Earlier this week, PBS’s Frontline aired a program entitled, “Growing Up Trans”. You can see it here:
A part of me loved it. And, a part of me hated it. Here’s why:
I loved the title. The fact that in the title they used “trans” which is so casual and matter of fact reiterated a heightened national awareness and, arguably, acceptance. To my mind, “trans” is way more cool and way less clinical than transgender. As someone living in this world, the absence of the word gender can go a long way.
I loved the honesty of the parents. This is not easy stuff and any parent who tells you that each day is anything other than overwhelming, scary and uncertain is a liar. I don’t care how effeminate or butch your son or daughter may be, there is nothing, not one damn thing, that prepares a parent for this transition. Your little boy loves dolls and dresses and mermaids? Your daughter is only interested in trucks, contact sports and super heroes? Big deal…who cares? In fact, when my entirely cis-gender son was little he loved to go with me to the Chanel counter at Bloomingdale’s and paint each of his fingernails a different vibrant color. Weekly. Never ever once did I wonder if he would come to me one day and tell me he felt that as though he was a girl. For that matter, I didn’t even really expect it from George who so resolutely favored dolls, wigs, dresses and mermaid costumes but also acted, in many ways, “all boy”. Yet one day he told me just that. And, like the parents profiled on the program, I was totally, completely and utterly knocked off my axis. Apparently I put on a brave face and had everyone convinced that it was an easy adjustment but, newsflash, it wasn’t. Still isn’t, actually. It is, however, a whole hell of a lot easier. I love those parents for admitting their fears, anxieties, and trepidations with no apology. Bravo.
I loved the kids, each one of them, with all their individual quirkiness, for having the courage of their convictions and for sharing with the world what this feels like. I loved how each one of them owned their behavior: the good, the bad and the ugly. No matter your age, environment or gender…that takes balls.
I loved the lack of discussion about bathrooms. Seriously, loved that.
I hated a few things, too. A friend messaged me about the program:
“…Wanted to punch a few of the Dads. I am sure their reactions are pretty typical but still…”
Now, what I hated about this is not what you might think. My friend is right. Some of the dads’ reactions were painful to watch. The perfect parent in me wants to chide them for their selfish candor. And, that said, I can fully understand wanting to punch them…I mean, really, who talks smack like that about their kids, in front of their kids and, oh, yeah, on national television? The honest parents do. I entirely understand how they felt/feel and applaud their putting it out there. To be clear, these parents, despite verbalizing their misgivings and concerns, are not to be confused with the parents who kick their kids out of the house, disown, humiliate and, essentially torture their children for doing nothing other than being honest. But I hate that the perception, from folks who have not walked in these shoes, that these parents were behaving badly. They were being human.
I hated that it forced me to have many (many, many, many) conversations that, frankly, I didn’t really feel like having. And I hate that I have to admit that. The subject is rife with opinions, facts, speculations and, well, scary stuff. Every well-intentioned and well-meaning exchange left me feeling equal parts soaring with confidence and paralyzed by insecurity. Confession: It is way easier to coast than to make this part of the daily discussion. While I know that I always have Jess’s back, there are differing opinions of what that means. File under: scary crap parents have to deal with while pretty much punting.
I love that PBS produced this program. I love that discussion and acknowledgment of the realities of the transgender community has become so, well, mainstream. I love that I have so many people in my life who love me and feel comfortable enough with me to offer their always, always, always well-meaning, well-composed opinions. And I hate that it has to be so complicated, so emotionally charged and so overwhelmingly overwhelming.
special shout out and lots of love to PS, BTS, and GS <3