I am Marcella Andrews and I am from Madison, Wisconsin. I grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin and went to high school there.
I have a distinct memory in high school of being in the hallway near my locker. Someone walked by and said, you know, “Hey, you’re a lesbian.” And it was, you know, it was with this very angry tone. I was confused. I don’t really know what that all meant, actually.
And then they said, “Oh, you use a double header,” which I did not know what that was at the time. Then I got even more confused and they’re like, “You don’t even know what you are but that’s what you are. You’re a lesbian.” It was a very scary moment for me because I knew that it wouldn’t – it wasn’t going to be easy if that’s what I was. But I knew at that time I was I was different.
Fast-forward 25 years and I’m happily married to my wife and live in Seattle, Washington. We have two beautiful children and life is going quite well. One day, my youngest son says to me – I had bought outfits for them, dress-up clothes because there’s going to be an event, piano recital.
And I’m showing, you know, him the outfits and he says, “You you never listen to me!” And it startled me because that wasn’t typically how, you know, he has spoken to me.
And so I sat down at the kitchen table and said, “I am listening. What am I not hearing?”
And he said, “I want to wear a dress.”
And so I said, “Okay.” You know, dress-up, dress-up clothes, totally fine. We’re open in our house. Let’s go. So we went to Target and I just was trying to be very open and say you can go anywhere, you can do anything, you know, anywhere for your shopping. And he went directly over to the girls clothes, picked out an extremely frilly, girly, dress – cardigan, tights, shoes and hair bow to match.
We’re in the dressing room and I just remember being there thinking, okay, you know, don’t mess this up. Like, be calm, be neutral, don’t say too many, you know, feminine words or whatever. So just, whatever, just try to be calm. He just turned around and his head was down and was waiting for my reaction.
And so I said, “You look nice.” Because it wasn’t “beautiful” or feminine or anything.
And then – I’ll never forget, he just turned around and held out the dress, looked in the mirror, and head was held high and spun around back at me and said, “I feel like me!” And I just remember getting chills everywhere and I text my wife and said “This is really happening.”
You know, time went on. Decided, you know, at several weeks to, you know, she/her pronouns, changed her name. So one Friday I was walking the school bus – so in Seattle, we walk the kids to school, and so a walking school bus is just a group of kids that all are from one neighborhood and that’s how they get to school. And so one parent is in charge of that particular day to kind of drive the bus. And so that was – Friday’s my day to drive the bus. And Rosemarie wasn’t in school yet. She was still in pre-school but she helps me drive the bus on Fridays.
And so she was in transition during this time and there was one child on the bus that was having a particularly hard time with her transition. He’s a first grader and he would come over and her hair was growing longer and he would grab fist-fulls of her hair and say, “Where’s your boy hair?” And so – or one day, she was wearing a skirt and he lifted up her skirt – “Where’s your boy parts?” And I would just try to redirect them and so she was always holding my hand on the walking school bus, staying really close because, I think, she was a little afraid.
You know, I just walking, you know, the kids through that, you know, some people might be able to have a little difference of opinions about it. But then this particular day, I must of been in a raw place or something, but we were walking and this child came running up. I was holding her hand and I could see him coming.
He came running up and said, “You’re a transgender. I know what you are. You’re a transgender.” And right just like that, I was back in high school standing at my locker. And I froze. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do. We weren’t using that term in our house. This is just gender exploration. You can be whatever you wanted to be.
And Rosemarie looked up at me with her little 5 year old eyes and said, “What’s a transgender?” And she knew that by the tone that it wasn’t a good thing, at least to this child. And he had picked on her enough to know that. And so he just kept repeating and repeating it and I started to cry. And I didn’t know what to do.
My older son came over and said – he saw this going on, he knew this child was picking on his sister, and said, “Well, in our house, we believe that you can be born a boy and be a girl and you can love anyone you want to love, and we will love you no matter what in our house.”
The same child kept repeating, “But it’s a transgender. It’s a transgender.”
And the other kids are like, “So what? Who cares?” And I was like, wow, this is incredible. I can’t believe this is happening. So I was just, pull yourself together, okay?
“Everyone, like, keep walking the school bus. We gotta cross the street.” And I just kept crying and walking and thinking, this is incredible. These kids are incredible and we’ve evolved and it’s okay. We’re gonna be okay. She never asked again what transgender was. Atticus, our older son, knows what the term means and we just said you can be whatever you want to be and if you want to be a boy tomorrow, you can do that. It doesn’t matter.
We did write a letter to the parents of the walking school bus explaining that something happened on the school bus and that we’re not using that term and that please, you know, that what we’re using is gender exploration and, you know, isn’t it a great world that you can be whatever you want to be?” And so, and that was received really well. So, you know, that was kind of how we handled it.
Before the walking school bus incident/story, you know, I really kind of felt like I was just – we were a family with two moms and that’s just who we were. We were, you know, walking the world with just being that. But now I really feel like we’re a queer, proud family and that’s okay. We really need to own that and go out into the world and and help people understand that we’re different. Back in high school, I was different and felt shame by that. And now I’m starting to really own my differences and own my children’s differences and not only accept it but be proud of that.