'Conor was turning 5' - No one came to my son's birthday
*There has been a huge reaction to this story and so, Elaine has since shared the below with us.
"I shared my story because I wanted people to see the child behind the label. I wanted parents to be aware of the effect their fear/judgement had on others and more importantly a child in this case. We have to remain anonymous for family reasons but I want you all to know how much your support and well wishes mean to myself and Conor. As a parent, you constantly worry that you're doing what's best for your child and when I see Conor being his true self and how happy he is I know in my heart I am. I am truly grateful for your support. I know people have asked if they could make contact and you can do this by sending any mail etc to Jack/Elaine c/o Vanessa Lacey, TENI, No 4 Ellis Quay, Dublin 7".
Five-year-old Conor's mother, Elaine from Cavan, shares a heartbreaking story of no one coming to her child's party".
"Conor was turning 5, he'd just started junior infants in September and this was his first big proper birthday party. He decided he wanted a boys only party because he was a boy after all. Then he reluctantly agreed to invite two girls so his sister would have someone to play with. He chose a bouncy play centre as the venue and Spider-Man invitations, he was so excited, he kept saying it was going to be 'the best day of my life!'"
"He invited all the boys from his class and the countdown was on. The morning of his birthday, he was up early and put on his new birthday clothes and posed for pictures like a real 'cool lad' because that's what he aspired to be, just like the other boys. The play centre was packed when we got there but we found our table and settled in. His sister's two friends arrived shortly after and they all went off playing while they waited for his friends to arrive."
After 20 minutes of waiting, the party host came to ask about getting the celebration started with Elaine asking if they could have more time to wait for Conor's friends.
"Conor kept checking in to ask where his friends were and after an hour, the organiser told me that due to time limits they had to proceed with the party."
Elaine, Conor, Conor's sister and her two friends were then moved to a small party area to eat and have the birthday cake.
"By that time Conor had stopped asking for his friends. My heart was racing, I felt sheer panic and shock at the situation, I had a hard lump in my throat that I kept trying to push down. I could not comprehend what was happening. After all, he was only 5".
Elaine took her children home and tried to come to terms with the cruelty of the parents of Conor's classmates.
"That night I put him to bed and held him tightly as he fell asleep against my chest, my little baby. I knew he knew, I could feel it in him. I wanted to hold him in that moment forever and never let him out in that cruel world again."
"Once the children were both asleep I sat myself down and allowed myself to feel it, I cried and I cried, I had a pain in my stomach from the anguish and loss I felt. Not knowing how to protect him from this rejection. From this judgement."
"My darling Conor is kind, he shares all his treats, he loves cute little babies and helping his sick grandmother when we visit. He's brave and adventurous, there is nothing that he wouldn't try his hand at. He loves working in the garage with his uncle fixing machine parts. He loves cars and superheroes and he is hilarious and fun and makes everyone laugh. He also happens to be called Jessica on his birth certificate.
Conor has Gender Dysphoria. Gender Dysphoria is the medical term for someone who was born with the 'wrong' genitalia. It often becomes apparent in very early childhood. In Conor's case, he was expressing that he was a boy from the moment he could talk in sentences.
"He's been saying he was a boy since he was 2. It's always naturally just been part of who he is. As he got older it changed from 'can I be a boy?' To ' I AM a boy.'"
Dr Lisa Brinkmann, a clinical psychologist specialising in gender issues says people are born transgender.
"It exists in all cultures and even in animals. It’s part of who these people are. They were born that way. Children are aware something is wrong but don’t have the words or concepts to express it. Often it’s only once their cognitive ability develops and especially when hormones kick in that they realise what it is".
Transgender people are particularly at risk from bullying and as a result, many have mental health struggles. A report on Trans mental health and wellbeing found that 78 percent of the 210 Irish transgender people interviewed had considered suicide and 40 percent had tried at least once. Transphobia caused 83 percent of respondents to avoid public spaces for fear of abuse and attacks.
Elaine blames the parents for snubbing Conor.
"The kids Conor invited to his party are all the friends he plays with at school, so I knew it wasn't that the kids didn't like Conor or want to come to his party, the problem was with the parents. They probably don't realise the message they're sending their children by not letting them come to Conor's party - that Transphobia is ok, that you should exclude people who are different."
Elaine wants other parents to be aware of the harm that they can do by not being inclusive and tolerant.
"Things are not always as they seem, people are different, cultures are different, bodies and abilities are different, but that does not define who we are. You are the smile you give to people when you meet them, the warm heart that you show, the adventures and belly laughs you share. That's humanity and acceptance. My Conor shares that same humanity, he just had a tougher start to life as he was born in the wrong body. Do we really want to be a society that punishes five-year-olds for being different?"
More information about Transgender and gender non-conforming children can be found here.