by Jeanne Talbot P ’20
It was a cool spring afternoon at Landmark with a sweeping, stiff ocean breeze that rushed up the hill between the Alexander and Lopardo buildings. I saw him across the drive, and he saw me. He smiled, I think, but maybe not. It was Parents’ Day, and although he’s not a teacher, I’m a parent and I needed to talk to him, even though I didn’t have an appointment. Eight months had passed since our first conversation, and there was still a lot to say about my daughter.
I’ll admit it. I’ve got a bit of "mama bear" in me (ok, a lot), at times fiercely protecting my daughter from a world that doesn’t understand or perhaps doesn’t want to understand her. Yes, my daughter is dyslexic … and she’s transgender.
There was a day that I thought Robb Genetelli, dean of students, was one of the people who didn’t understand. But on that spring day, I learned differently. He understood more than I could have hoped.
Nicole was assigned male at birth, and that’s who I thought she was, and it’s how I initially raised her. It took me 12 years to realize and learn what she knew from the start: that she is a girl. I had to learn that being a girl was not a fad, not a phase, and not something that she was going to outgrow. It’s who she is, has always been, and will always be.
Nicole began fully and publicly living as a girl in the middle of seventh grade. Her middle school trained its staff and teachers and adjusted its policies to provide an affirming and supportive space for Nicole and, ultimately, all students. But now it was time for Nicole to go to a new high school: Landmark.
Would the kids understand and accept her? Would teachers and the administration have her back? Though I was hopeful and did my due diligence with the school, I wasn’t sure Landmark understood what it means to be transgender, how to create a supportive environment, how to give staff the language to respond, and how to have a backbone when necessary. It was a stressful time, and both Nicole and I crossed the threshold holding our breath, hoping and yet wondering if Landmark would be the right place for her.
Our fears proved unfounded. At Landmark, she’s simply Nicole. She’s achieving all As and Bs, enjoying friendships, participating in school activities, and outside of school, pursuing her musical theater dreams.
I did catch up to Mr. G. that day on the driveway, and I’ll never forget what he said to me: “The fact that Nicole is transgender is the most uninteresting thing about her.”
The simplest truth, but the most powerful message. Transgender people are people: humans with families, friends, hobbies, talents, and above all, dreams. They are just like all of us, because they are us. The difference is that there is no difference.
My daughter is living her best life. Is it perfect? No. But she’s thriving.
My 16 year old is fundamentally no different from your 16 year old. Nicole has dreams and aspires to perform on Broadway. She has her driver’s permit and will get her license soon. She spends too much time on social media and doesn’t always do her homework. She breaks dress code and thinks Mr. G. won’t notice. She’s a teenage girl. And, in the words of Mr. G., being transgender is the most uninteresting thing about her.