a fighter for equality. And I hope that makes her proud. I will absolutely stop writing about this the moment she asks me to.
But in the meantime, I will fight for a better place for her to exist just how she is. Her authentic self. I will use my writing as a super power of education and plea for kindness.
And hope for a day where acceptance is commonplace and bullies have no place in the world.
A mama can hope. A mama will fight.
Vanessa Nichols is a single mom of one amazing redhead, living in southwest Florida. Her writing has been featured on Scary Mommy, BLUNTMoms, Elephant Journal, and BonBon Break. She’s a lover of yoga, a sun worshiper, a traveler, and a dreamer. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook and read more on her blog.
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