Halfway through Jonas and Wyatt’s first-grade year at Asa C. Adams Elementary School, Kelly learns that she has thyroid cancer. She undergoes two surgeries in Boston as well as radioactive iodine therapy. Following this treatment, Kelly has many follow-up appointments. She frequently drives herself the 240-mile trek, reciting the mantra, “I need to live ten more years.” All she wants is to be there for her children.
Kelly’s thyroid cancer brings out her tenacity and determination to fight, but it also illuminates her priorities. All she wants is to make sure that she can be there to take care of her family—perhaps even privately worried that without her guidance, Wayne might not be able to support Wyatt in the way he needs.
Once, when the whole family makes a trip to Boston for Kelly’s treatments, she and Wayne notice a young boy with no hair and a very thin face who is also staying in their hotel. She and Wayne privately give thanks for their own good fortune at having healthy children. When the months of treatment are finally over, the doctors give Kelly a clean bill of health, and Kelly is “more determined than ever to be there for her family.”
Nutt continues to demonstrate the important aspects of being a family. It does not matter how “normal” their children may seem; what is truly important is that they are healthy, happy, and can lead meaningful lives. While Wayne’s insecurities about Wyatt may stem from his concern that Wyatt will have a difficult life going forward, he is still able to recognize his fortune in having Wyatt at all.
Wyatt and Jonas love it when Kelly reads to them before bed. Each gravitates towards different characters. For Wyatt, his choices are either a princess, or Dorothy or the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz. For Jonas it is the Tin Man or a pirate. Wyatt is also happy that his parents allow him to have pink sneakers, a pink backpack, and a pink Kim Possible lunchbox. However, when Wyatt returns home from school each day the first thing he does is to change into a skirt or dress.
Nutt provides even more examples of Wyatt’s certainty concerning his identity, and how he flourishes when he is allowed to express that identity in the ways that he desires. Despite his parents’ pressures to conform to gender norms at school, Nut makes it clear that Wyatt is doing this solely to please his parents.
Kelly and Wayne try to find a therapist for Wyatt, but it proves difficult to find someone who specializes in gender issues for children. Wyatt, meanwhile, is trying to figure out his own form of treatment. One day he tells Kelly that he “can have an operation that will fix [him].” He doesn’t know the word transgender or anything about sex reassignment surgery, but he understands that plastic surgery could help him look more like a woman. He knows instinctively that this is what he wants.
The discovery of plastic surgery begins Wyatt’s own journey of transformation, but it is important to clarify which aspects of himself he is transforming. Nutt argues that being transgender is a problem of the body, not an issue with his mind. Contrary to others’ mistaken beliefs that he can be “cured” of being transgender by trying to change how he expresses himself; Wyatt merely wants to adjust his anatomy to match the gender he feels on the inside.