Local News

Parents say love for transgender child is unconditional

Posted January 14, 2014 5:38 p.m. EST
Updated January 14, 2014 9:13 p.m. EST

— The parents of a Cumberland County first-grader who was born a boy but identifies as a girl say their decision to allow her to go to school as a transgender child was one based on unconditional love and a desire for her to be happy.

"It's been a long process for us, and basically, we just had to come to a decision that we were going to love and support our child, no matter what," the girl's mother said Tuesday. "We decided that our love for our kids was going to be unconditional, and we needed to make sure we were doing what was right for our child's happiness."

The child, a student at Howard Hall Elementary School in Fayetteville, began identifying publicly as a girl at the beginning of the school year – dressing in girls' clothing, going by a female name and other behaviors not commonly associated with boys – but parents of other  students say they recently became aware of the matter when their children started asking questions.

The child's parents say they spent years in therapy and made the decision to start raising their child as a girl on the advice of her psychologist.

When they did, they say, they didn't know what to expect, and they have been surprised by the support they've received.

"We've been really impressed and amazed by our friends and our family and especially the school and the school system about how supportive and encouraging they've been," the mother said. "They've all been very loving."

Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till says for the past five years that he's been superintendent, he's seen at least one transgender student each year.

"We don't make a big thing out of it, because we don't consider it a big thing," he said.

Till says that that although there is no official policy relating to transgender students – the school board is expected to address the matter later this month – there are policies dealing with bullying and student welfare. Till says that school staff make accommodations for transgender students on practical matters, such as which restroom to use, on a case-by-case basis.

"Our goal is to make every student comfortable and to make every student feel good about where they are and to help people understand that diversity comes in a variety of forms."

Some parents said Monday that they have no issue with Howard Hall staff accommodating the first-grader but that they are concerned that they weren't notified about the matter so that they could better respond when their own children started asking questions.

Recognizing those concerns, however, Till says he didn't think there a need to notify them.

"We understand there are a wide variety of things that occur in school and most things you don't notify because there is protection (in place)," he said. "So, we try, to the best of our ability, to not play it bigger than it is and try to accommodate whatever the need is to keep the privacy of the individual intact."