Trans girl finds difficulty living her authentic self in school

Amy Grotts, mother of trans daughter. Photo by Robin Dorner.

Decisions made by authorities potentially put child in danger

By Robin Dorner
Editor in Chief

Amy Grotts daughter is seven years old. In October of last year, she began saying to her mom, “Well, what if I was a girl?” She repetitively and consistently said these statements.

“When Ellie told me [she was a girl], I had suspected for a while, and we had just bought her some dresses and skirts at her request which she wore, as a boy, to school,” said Grotts. “She also had requested we no longer use he/him pronouns and, at that time, had said she wanted the gender-neutral ‘they/them.’”

Grotts said the family has discussions about things like pronouns and respecting people's pronouns.

“Ellie decided on they/them after Edmond Pride when she got a they/them pronoun button and later when we talked, she told me she hated being referred to as he/him,” said Grotts. “So, no surprise at all to me when she told me. I did pull out some caution because I wanted her in counseling before making any decisions, but I quickly realized how problematic it is to put parameters on another person's gender expression.”

Grotts uses she/her to refer to her daughter now.

“That is how my baby girl became who she is today.”

But Grotts said in the Mid-Del school where her daughter attends, they “pretty much immediately” started having trouble with them accommodating her needs as a trans girl. There have been incidences, problems, and bullying she has experienced as a result of the non-compliance of her needs.  

“I think I may have gone in with too soft a touch,” said Grotts. “I had worked there so I thought it could be amicable and we could just do the right thing for my kid. At first, it seemed like that's what they were going to do. But quickly I realized things weren't going to be taken care of.”

Ellie was getting bullied and reacting to the child doing the bullying. However, the school only disciplined Ellie with an in-school suspension, while the other child was sent back to class.

“I was working that day,” said Grotts. “I saw this happen. To her getting bullied by little boys in the bathroom and when I brought it up with the school staff, the only response was, ‘Ellie hadn't said anything to them.’ When I told the staff she wasn't comfortable speaking with them; I was told ‘it sounds like something she needs to work on it counseling...she is in counseling, right?!’

Nothing was done about the other kids. Just recommended counseling for my kid so she could get over feeling uncomfortable going to unsupportive staff who did nothing every time she was bullied.”

Grotts said Ellie has developed what she and the doctors believe is anxiety.

“She’s having these emotional meltdowns that are heartbreaking to watch. She's quieter now than she used to be, more self-conscious. As a mom, it's really sad to see.”

At this point, Ellie must transfer to the Oklahoma City Public School system for her daughter to be accommodated for her needs as a trans child.

“They have a whole plan you fill out with the principal and teacher when you start,” said Grotts. “It covers any issues and gender-based activities and makes sure everyone is on the same page."

She said the entire staff at this new school sees Ellie as a girl. Unequivocally.

“They are so supportive, and they aren't telling anyone she is trans unless it is pertinent to interactions regarding Ellie. It’s strictly need-to-know. They still have her in a single stall bathroom, but it's right next to her classroom (vs. a long walk in her previous school) so no more accidents and needing to use the boy’s room instead to avoid one.

“No child should have to choose between an accident or being bullied. 

Grotts is going before the Mid-Del School Board this evening. Even if it’s too late for Ellie in this district, she wants Mid-Del to create a comprehensive policy for LGBTQ+ students, with heavy input from the LGBTQ+ community, and organizations like the ACLU and Freedom Oklahoma.

“I want there to be specified things laid out like that bullying looks different sometimes when it's happening to LGBTQ+ kids than when it's strictly in the straight/cis population,” she said “I want there to be policies where the student gets to choose bathroom/locker room/etc., instead of it being mandated what will happen. I just want equal opportunity for all LGBTQ+ students in Mid-Del…and heck, the whole state.”

Grotts has spoken with the Mid-Del Assistant Superintendent and the Director of Elementary Schools at a meeting she had with them several months ago about her daughter being trans.

“They refused even to consider allowing her to use the correct bathroom. Wouldn't discuss it or even give me a reason,” Grotts said. “They also nixed the idea of an LGBTQ+ policy, saying LGBTQ+ students are covered in their general non-discrimination policy, which they are not.

“Then they told me they ‘don't like to create policies at Mid-Del that cover only some of the kids because in Mid-Del they care about all their kids so unless it applies to every single kid, they won't make a policy to protect my child and all the others.” 

In daily life, Grotts said they had changed her wardrobe quite a bit, keeping some of her “boy wardrobe” which she is welcome to wear.

“She rarely does wear it, unless its laundry day and mommy is behind. LOL.”

The family has gone through the obvious pronoun changes from he/him to she/her. They are also using a femme nickname of her birth name.

“We don't want to change her name until she's old enough to decide for herself, so this works well and helps keep her from being outed in public. We've also been growing her hair out

Grotts admits she is not a very “girly mama” and is having to learn all the femme hair techniques and buy all the “frou-frou” clothes.

“She’s a little princess and has a head full of curls that need managing.”

Copyright The Gayly. 4/8/2019 @ 4:48 p.m. CST.