For parents, bullying at school is a difficult thing to get a handle on, especially given how little of it they see.
One Redditor recently found that out the hard way. They shared all the details in a post on the “Am I the A**hole (AITA)” subReddit.
The Original Poster (OP), known as ThrowAwayManyNames on the site, led with a provocative title.
“AITA for cutting my daughter off from her new friends?”
OP led with some key background details.
“My beautiful daughter ‘Maggie’ turned 16 last month and is trans (relevant). Over the summer we moved halfway across the country.”
“Mixed experience for Maggie. Obviously it was hard for all the usual reasons, but she was excited to start fresh.”
“For context: she passes very well. She more-or-less looks young for her age.”
Maggie took that chance to be “fresh” seriously.
“So in the lead-up to September, she told us that she didn’t want to be ‘out’ at her new school. She wanted people to just know her as a girl, not as a trans girl. I admit, my wife and I weren’t sure what to make of this, but she seemed happy.”
“She quickly made friends with several other girls her age (especially one girl ‘Brittany,’ important soon), things were going smoothly, and we relaxed a bit.”
But OP recently encountered a surprise.
“Then Friday I get a text from Maggie’s best friend back home (we’ll call her ‘Jenna’) asking either me or my wife to call her, and not to tell Maggie yet.”
“Basically, Maggie has been hanging out with both Jenna and Brittany online, and Brittany would sometimes say very transphobic things (along the lines of trans women not being real women, or they’re gross, you get the idea), and Maggie would laugh along and agree.”
“Apparently Jenna privately called her out, and Maggie begged her not to say anything or out her, said Brittany was an amazing friend otherwise, so on. Jenna, bless her heart, didn’t want to be cut off from Maggie, so she agreed.”
That would not be the last episode in this saga.
“So then last week they were hanging out and Brittany made a comment about some ‘pervert’ at school, and Maggie tries to change the subject but it all comes out anyway: there’s another trans girl at the school and Brittany has been bullying her. In front of/with friends. Including Maggie.”
“And Maggie has done nothing to help this poor girl or distance herself from Brittany.”
All of that created some drama.
“This led to a massive fight between Jenna and Maggie, and they haven’t spoken since. Now Jenna figures if she can’t salvage her friendship with Maggie, she can at least maybe help her by telling us.”
“I exploded. I don’t have room for details, but I tore a strip off Maggie for being a part of this, confiscated her phone, grounded her, and told her never to speak to Brittany/that group again.”
“This shot her weekend plans to hell, it’s been two days, and she hasn’t spoken to me since.”
OP luckily has their wife to talk things through with.
“My wife has been on my team in front of Maggie and is horrified by what’s been going on, but she thinks that we can’t expect to ‘forbid’ teenagers from seeing one another, and I’ve now cut Maggie off from some of the only friends she has out here.”
“But I just don’t get it. I’ve tried talking to her, but she just won’t and I don’t want to push her too hard.”
“Her mother convinced her to bump up her next appointment with her therapist, grudgingly, but otherwise she hasn’t had much luck either and she thinks we made a mistake.”
“So, here I am. I feel badly for the way I reacted, but I also don’t see how else I could have. My little girl is enabling a transphobic bully, and I don’t see how she can live with herself.
“Every time I think about it I just see red. AITA?”
Anonymous strangers weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Most Redditors assured OP they were not the a**hole.
“NTA Your daughter is condoning a bullies behavior. She needs to learn friendships like this are toxic and will end badly for her in the long run.” — Comfortable_Fun_9872
“NTA Maggie isn’t enabling a bully.. she is the bully. Not only is she not distancing herself but joining in on the action. Consider therapy and talking to Brittany’s/the group’s parents too.” — ChiquitaBananKush
“NTA. Trans or not, your daughter should never get away with being a bully, nor supporting one. I can’t imagine how you must feel.”
“Keep your daughter in line, you know best how to raise her! You, dear parent, did the right thing. Do not give in until this is settled.” — proceduralpigeon
“NTA. I think your reaction is appropriate considering your daughter is a participant in bullying. It is apparent that your daughter is going through some things with processing her identity but that is not an excuse to passively bully someone else who is open about their transition.”
