A few years ago – and by “a few”, it’s quite possible that I mean 10 – there was a “She is…” campaign that was going on. It was big in the scrapbooking community as a springboard for themes and designs and journaling prompts, but I saw it pop up in other places. It was a great way for moms to feel they had “permission” to talk about themselves, but also explore who their daughters were becoming or their own moms lived behind the curtain of momness – or even on the surface of momness. It was a giant key to talk about whatever came after the magical ellipses. She is… SHE IS. She is…multitudes. Full of stories. Worth talking about.
The “She is…” campaign was running through my head yesterday. Caitlyn Jenner took my breath away. Her dazzling cover shoot. Her bravery. Her happiness, so hard-won. I hope she is as happy and feels as free as she looks. I hope it’s not a temporary rush. I wish all the blessings on her and her family and friends, and most of all on her journey. Because good goddamn, what an inspiration.
While we were driving home from work (with Starbucks and two sun-kissed, smiling little girls, fresh from their adventures of playing hookey), I asked Kim if she had seen the Vanity Fair cover with Caitlyn and all the stories, we raved about how stunning the entire transformation was and what an amazing, liberating story for Caitlyn and the community, and for this country and it’s pigeon-holing culture wars. The girls, naturally curious, asked who Caitlyn was. And I explained. I don’t pull many punches or shield my girls from much. They’re 11 and almost 9. They are mature. I expect them to be. I want them to be able to engage with the world around them, in all of its different shapes and forms. Most of all, I want them to grow up knowing this is okay. This is normal. “Normalcy” is elastic and we get to define it.
Kim and I used age-appropriate language to explain that the Kardashians’ dad [sigh – who “used” to be an Olympic gold medalist, but let’s use the entry point the girls will get…and yes, we explained that, too] was born feeling like he was a girl born in a boy’s body. That he felt pressured by society to act like a boy when he felt with his whole heart for his entire life that he was a girl by gender. We had a short conversation about gender vs. sex – again, very age appropriate for my girls who are still squicked when we talk about kissing – and then we talked about how with therapy and the help of doctors, family, and friends, he chose to change, physically, who he was so he could be happy and live an authentic life.
We talked about how brave that was, considering how mean some people can be. We talked about how a lot of people wouldn’t understand. We talked about the importance of kindness. It wasn’t an hours-long conversation – not this one – but there will be more. It felt very natural. And I firmly believe it’s those small, pop-up conversations that you address and take advantage of as they happen that stick with your kids. It’s the little things like mentioning in the middle of a conversation about age-appropriateness, for instance, that one day they will like kissing boys or girls that I think matter. They don’t even realize I’ve thrown the “or girls” in there. But it is important. They’ll remember that when they are making decisions about themselves or about their own ideas of “normal”.
It was a wonderful moment yesterday. Because Caitlyn is important. My girls are important. Those moments are over-the-moon important. Because one day it will be so “normal” that they’ll hardly be a significant announcement at all. And that is worth all the tiny conversations in the world.