Gender identity theft
By Dale Burgos
Last month I shared with you some of the most intimate details of my life. This month, I continue my family’s story of heartache and triumph.
June’s article, “Gender identity crisis,” turned some heads. As the title suggested, there was a crisis, not in our family, but in those in our community who did not understand.
Individuality. We are all different and that is what makes us special. When we look in the mirror, what do you see? When we refer to our partners, we frequently say, “I love how we’re alike” or “opposites attract.” We are all individuals.
Take me for example; I am turning 40 this month. I’ve known for a very long time who I am and what my goals in life are. My wife Izzy, other than being so very lucky to have an awesome husband like me, is a strong woman who has proven over and over again that she will fight for her family. There is no doubt that you don’t want to poke this mama bear.
Our oldest is Johnny. He’s 21 and so loving. Since he was a child, he’s always had this caring side to him. He enjoyed taking care of his younger siblings. He’s got a nurturing spirit. He’s continued his love for people and life to this day. I hope he never changes.
William is now 19 and loves his new start on Vancouver Island. He’s had his struggles with identity. He knew at a young age that he is gay. He may have had struggles in school, but he has come out stronger and is growing into a young, confident man who now works three part-time jobs because he has goals to achieve. He is one of my heroes.
Rece is now 12. I’ve been told he is the spitting image of me. He quickly made friends after our move west. He has this ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. He enjoys school and constantly does his homework early (I know he didn’t get that from me; I’m a procrastinator). For any sport, he doesn’t have to try hard to do well.
Gavin just turned 11 in June. He is small in stature but big in heart. He isn’t afraid to hold my hand in public and every night, after we kiss him goodnight, he says, “I love you, never ends.” He is constantly misunderstood (mostly by me, sorry kiddo) and he is a quick learner when it comes to athletic skills.
Our youngest is Bella. At nine years old, she has shown more courage and determination than most people. As you know, she is transgender and very proud of it. Recently, we were given the honour to be the “host family” at the annual Rainbow Resource Gala, where a pre-taped interview with Bella was played in front of hundreds. We could not make the event in person, but we definitely felt the spirit. Many people who attended said Bella’s story and her instructions for donors to “open their wallets” to help Rainbow Resource Centre was the talk of the night.
Her courage to live on the outside with who she is on the inside started last year. With open arms our friends and family welcomed our newest addition. Her smiles went for miles.
That was, until her identity was almost taken away from her.
We’ve all had struggles – some with addiction, some with family and others financially. For us, our struggles lied with people who simply did not understand what it means to live as a transgender person.
Children get it almost immediately. It’s the adults who take a bit longer to fully grasp the idea. You see, we’ve grown up and have, over the years, developed our own opinions of the world, whether it be through life experiences or how we were brought up and the environment in which we lived.
Without getting into every single detail, our little girl, like every other person in the world, needed to pee. Naturally, in her mind, she is a girl and would obviously use the girls’ bathroom. This isn’t a new concept and has been in practice all over world for years.
Little did we know that this one little action would stir up controversy that provided water cooler talk amongst the parents and staff in the school. Ultimately, this led to a complaint filed with the police and the start of a lengthy Manitoba Human Rights Commission process.
Never in our wildest dreams would we have thought a grown adult would confront our child about her bathroom usage, nor would we have thought that a school division would consult with their lawyers about which bathroom our child uses.
Nobody has the right to tell us who we are as individuals. Their actions almost robbed my daughter of her identity.
So we fought back.
Next month I will continue to share our challenges and triumphs from this past year.
Dale is the director of communications for a school district on Vancouver Island and continues to share his stories from afar.