“I am also glad to see your wife is encouraging your daughter to see her therapist sooner. Hopefully the therapist can help Maggie deal with her feelings about the situation and encourage healthier boundaries.” — EsharalLight
OP heard the feedback loud and clear, as a few follow-ups explained.
“Edit: Reading everything here helped. I appreciate all of you. My wife has just opened the post to read for herself too. We will be sitting down and talking with Maggie today, and I will apologize for the way I reacted, and…we’ll go from there.”
“I’m terrified about what I might hear, but if I can help it, I can’t just let her go back to school with all this.”
After they talked more with Maggie, OP filled Reddit in.
“Edit 3/Update: I sat down with her and apologized for losing my temper, I told her I wasn’t mad anymore, just scared for her, and that I wanted to help.”
“I said we would need to solve this, but we’d do it together, and that my wife and I would give her a little time to think about it, if she needed it.”
“And then she just about disintegrated. She was sobbing and couldn’t even get words out. Her mom and I held her and let her cry it out.”
“After that I asked if she was ready to talk about it, and she said she wanted a little space first to put herself together, but she said she knows how much of a mess this is and that it needs fixing.”
OP closed with a final edit, on that post.
“So that’s where we are now. We’re letting her collect herself and calm down, and I’m typing this while her mom puts together a late lunch for her, and after she’s eaten we’ll talk and go from there.”
“Not sure if I’ll be able to update, but I’ll try. Thank you again everyone for your help and insight.”
Then came many more edits in a new post.
“Hi folks. I’m updating here because I think this update will probably end up being too long to add to my original post, and I know I don’t meet the update criteria, but I thought I’d fill in those of you who were concerned. I do have Maggie’s permission to share.”
“So. After Maggie had her cooldown and her lunch, her mom and I sat down and hashed everything out.”
“Before I go any further, I’m going to do what a few other commenters on the post did and give a shout-out to Jenna. For what she already did, yes, but there’s more.”
“Maggie evidently put two and two together, figured out Jenna was the one who told us what was going on, and sent her an irate message (on her laptop, which we’d let her keep because homework).”
“She showed us the message. I’m not going to quote it here, but suffice it to say it was pretty long and ugly, sent the same night I’d gone off on her. Probably would have been a friendship-ender to anyone else.”
Not Jenna, bless her. Three paragraphs of awful, and Jenna’s response was: ‘are you okay? Do you need to talk?’ “
Eventually, Maggie gave her side of the story.
“Which they did, yesterday. I think Mags gave her the silent treatment until then, she didn’t say. They got on a call, they talked, they cried. And they’re good now, pending how all this turns out, and I mean…who can blame Jenna for that?”
“But Maggie did say (with lots of difficulty) that she was feeling trapped in a no-win situation and had been so scared of us finding out about this Brittany thing because she didn’t think we’d understand and we’d probably hit the roof (oops).”
“I think she had it in her head that she could get through to Brittany and work it all out. Fix her, y’know. So when we did find out, the whole thing came crashing down.”
This led OP to reflect.
“Most of the folks who commented on my post were right on the money, and I’m ashamed I didn’t see it (or maybe take the time to think about it) before I got so angry the other day.”
“She and Brittany were well into their friendship (and Maggie was very much part of the ‘group’) before any of this came up, and once it did, Maggie was so terrified of what would happen if she were outed that she felt all she could do was play along.”
There was more to share.
“But of course there’s more. It turns out the other trans girl, the victim (she needs a name, so I’m calling her Emily) is a new kid, on top of everything else, and from the sound of it, an impressive new kid.”
“She transferred to Maggie’s school toward the beginning of December, around the time Jenna started noticing the off-colour comments. And apparently Emily is out and proud. Like, trans flag buttons on her shirt proud.”
And then, even more.
“But there’s more, strap in. I mentioned in one or two comments that I spent some of the weekend getting a hold of Brittany’s parents, and that they were a collective piece of work.”
