“They don’t cut it off. They more like … turn it inside out.”

“No surgeon in the world is going to turn a ten-year-old’s penis inside out.”

“Not yet, obviously. I’m just starting the research. There are some really remarkable doctors who—”

“You’re getting way, way ahead of yourself here.”

“I’m just starting the process.”



“Yes, Penn, why? She’s got another year, maybe more, she can be free of medical intervention at all. She’d have years, who knows how many, on hormone blockers if that’s the direction she and we decide to go. There are a zillion possibilities between here and vaginoplasty. What you’re doing right now makes about as much sense as shopping for a suit for Roo’s wedding.”

“It’s just … well, it’s pretty exciting, Rosie. Do you know a lot about sex-reassignment surgeries? They can make her a working vagina. It can do everything yours can. Her lovers won’t be able to tell the difference. Her gynecologist won’t even be able to tell the difference. They’re doing it on minors in other countries. We could get this done before she went to college. Talk about a fresh start. It’s some kind of miracle. You should see these sites. They—”

“You didn’t answer the question, Penn.”

“What question?”

“She’s ten. Why are you doing this now?”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Rosie, but push has crossed right over to shove here. In between, half-assed, secretly, just socially, it’s not cutting it anymore. We have to commit. We have to go all the way. Otherwise, she’s just a guy in a dress.”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Penn, but he cut off all his hair, put away all his girl clothes and toys, and is, as we speak, reverting to Claude with Cheerios.”

“And she hasn’t come out of her room in a week. That’s how depressed she is about it.”

“Or scared. Or confused. Or worried about disappointing us. Or worried about changing her mind. Or maybe she is depressed, but it’s not clear to me why. It could be that she’s depressed about not being all-girl. Or it could be that she’s depressed about everyone finding out, which is not the same thing. Or it could be she’s depressed because she doesn’t know who she is or who she wants to be, and she can’t stand thinking about it anymore.”

“No, I think that’s you.” Penn closed his laptop.

“But instead of trying to figure out all that might be going on, you just want to do surgery.”

“I don’t just want to do surgery. I want to look into the option of surgery. And I want to do it long before we think we need it because it’s not a minor undertaking, and that’s how seriously I’m taking this.”

Without the laptop glow, it was suddenly very dark in the room. “I get that, Penn. I do. But even thinking about this right now is part of the problem.”

“How can that be? How can doing research and having more information and thinking through complicated issues with time to spare possibly be a problem?”

“Because she’s having doubts”—Rosie held her arms out from her sides like her daughter did when she was upset—“so we have to live in the doubt place with her. She’s undecided, so we have to be undecided too. If she doesn’t know, we can’t tell her, can’t even have something in mind. These are her decisions to make.”

“How can she make this decision, Rosie?” Penn’s voice was shaking. “She’s ten. She doesn’t know what genitalia is for beyond peeing with. She can’t make decisions about sex, about the importance of sensitivity, lubrication, dilation, reproduction. She can’t consider what a sexual partner will make of what’s under her pants. We don’t even know if she’s going to be gay or straight. She can’t possibly make these decisions. As you keep saying, she’s ten. So we’re going to have to do it for her.”

“We can’t. Penn, we can’t. These aren’t our decisions to make. If she can’t make these decisions for herself, she’s going to have to wait until she can.”

“She can’t wait.” Penn was surprised to find his hands clasped in front of his chest, not quite pleading but not so far off either. “The younger you do it, the less of the wrong puberty she goes through, the better it works, right? If we wait until she can decide for herself, we’ve taken the choice away from her because we waited too long.”

“Penn, there are reasons they don’t do surgeries like this on minors, and only some of them are physical.” It felt like playing dirty to pull doctor rank, but this was important. “She cannot consent right now. She has to consent before procedures like these. So she has to wait. And so do you.”

“This is our job as parents, Rosie. You didn’t say we couldn’t pull Roo’s wisdom teeth because he was a minor. You didn’t say Ben couldn’t get his ear pierced because he was only fifteen. As parents, we make a thousand decisions a year with life-altering impact whose implications our kids couldn’t possibly get their heads around. That’s our job. That’s what parenting is. We decided to move across the country via some insane calculus that concluded Poppy being safer outweighed Roo being crankier because Ben might be happier and Orion and Rigel were a wash. We had no idea if it would work. We had no idea if it was the best thing. We researched. We thought about it. We discussed. And we made the best guess we could with the information we had on behalf of our children whose lives we thus changed indelibly forever.”