The boys' discussion moves to a particular teacher who (according to the grade school rumor mill) had insisted that boys are given harder games and challenges because they are "built tougher" than girls. Conor interjects with a relevant detail: He remembers hearing the same teacher describe how she herself had joined a men's sports team "because she wanted something harder."
"I found that cool and amazing," Conor says. "It was like, yes, this was the boys team and they play rougher because they were built bigger and tougher, but she could still play on the team. If you feel like you're good enough to play at the next level, you should be able to."
Over the course of the discussion, the boys aren't prompted by their parents. Their words are their words. They analyze and reflect on the issues of gender as they know it. When asked about their transitions, the three trans boys chatter back and forth, comparing experiences of choosing their names, telling their parents about "liking boy things" and coming out to their friends. They then spend several more minutes refining all the ways that boys and girls aren't automatically tougher than each other.
On the other side of the patio, "Taylor," also eight, explains to his father that the argument was so common amongst his class that it made him want to come out "later" to his parents.
"If I could have earlier, I would," he says, haltingly at first. "But for some reason, some people believe that boys are stronger than girls. I didn't want them to think I was changing because I wanted to pretend to be stronger. So, I told them later."
Eventually, the boys grow restless and are allowed to return to the backyard to play. Taylor's father notes that his son often discusses his transition in more specific terms, particularly about growing a beard and body hair. The other parents chime in with similar stories: Chase is asking whether getting married will mean he is a gay trans man. Conor, who is the closest to reaching puberty, "is suddenly very concerned with his breasts, which he calls 'these things,'" his mother says.
What they don't talk about, unless prompted by their parents, is the Missouri legislature.
"We have a lot of conversations," Chase's father says, turning to the other parents. "It's the balance we've talked about, and I'm sure you all have this, too. How much do we keep him in this welcoming, accepting bubble? How much do we pop that for him, and let him understand what the rest of the world is like?"
Taylor, according to his dad, doesn't seem old enough yet to imagine what a "medical ban" could mean for him in a few years' time.
"We've told him that if the medical bill passes, we'll move out of Missouri," Taylor's father says. "We'll figure it out, and he will never have to go through an unwanted puberty."
But for now, Taylor is focused on other things. He's obsessed with the St. Louis Cardinals. The eight-year-old's "ultimate dream" is to play for a local high school varsity baseball team. In the family's home days later, Taylor shows off his collection of baseball gear, modeling his batter's helmet, bat and glove for photos.
As a boy, Taylor has already played in two separate youth sports leagues without issue. Now, his father says his son is starting to ask about attempts to ban trans athletes — and what that would mean for his place on the team.
"He's not worried about the bills that much," Taylor's father says. "I think it's the idea of not getting to play baseball that for him is really hard."