One of the things that comes up when you look a wee bit different in a relatively small town is that a lot of people – genuinely and kindly – wind up coming to you for perspective on gender issues. Or they do for me, at least.

Which makes the forthcoming issue of National Geographic a challenge for me. On the cover is a transgirl. And I am completely unequipped to talk about this kind of issue, even though people want me to. This is one of those areas where that human barrier exists that I don’t know how to talk about. Because I can’t judge how someone else feels. It’s the same compassion I want others to have for me, that they don’t know what it feels like to be me and why I define myself as non-binary. I don’t know what’s going on in the heads of these kids.

The usual reaction I hear is that kids should have to wait until they’re older to do anything about this. Nevermind that hormone therapy or similar treatments are much more complicated after puberty than before, of course. That said, I really don’t know what is ethical, what is right when it comes to situations with children. Autonomy for those underage is very difficult, and I know I would have many sleepless nights were the cover subject, Avery Jackson, my kid.

But they would be supportively sleepless nights. Look, I’ve known I’m different for a long time, but I didn’t have the context or language to really define how. I found most guy things gross. I’ve never been one of the boys. And you know what? That does go back to being a kid. I could pass because I played four sports and was good at them, too. I got a pass for a lot of things because of that prowess. But that didn’t mean I liked getting dirty or hitting people or whatever. It meant I wanted to be good and I wanted to win.

That’s what I want Avery and the rest of the kids featured in this gender issue to feel. That’s what I want the adults in that issue to feel as well: support. It’s what I want for myself. And maybe to be stared at just a little bit less.

Then again, I watched a two-year old get her ears pierced while shopping yesterday. So the question of autonomy and body choice is a great more complicated than most of us are willing to admit.

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