No Excuse for Relative Pronouns


I read a post the other day about the North Carolina transgender bathroom bill.

A mom in the comments said she stood in support of the bill because her young girls shouldn’t have to see THAT. And after she took a solid challenge from other readers, she signed off by saying that we are really screwing our kids up and IT is sad.

THAT and IT.

They jump off the page at me. Old habit. All English teachers know what I’m saying here. In the beginning of my career I would write little notes to my students in the margins, encouraging them to be more precise. By the end, I just circled the words, and drew a big question mark. On a poster board in the back of the room was a key to my corrections:


When I read her comment, I thought What the heck is she saying? What is THAT and what is IT?

I played it out in my head:

A transgendered woman comes into the women’s room to pee. Regardless of how long she lived as a he, someone taught her that it’s not polite to pee in the sink. So off to a stall she goes.

How does my daughter even know what is happening behind those closed doors?

Or a transgendered man comes into the men’s room. The urinals are not an option—I actually know this from personal experience, it’s a physical impossibility—so off to the stall he goes.

My son would assume one thing: serious business. And he would get out there as soon as possible to avoid the smell.

All good so far.

What WOULD cause an uproar is the reverse of that. There’s a McDonald’s in Redding where the bathrooms are reversed. Usually the women’s room is on the right. THE RIGHT. Annie had to pee and the door needed a token and no, I didn’t look at the sign.

The guy at the urinal sure did shriek like a woman when I rolled in there with my preschooler. Safe to say that he didn’t want to see me any more than I wanted to be there.

In my world, it will be a few more years before my little people notice things that may be seem different to them. I stand firmly by my “Need to Know” style of parenting. I’ll find the words then.

Because I have never once thought how I would explain transgendered to my kids.

There it is.

Maybe this mom who commented was her older self, with kids who are asking questions that need answers. Maybe she’s watching her babies take giant steps towards adulthood and suddenly all  those hard words she was going to find on a far-away tomorrow have to be in her head today.

So she’s freaking out and using relative pronouns.

Sister girl, I can relate to THAT.

But I don’t want to live in a relative pronoun world. And I need to stop punting to my older self because I’m tired now and my older self, the one with teenagers, will be tired and old.

So I’m going to remember that we are people who believe where we stand on the important things in life is not as important as how we stand. We stand in love.

Then I’m going to call my girlfriends and invite them for coffee but really it will be a brainstorming session called “What to tell our kids when”. Together we will buck up and find the hard words because fear is no excuse to use relative pronouns.

But also.

For the love of God, can we build children with hardier hearts? Children who aren’t so fragile that they will need twenty years of therapy at the sight of a woman peeing standing up? Or whose faith in all that is good and holy will not fall to pieces in the face of a man who appears to have boobs? That’s a house of cards built on shifting sands and I am not interested in that.

I want mighty warriors.

If I’m doing my job well, they will see things different from their idea of right and wrong and say “Huh.” Then go about their holy and sacred business of standing in love.



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