“What I found out was that they have been repeatedly complaining to the school about Emily, playing the role of ‘concerned parents’ because of all the usual bullshit reasons (pardon my French).”
“Props to the school here because it sounds like Brittany’s folks were politely told to go make sweet love to a tree stump (I might be paraphrasing) and that Emily has as much of a right to her identity as anyone else.”
That led to the start of the problems.
“So, of course, enter Brittany, and anyone who will listen to her. The way Maggie tells it, at first it was just Brittany making the odd comment here and there, about her parents or Emily or whatever.”
“(We did pause here and stress how much we wished Maggie could have talked to us then, and she agreed that it might not have gotten this bad, but she, y’know. Thought she could fix it.)”
“Then we were on Winter break, then Covid shut down the school for a week and classes were online, so it wasn’t until just last week that things got particularly ugly.”
“I was relieved to hear that there were only two incidents Maggie witnessed. One was a throwaway comment as Brittany et al. passed Emily in a hallway.”
“The other (the one that sparked this whole thing) was a day or two after that, started a similar way (in passing outside the building), and Emily stopped this time and called Brittany out.”
“They got into it, words were exchanged, Maggie just kind of froze. Apparently Emily called the lot of them “transphobic b****es” and that hit Maggie pretty hard.”
That left Maggie in a tough spot.
“She also told us she hadn’t really meant to be completely stealth at first, more so just that she wouldn’t bring it up, and if someone asked, she wouldn’t lie.”
“But (again, comments, chef’s kiss) she got caught up in the excitement of being seen as a cis girl, and then all this happened before the subject came up.”
“Christ, this is a lot. Sorry.”
“All that pretty much brings us to this weekend, where things went south. I think the fact that I blew up the way I did kind of put things in perspective for her (like, she knew I’d be mad about all this, but that mad, apparently not), but as I said…she was scared of losing Brittany, scared of being outed, and thought she could fix it.”
“So then we found out about today, and Maggie had to stop and cry again because she was so afraid to show us. I’m guessing I set something off when I talked to Brittany’s parents (again…oops)…”
“…because Brittany’s on there ‘sympathizing’ with Maggie and talking shit about Emily because it’s all Emily’s fault Maggie can’t hang out with them this weekend, and…fu**.”
“These messages are awful. Maggie’s apparently been glued to Jenna all day via her laptop trying to just deal with all the horribleness. And Maggie says nothing else from before was ever this bad.”
“My wife asked her what she wanted to do now, to which Mags channelled her inner Pumpkin Spice and told us she ‘can’t even’ with Brittany right now. Which I clarified meant, she knows the friendship is over, but she doesn’t have any clue how to do it.”
“She doesn’t want to come out to her, naturally, but she feels like she’s going to get nothing but questions. Since there’s no school tomorrow, we’re going to sit down with her and brainstorm.”
OP wondered what was next.
“I asked her what she would do about Emily, because I still think that because she was a part of this, she has some level of responsibility to help make things right. I was thinking an apology, which she agreed to.
“But then Maggie shows me screenshots of all the messages Brittany sent about Emily that morning, along with some of the ones from before the drama, which she’d been furiously finding and saving while she ate her lunch, and she says she wants to take them to the VP at the school.
“And I’m like, fu**in’ A.”
All OP can do now is look back and wonder about what comes next.
“So, that’s where we are now. I’m proud as hell of Maggie, and also scared as hell of what she’s going to have to deal with when all the shit hits the fan.”
“I don’t know what the school will/can do with Maggie’s screenshots, I guess we’ll have to see. Wifey and I are going to sit in on a call to Jenna tonight, with Maggie, because we both agreed with what several of you said…”
“…she deserves credit for being absolutely top-notch here. And Maggie’s therapist had a cancellation tomorrow, praise Jeebus, so there’s that too.”
“I want to thank everyone again for everything. There will be more that happens, this ain’t done, but for now I’m done updating. I’m gonna go cuddle with my daughter and watch a terrible movie.”
It’s a long a winding tale of difficult parenting moments that remind us why forums like Reddit can be helpful if the community is supportive.