When Rachel Anne Bradbury and her husband had to take their 4-year-old to a public restroom, she knew that a conversation she's been dreading having with her child could potentially come up. Once he looked up at her and said, "Mommy, I want a penis," she knew her time had "run out" and that her child had made realizations sooner than she hoped he would about his own body compared to other people's.
"Some boys have vaginas," she told him, not for the first time. "I know, Mommy, but all my friends that are boys have penises and Daddy has a penis, and I want a penis like them," her 4-year-old, Robin — whose name has been changed — responded.
This conversation has led Bradbury to worry about her child's future, for when he has to go into a public restroom on his own, because he's already "beginning to express feelings of dejection surrounding gender dysphoria." In a post that was originally shared in the private Pantsuit Nation Facebook group, Bradbury shared a bit more about Robin and the challenges she's faced in parenting him.
"When Robin was about 2, he started telling me he was a boy. Not that he wanted to BE a boy, or that he FELT LIKE a boy, but, simply, that he WAS a boy. He wanted to buy clothes from the boy's department — he refused to wear anything that reminded him of something a girl would wear — he had specific colors he wanted (blue), specific shoes (Lightning McQueen). All of his stuffed animals were boys. He loves Legos, cars, trucks, trains, and 'boy superheroes,' as he says. These things, I know, do not make Robin a boy. They just make him Robin.
So none of these preferences are what led me to the position of accepting my child's truth. What brought me to support him was pretty simple, actually: I have always known I am female. I've never questioned it. Robin was telling me that . . . he knew he was a boy. Who am I to say he's wrong? Who am I to tell a 2-and-a-half-year-old, a 3-year-old, and now a 4-year-old that I know his being better than he does?
When I informed my parents months ago that their grandchild requested that they refer to him as their grandson, and not their granddaughter, they were initially accepting. My mother apologized for continuing to purchase princess nightgowns that Robin was refusing to wear. She said she would 'try to be a better grandparent' by ceasing to resist Robin's wishes. Then, not 24 hours later, my parents consulted a doctor on their own, an old friend of theirs, asking how a 4-year-old could possibly know about gender. And, with incredible ignorance and devastating finality, this respected physician told my parents that my 4-year-old has fallen victim to a fad.
In spite of my parents continuing to tell Robin he's 'such a pretty girl,' my son does not usually get upset. He just quietly corrects them: 'I'm a pretty boy.' . . . Let me be clear: My parents are amazing people. They are not the bad guys. They'd walk through fire for their grandchildren — ALL of their grandchildren. They are just a couple of people who, like so many, have a hard time processing these things. They'll love Robin, come what may. But it might take them a while to figure it all out. . . .
I, myself, spend a great deal of time worried that I'm not doing the right thing. But I'm trying to be a good parent, listening to my child and trusting him. If Robin comes to me and says she's a girl, I'll let Robin take the lead on that as well. Most often, Robin doesn't talk about it at all. He is just himself. When Robin started correcting my pronouns, however, I started earnestly trying to change them — but not before that. I'm just doing my best, here, and like so many parents, I'm hoping I'm not messing things up too badly."
Following the Supreme Court's refusal on March 6 to hear the case of transgender high school student Gavin Grimm, who is fighting to use the bathroom of his choice, Bradbury started feeling understandably fearful for Robin for the first time. If her own family was having some difficulties accepting Robin's truths, how could she not see a future of difficulties for her child when the government is also failing to protect him?
"I understand that things are complicated in government. Politicians and constituents must both be petted, cajoled, encouraged, manipulated, used, appeased. Many pieces are at play, certainly," Bradbury ends her thoughtful post. "But what is that to a little boy? He knows nothing about politics. He just wants to be himself, to be Robin, in a world that seems intent on making that extremely difficult."
Bradbury shared with POPSUGAR Moms her hopes in sharing Robin's story with others: "When people read my story, I want them to see Robin as a child, a wonderful 4-year-old person with hopes, dreams, and silliness, a person who doesn't yet know how difficult it is for the world to accept him, a world that he accepts with unbiased innocence each and every day."