ziona has a new friend.
actually an email pal…much faster interchanges than the old-time pen pals.
her new friend is a transgender girl, 11 years old.
they were introduced to one another by us mothers who connected on tyfa chat. which is transgender youth and families chat room where parents can connect with one another and share information, frustrations, horror or success stories.
it is awesome to watch their friendship unfold. which i must as ziona is just beginning to learn the qwerty keyboard, and so requests me to ‘take dictation’.
being autistic, ziona has a difficult time understanding just how to engage in conversation with others. on a ‘face to face’ basis this is more apparent, but in emails she has leisure to consider what she wants to say. it is amazing to me that she actually seems interested in this new friend enough to ask questions that relate to the friend, and not only to one of her own pet interests. at first she required a bit of prompting from me about this, now after just a week of interchanges, she not only shares about her own ‘stuff’, but has also learned how to work it into a conversational setting.
they started out by the new friend doing one of those “what’s your favorite __________?”
type of questionaire. in helping ziona answer that email, i, as the typist, learned that ziona has a favorite number…it’s 2000. also that ziona prefers plain and not striped or dotted walls and that if she could be any other real life creature she’d choose, first a lizard, second cat.
she is learning that she and her new friend have very different interests. ziona loves computer and video games, her friend never plays them. her friend wishes she could have a sister, ziona loves being an only child and doesn’t feel that need. her friend lives between her mom’s house and her dad’s house, whether she likes it or not. ziona and i share two homes. the friend’s dad is not fully supportive of his ‘daughter’ but is ‘coming around’. ziona felt bad about this latter thing. in a rare moment of empathy,(her autism sometimes makes her seem quite aloof) she said she felt sorry for her.
it’s not surprising to me that neither one of them feels the need to say much about the fact that they are transgender. at least not now. her friend mentioned that she had only ‘transitioned’ two months ago and asked how long ago ziona had transitioned…ziona had to ask me what that means, then answered with her own language regarding this, by saying: “i started growing my hair long and wearing dresses outside the house when i was 6”. ziona doesn’t recognise or relate to a transition since she has always been a girl. it is likely that her friend has always been a girl too, but used the vernacular of the cis-gender world to describe her current reality.
her new friend asked if ziona had always been her name and asked zee to suggest some pretty names, for when she changes hers. ziona suggested leelah, and explained that it means ‘play’ in sanskrit. it is one of her favorite names. (another thing i only learned because i’m taking dictation)
all this is so exciting for me. because for the first time ever, ziona is actually communicating as a friend! not in some pre-arranged play-date type of forced situation. but as a curious child learning about a new friend, and sharing bits of herself. she even had me attach some photos of gargoyles, aliens, and herself with goddess, her cat..
this is ziona’s first ever beginnings at what can be called friendship
and as the parent of any autistic child can affirm, this is not a baby step…but a giant leap!