And now, we have found ourselves at another step in our steady and slow walk along Eli's path of gender identity. Eli will begin school in the fall following the girls' dress code, will be called Allie and will take on female pronouns. This is a bit of departure from this past year where Eli (Allie) technically followed the boys' dress code (though took an extremely feminine interpretation of that dress code) and still maintained male pronouns.
Those who are close to us are not surprised by this. Eli has been toying with the name Allie for almost a year now and refers to herself as a female. And while sometimes I feel like this has been the biggest step in the process, I actually believe it is also something that feels like it was supposed to happen all along.
While sometimes this part of the process feels scary, there is a part of it that feels familiar. I feel like we were finally able to crack the secret code that Allie has been using all her life. She is finally able to help us all understand the way she has been feeling for that last six years. She hasn't changed. We have. We are finally able to understand who she is.
This isn't a path that I wished or hoped for. But it is a path I would take a million times over to show my children that they are unconditionally loved by their mother, father, family and friends.
We understand that not everyone will embrace Allie, or the decisions we have made in the way we parent her. But that's okay. Our goal is to do the what's best for her, not for everyone else. However, we have been forever changed by the people that we have chosen to keep dear to us. We have had our highest and loftiest expectations completely exceeded by the love and kinship that has been offered to us by our most cherished friends and family (and some new friends who have emerged throughout this season of our life) and the goodwill that has come our way continues to bring me to my knees. Those who have buoyed us along will never, ever know how their love, support, understanding and acceptance has changed our lives, how it will continue to change our lives and has enabled and inspired us to be brave and pave a path of love for our most special Allie who deserves all of the burdens of her complex life to be lightened.
That doesn't mean that we haven't had to excuse ourselves from forging friendships with those who we didn't deem fit for our family. It also doesn't mean that we haven't walked away from long term friendships with the knowledge, that while it was sad to say goodbye, it was the healthy thing to do.
When we began piecing together the puzzle of Allie's gender identity, there were times that I encouraged her to leave a Barbie in the car or cringed when she wore a certain outfit out of the house. But that quickly became unacceptable for both me and Adam. When Adam and I discussed what we wanted for our children, we unequivocally agreed that it was more important to teach our children to feel confident and love who they are, rather than bend into society's demands of what they "should" be. Did we want to make our children feel "less"...feel unworthy...feel like something was so wrong with them that we wouldn't let them appear in public in the same way that we let them be in our own home? No. Absolutely and unquestionably, the answer was always no.
Adam and I knew we were starting to wage a war against the norms of society, but the alternative was to risk damaging our children beyond repair and we were not going to let that happen. Not on our watch. Other people may turn their backs on Allie because of her gender identity, but it sure as hell isn't going to be one of us who turns their back on her. I have always said that I can't control what others will say to her and about her, but I can do everything I can to help build her confidence...and most of all, I can give her a soft place to land.
For Allie, it isn't about playing dress up, putting on a skirt and liking how it looks and feels. It's not about wanting to look like a girl; it's about wanting to be a girl. It isn't about wanting to play with the girls; it's about wanting to be one of them. Allie wants to be a mom when she grows up. Not a dad. Not a parent. A mother. She told me tonight that she likes having so many shoes "because real women have a lot of shoes".
She is who she is, and my job is to let her be just that.