Welcoming the “New Girl” at Your School


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Welcoming the “New Girl” at Your School


By Holly Maholm


It happens at every school, every year. Usually it’s something you will see the first day of school, but it can happen anytime. You are walking down the hall to your classroom, or you are sitting in your seat waiting for class to start, when suddenly you see a new face. There is a “new girl” in your class or in your school, and suddenly, you wonder how your own life will be affected.


Now, it may be you who is the New Girl. Sometimes a family has to move so someone can take a new job or a move closer to another family member who needs help. So maybe you already know what a lonely feeing it can be, suddenly arriving at an entirely new school where you don’t know anyone, and you can hardly find the cafeteria without a little help.

Until recently, there was really only one way you could get a New Girl at your school. She would have to move in to your neighborhood or community from some other city. But now, there is an entirely new way to get a New Girl at your school.

You might find that one of your classmates – a boy – who you knew and could recognize in the hall and maybe even sat together at lunch, has suddenly declared herself a “girl.” I am talking about a classmate who is “transgender.” A male classmate who has started his transition to living as a girl.

Why would a person do such a thing? To change from boy to girl? Well, medical science tells us it’s a medical condition. While that child was developing in the womb, something didn’t develop correctly. So one part of the body did not “line up” with some other part, and as a result, the child got one body (a male one), while her brain, her emotions and her sensations all tell her she’s “a girl.”

It’s not a choice or decision the child makes – like does she want anchovies on her pizza. It’s not like … first a “boy,” he says he hates them, then later, when she feels herself “a girl,” she says, “Sure, I’ll take anchovies on my piece – but no mushrooms.” It’s a medical thing – not a choice.

So there you are in class, and up by the door talking to the teacher is the New Girl. And she might be a girl who moved in from somewhere 500 miles away, or she might be a girl who – a year ago – was known as “Brad,” but who is trying to live her life honestly, the way she feels inside – as “Brianna.” Now, I’m going to tell you the secret of how to change a New Girl into a Girl Friend – in just two easy steps.

Step 1 is this: When you get to talk to the New Girl, pick out some aspect of her clothing or appearance that you like. You say, “I like your earrings” or “I like the way you do your hair.” You find something about her that you admire, and you share that with her. Because who doesn’t like compliments? And especially if you’re a New Girl, and you feel really conspicuous and insecure, having someone tell you how nice you look is about the best thing you can imagine.

Don’t be surprised if the New Girl smiles and wants to know your name. Tell her, and tell her how you like her name, too. You cannot be friends with someone if you don’t know her name – and she cannot tell everyone how nice you were to her, if she doesn’t know your name.

Step 2 is this: (And this is the secret! Very few people – even adults – know this one. So be careful how you use this information – it is powerful!) As you are talking to her, share something about yourself. Preferably something silly or foolish or even slightly embarrassing. Tell her, “I’m having a really bad day so far. As I was leaving the house, our dog jumped up and snagged my skirt” or tell her, “I left my homework at home, and now I’ve got to get my Mom [or other co-operative family member who can drive] to bring it up to me.”

Step 2 is simple. You share something personal with the New Girl, the way anyone would reach out and share with a friend. Because that’s what friends do. They don’t have perfect lives – you can be sure the New Girl is absolutely certain that her life is far from perfect. But sharing is what makes us “friends,” and for a New Girl, a friend is about the best thing she can have.  


Holly Maholm is a transgender woman who was born a man. She is a graduate of Yale University and The Ohio State University School of Law. She worked as a senior attorney for a major sports marketing agency until she retired in 2004 and went into private practice. She is the author of the new holiday book Brave in Ribbons. For more information please visit: www.hollymaholm.com