My eight-year-old transgender daughter, Warner, lives her life like any other little girl. However, when the Girl Guides of Canada recently announced they'd released new guidelines to accommodate transgender kids, it truly felt like a life-altering moment. At one point, transgender kids were only allowed to sign up on a case-by-case basis. Now, the Girl Guides of Canada have taken a firmer stance, stating: "All persons who live their lives as female are welcome to join the organization." (You can read the full seven-page guideline here.)
My daughter nearly flew off the couch when I told her the news: "OMG, Mommy, I can finally join? For real?" Warner was born with male "bits and pieces" but the "heart and soul" of a sweet little girl. We recently shared our story with Today's Parent in the September 2015 issue.
Our family decided early on to be forthcoming about Warner so teachers and group leaders would be adequately prepared to deal with any challenges that may arise when a transgender kid is introduced into their classroom or group. When Warner was six, we contacted our local Sparks troop. I was initially greeted by a rather excitable woman who told me all about the program and was thrilled to meet Warner—that is, until I explained that my daughter was transgender. The phone went quiet—you-could-hear-a-pin-drop silent. She eventually responded with a polite, "Hm, I'm not sure about our policies. I will have to call you back."
A few days later, I got a call from another woman who informed me our local troop was full, and that I could try again next year. Now, I'm not an overly sensitive person, and I'd normally not jump the gun and assume our local troop was suddenly at capacity because my daughter was transgender. However, a few days after that phone call, my neighbour's daughter came knocking on our front door with a big smile on her face. She wanted to share her good news—she'd just joined Sparks and assumed Warner had joined as well. My neighbour's daughter joined the very same troop that I'd been told was already full.
Since that experience, we've registered Warner with LGBTQ-friendly clubs, but those options are quite limited. This past September, we went out on a limb and signed her up for cheerleading. The gym has no policies in place on how to handle transgender kids. Right now, Warner is treated the same as any other little girl, and only her coaches and the facilitators at the gym know she's transgender. However, a constant fear exists that we may receive backlash from other parents if they find out. So, for now, we keep Warner's biology a secret. That means my husband and I sit through every single practice worried our daughter will reveal her secret to another kid or that, while doing a back walkover or cartwheel in her spandex shorts, there may be a visible indication that makes it apparent to other parents. (I hold my breath every time she does one.)
The new Girl Guides of Canada policy is incredibly exciting and important to families like ours. A clear guideline means that all kids, transgender or not, will be treated equally and fairly. It means we don't have to hide the fact that Warner is transgender. We don't have to live in a constant state of fear that someone will unexpectedly find out. In the end, this policy also means that, even if other parents take issue with a kid being transgender, the Girl Guides of Canada will stand by the transgender child. I'm so happy the Girl Guides of Canada is now a safe zone for all transgender girls.
Now, we'll finally get to sign Warner up for her local troop—and I'm hopeful it won't be "too full" this time around.
Melissa Ann Schaettgen lives just outside Ottawa with her husband and four kids.