She Never Liked Dresses

One Child’s View of Transgenderism

Scroll Design copy_2She never liked dresses

those heels were too much

she’d always prefer

those sweatpants that’d bunch.

Her sneakers were dirty

same ones every day

she was born in the wrong body

no one knows she feels this way.

Hangs out with the guys

no friends that were girls

she never wanted to be like that

all giggles and twirls.

Locked in the bathroom

cut off all her hair

she was born as a female

but she doesn’t care.

Her mother just yells

father says she’s a freak

she can’t take it now

she has reached her peak.

She sits down and cries

throwing one of brother’s toys

“You don’t understand!

I’m a boy! I’m a boy!”


Scroll Design copyWhen I first read this poem several months ago, I was struck by three things: first, immense pride in my niece, Daniella McNamee, age 12, who wrote the poem and so graciously allowed me to share it with you here. Next, by the profound sadness conveyed in its verses, a sadness often cited by trans children who suffer everyday as they struggle to live authentic lives in the gender of their birth; and last, by the level of compassion so evident in the writing, which I know comes so naturally to Danni, who is, to my knowledge, not transgender, but rather, kind, loving and accepting of all people for what and who they are.

Trans_bathroomUnfortunately, this is not always the case. There is no need for me to lay out statistics here about the suicide rates for transgender youth, the frequency of attacks by bashers on gender-different individuals, or the continued existence of discriminatory laws that fail to protect the basic rights of transgender people. As readers of a GLBT publication, you are already undoubtedly aware of such things and eager to find new ways to combat them.

So, as we approach the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a solemn day that reminds us that transgender people are so often the victims of discrimination, bullying, harassment, and violence, let’s think for a moment about how to tap into our children’s natural tendency toward inclusion and use it to make not merely tolerance, but full acceptance of others’ differences the rule rather than the exception. Perhaps we could begin by including gender diversity along with gender equality as early as the preschool years.

I spent twelve years as a day care operator. As a licensed provider, one of the regulations I was required to follow had to do with diversity and inclusion. We were mandated to have multi-ethnic dolls available to the children, to have all races included in posters and other classroom décor, and to include disability as a part of our diversity curriculum. We were also required to ensure that boys and girls had equal access to toys and games that were traditionally seen as gender specific, making sure, for example, that boys were given the opportunity to play with dolls or household/cooking toys and girls could play with cars and tools if they so desired.

school-childrenWhen children begin receiving messages of equality and inclusion at a young age, these concepts become so ingrained in their personalities that there is no room for bias and bigotry to gain a foothold should the child encounter such attitudes at home or elsewhere. It would be so easy to add basic transgender-affirming language to the discussions we have with children regarding diversity, acceptance and fairness. A comment such as “…and sometimes girls feel that they really should be boys, and boys feel like they are actually girls inside” added to the standard “Girls can grow up to be construction workers if that’s what they like to do, and boys can become stay-at-home dads if they want to” can be just the affirmation that transgender children and their peers need to hear in order to feel good about themselves and their friends. Imagine the impact something so simple could have!

By Chris McNamee

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