Cait

Please watch it.  I wasn’t really planning on it myself, but I set the DVR just in case I changed my mind.  About twenty minutes after it began to air, I hopped on, only partially attentive.  “I Am Cait” was simply excellent.

iamcait

I feared it would be a three ring circus.  It was not.

I worried that it would be fluff.  It was not.

I assumed that the presence of the Karsdashians would destroy any authenticity.  It did not.

I thought it would focus on the “pretty” and not address the deep, dark and scary.  It did not.  And it did.

Caitlyn, her story, her family and yes, even Kylie, Kim and Kanye showed a depth of acceptance, honesty and understanding that I was quite sure they never thought they would have to…and publicly at that.

I appreciated and empathized with Esther Jenner: she screwed up pronouns, acknowledged her fears, and owned that she lacked understanding.  She was bold enough to recall and inquire if a five year old Bruce not wanting to try on clothes meant more and she missed it.  She shared genuine tears at the loss of Bruce and a truly happiness about her child’s bravery.

Caitlin knows that she has a power that is bigger than she is and takes her responsibility to the Trans community seriously.  She knows that most will not have the opportunities that she has been afforded.  She wants to help.  Genuinely.

Please watch this program.  In many ways, it has nothing at all to do with transgender.  It has everything to do with being a good person with an open heart and soul.  The soul we are born with…

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Ah, Facebook

Update: I spent the past two hours chatting (okay, typing) with the woman who posted the link that started it all. It started out feisty and accusatory, but I think we will both agree that it ended with each of us having a better understanding: me of her position and she of the facts of transgender. It took two days, lots of aggravation and a fair degree of unpleasantness, but all in all wounded up with everyone a little bit wiser…

It started two nights ago and continues still.  I cannot honestly recall having gotten into it like this, particularly with mere acquaintances and, truthfully, strangers, yet there is something that keeps pulling me back in, begging for more.  Yes, I am in a verbal sparring match on Facebook.

A woman who I went to high school with, and have not seen since the early 80s, often posts humorous links of people doing ridiculous things on her Facebook page.  I have noticed and appreciated the sophisticated sense of humor and bright commentary with which they are posted.  In the past, she has been supportive of Jess’s transition and appeared to be a like-minded person to myself.  And then she posted this link:

http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/07/05/california-family-supports-4-year-old-s-decision-transition-male-female

Here comment read: Wouldn’t you want to ensure the child was mature enough to make this life-altering decision? SMH. 4 years old…

This was immediately followed by a long and steady stream of her friends commenting on what a horrible decision this is, how irresponsible the parents are to allow and how it is impossible for a child that age to have any idea what they are talking about.

My response: Ouch. These comments are harsh…and uneducated. D, I thought you were cooler than this.

Then it got real ugly real fast.  And I fed right into it.

The thread  grew quickly and somehow got off on tangents discussing Jews for Jesus and whether mental illness played a role in suicide, and who is more formally educated among us.  There was horror about transitioning because, to these people (who, I suspect are upper middle class, college and beyond educated folks) that means sex reassignment surgery…as in removing body parts.  My repeated reminder that, at this age, transition means growing/cutting hair, changing clothing and pronouns – all of which are entirely reversible – fell on deaf ears.  The tone was angry, judgmental and self-righteous.  In my efforts to defend this family’s story and choices, I was told that I was, well, angry, judgmental and self-righteous.  Hmmm.

The commentary included name calling and attacking of others (me) for typos which, in their mind, indicated my ignorance.  Here are a few examples of the arguments made: “I wanted to be a fire truck when I was 4” and “At age 4 most kids only know that they want to eat candy all the time, play and hate forced nap time.”  and  “This little boy has an older sister. Perhaps he is just identifying with his sister as many younger siblings will do. [1]  But, perhaps my all time favorite: “Why not let the kid join ISIS.” [2]

This was not really about this four-year old child who has identified as transgender anymore, now was it?  Wow.

If I have queried about it once, I have queried about it a hundred times: why on earth does anyone care?  How is it in any way, shape or form affecting you?  On what planet would a child even know to go there unless they plain and simply had to?  This is not an easy journey and, I can assure you, not one that anyone would take just for shits and giggles.

The sparring continued for hours.  A few folks who were following the thread (but were wise enough to stay out of the fray by not commenting) would occasionally “like” something I had said, but, for the most part, I was flying solo and it was one hot mess yet I could not stop myself.  It was starting to become sport and I stopped feeling defensive and began to see the absurdity of it all.  And then this:,”Julie, you may be the parent of such a child, if so, I’m terribly sorry.”

Um, what?

My response: “Not sure why you are expressing sympathy to me: for having my child feel this way or for the vitriol being spewed by folks who cannot just mind their own business?”  Again, I say hmmmm.

When he arrived home, my fiance (who has never been anything other than 100% supportive of my child)  caught up on the verbal fracas, literally laughed out loud at some of the posts and began chiming in, although he did so under my moniker.  His tone was radically different from mine, yet it seems no one (despite being more educated than I)  picked up on that and  the hostility continued well into the evening (while I was asleep) at which time I was called a nasty person, there was concern and sympathy for my child that she was saddled with such a horrible woman for a mother and abject horror over my decision to have Jess undergo sex reassignment surgery.  (Of note: What?!?!?! Apparently they know something I don’t…)

Then this morning I was greeted by this little ditty:

Julie, I truly feel sorry for the children under your care. Based on our experience in this thread with you, you are teaching them, if someone thinks or acts differently than you would like them to they do not deserve respect and are free game to be the target of your hostility. I consider any one injecting their minor child with hormone blocking drugs to be unfit for parenthood. Period.

Um…accusing me of not being accepting of people who think or act differently?!?!  Clearly we have not met.[3]  And who said anything about hormone blocking drugs?[4]  Must have been the same folks who are outraged by the sex reassignment surgery that is (not) happening anytime soon.

I admit to calling this gang of people “uneducated” which they took to mean that I thought them to be high school drop-outs.  I was chastised for my word choice and acquiesced that “uninformed” was, perhaps[5], more accurate.  So, for those uninformed, here’s a little primer on transgender:

  1. Yes: Children as young as two, three and four (and older) can know that they feel that they are the wrong gender.
  2. No: Children as young as two, three and four (and older) will not undergo sex reassignment surgery. Their transition is SOCIAL: hair, clothing, name and pronouns.
  3. No: These children are not merely emulating their older siblings of the opposite sex.
  4. Yes: Any and all social transitions are completely reversible.
  5. No: These children are not doing this at the behest of their parents who wanted a boy but got a girl.
  6. No: It is not child abuse to allow children to express their gender as they are comfortable and Yes: It is abusive to not allow the same.
  7. No: This is not easy for the child, the siblings, the parents, the grandparents, the cousins, the aunts, the uncles, the friends, the teachers or the community and Yes: That is a good indication of just how strongly these kids feel.
  8. Yes: I am, like any halfway decent parent, fiercely devoted to and protective of my child. Theirs is a complicated road and it is my job to keep them safe from those who are uninformed.
  9. No: One’s being transgender does not, in any way, affect you.
  10. Yes: Kids are often way more tolerant, understanding, accepting, decent, kind and compassionate to their transgender peers than their parents are. Thank G-d and bravo!

I can see why someone who has no personal experience would consider age four to be too young to make this pronouncement.  I can appreciate the discomfort it creates. I can even respect the lack of understanding of the entire transgender world.  I cannot, however, see why anyone would consider it within their rights to tell another person how to conduct their lives.  As parents we can only walk alongside our children.  We cannot steer their ship as we see fit.  We cannot create their happiness.  We cannot tell them who they are.  I can only speak for myself when I say that I applaud these children for having the courage of their convictions, being brave enough to be true to themselves and charting their own course.  I also extend kudos to the parents for loving their children enough to enable them to be so supportive.  I have often told my child that I don’t care if she is a boy, a girl or a Martian and I will never stop supporting, advocating and loving her, no matter what gender she identifies with.  So far, it’s working pretty damn well.

[1] I have two older brothers.  Never once did I want to be a boy. Just sayin’.

[2] And I am the ignorant one.

[3] That’s a fact.  We’ve not met.  We never have, never will.  We are total and complete strangers.

[4] Hormone blockers are a well established protocol used under the care of an endocrinologist.  It is well documented that they are safe, fully reversible and can be a live saving measure for children with gender dysphoria.  So shut up.

[5] Jury’s still out on that one…

Love/Hate

Earlier this week, PBS’s Frontline aired  a program entitled, “Growing Up Trans”.  You can see it here:

http://video.pbs.org/video/2365520005/

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 ❤