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…

Advertisements

46 thoughts on “Ah, Facebook

  1. Oh My Goodness! Never ever read the comments and never ever feed the beast! I have so many things to say but will just suffice to say that I would be honored to be parented by a loving thoughtful kind funny insightful person such as yourself! I repeat: never engage with the beast! I love you!

  2. It’s best to unfriend someone like that immediately. Ignorant is forever! It’s really her problem. Try not to stress…you know in your heart you have made the right choices.

  3. I’m so very sorry you got dumped on by some very “uninformed” and/or ignorant people. I wish everyone could just mind their own business.

    The child that I had known for 25 years as my daughter recently informed me that he was actually my son. He’s known since he was 4! At first he didn’t know what to do with his realization, then he repressed it and just tried to live in the body he was born with. It pains me that he struggled for 21 years to be his real self.

    I love him unconditionally and will help 100% with what he needs to transition. Right now he looks like a teenage boy and is saving up for top surgery.

    Keep on your course and even though it is VER hard, just ignore the haters.

    Love and regards to you!

  4. I am upset that people would treat you to terribly, but not surprised as it seems so many believe their hurtful statements are the only way to communicate. I’m impressed that you had the strength to keep offering truth. Thanks for indirectly supporting the four year old.

    Oh, and congratulations on your engagement!

  5. I can’t begin to understand the Facebook comments you have received and am so sorry for those. As sad for our children’s future as those comments make me, your response to them is equally as inspiring and uplifting. This was one of the most powerful parts for me: “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.” I believe so deeply in what you say here. There is no way anyone would subject themselves to the sorts of comments you’ve received if they didn’t “plain and simply have to.” Thank you for your bravery in sharing all of this. You continue to teach me and I’m very grateful for that.

  6. Some people will never understand until they go through it. I have a transgender child, and people think it’s due to bad parenting. Just wanted to say your writing inspires me to keep fighting for my child

  7. Your column reminded me of an incident that happened years ago. My brother had a habit of throwing himself on the floor in stores and having a fit to try to get my mother to buy him something. Not sure why he continued to do it since it never worked. One day he was doing his usual thing while my mother ignored him and calmly checked out. One of the clerks said to the other is a stage whisper, “I would cry too if she was my mother.” So, yeah, I’m not surprised people would think they know best what you should do without knowing anything about the context of your life. If people judge so harshly about a temper tantrum, I can only imagine what they say about supporting your kid in her transition.

  8. Julie, you are too young to remember this song when it came out, but do you recall hearing “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” by Roger Miller? The song contains a number of verses that seem just as silly as the title, but each one ends with the line, “but you can be happy, if you’ve a mind to.” People using the safety of social media are just a part of the herd, and no amount of skating around them will protect you from their buffaloing. I understand just how you’ve felt, trading comments with these people; I’ve gotten into a few rows myself. When the “discussion” reverts to name-calling and a game of matching “wits”, there is no hope for intelligent exchange. The person who sent you that little ditty is a perfect example of someone who is passive-aggressive, unable to put a proper sentence together, and just plain ignorant. Let her graze on her bitter grass with the rest of them. You can’t budge a buffalo who doesn’t want to move, but why risk a stampede? Either way, the only thing they leave behind is their piles of sh*t.

  9. Wow, I am so sorry you had to go through all of this upset and misery. You can’t and shouldn’t let these things go, though…yikes, though, to think how nasty things can get so quickly. I bet if everyone were in a room looking at each other, they could never have said those things to their face. Sad.

  10. Wow. I’m so sorry you had to deal with what can only be described as some truly horrific people. I hope you sent them your 1-10 list to educate them a bit!! You are a great mom & Jess is so lucky to have you. One day at a time. xo

  11. What a shit storm to wake up to. Lesson learned the hard way, again, ey? My hope for you today is that you can delete this experience from your psyche. All of it. Brush yourself off, and remember many of us are in your shoes, and are perhaps not as eloquent in our own struggles as you are here in this safe(r) space. We happen to need you back, stronger, as obviously there’s much work still to be done. You’re a fantastic mother.

  12. I forget to remind myself not to read the comments on occasion and end up I the same internet arguments trying to educate people who refuse to see past their own tight little box. I have a transgender child who became suicidal at five and desperately needed to transition. Even though her teacher saw it, she continued to point out to my child she was a boy, and to do it in front of others in the school. The absolute last thing i want for my child I to have them embark on the most difficult life path there is. I can’t understand people who think this is the parents doing or anything less than sheer necessity. I was arguing with one person though,who decided to do some research to back up his statements and accidentally learned something, and more surprisingly, apologized. I think the more people see these kids are just being who they are,the more accepting they will become. Good job standing up for your daughter, the rest of the world will eventually catch up.

  13. Julie, You are one amazing woman & mother!!! DO NOT give these uninformed, ignorant people your energy! They are clearly afraid of anything that is not comfortable to them and if anyone needs compassion it is them for one day they just may find themselves having to deal w/a loved one who is transgender.. You’re blog has literally saved me from going into a deep depression on more than one occassion ~ unfortunately there will always be those who are incapable of being understanding /supportive however there are SO MANY who ARE understanding, loving, compassionate, supportive and share your frustrations w/those who are not. Refocus and un-follow/un-friend these people, they do not deserve one once of the air you breath. Best LG

  14. Julie, I was just having a conversation with a friend about how much I’ve grown to despise Facebook. Honestly, Facebook has made me realize how many uneducated and uninformed people there are out there; people who have no idea what they’re talking about yet feel compelled to judge and criticize others when they haven’t walked in their shoes. It truly makes my blood boil when I read ignorant comments, but I try hard not to engage because I find it gets you nowhere. Unfortunately, you can’t make ignorant people change their opinions. No one out there has the right to criticize you or your parenting. From reading all of your stories, I have grown to appreciate how difficult the road is for you, your daughter and your family. You sound like not only a wonderful parent, but an incredible human being. You’ve openly shared all of your struggles and helped to educate those willing to be open enough to learn. Please don’t let these ‘uninformed’, although I prefer the word ‘ignorant’ people (because that’s what they are), get you down. They are simply not worth it. Keep up the good work you’re doing and know you have a lot of fans in your corner!

  15. Hi Julie,
    Another amazing blog!
    What is that saying, “opinions are like a-holes, everyone has them”. When opinions are shared face to face people think before speaking, they try to get their point across in more of a diplomatic way.. When writing their response to something they read online, people write without editing and using a “filter”. I think the people who you have been interacting with on facebook, forget that their names and pics are published along with their opinions.This means EVERYONE knows who these disrespectful, mean spirited, uneducated people are. And no matter what you write, nothing will change their thoughts. Continue being true to yourself, Jesse and those who are the most important people in your life.

  16. Hi Julie. Someone passed the link to your blog entry on to me. I knew when I was 4. Ignore the haters. I’ve tried reasoning and educating in the comments too…it sucks you in and it doesn’t work. What I’ve found does work is sharing my story. I’m hoping I can make a difference and change perceptions that way. Jessie is lucky to have you for a mom.

  17. Jessie is a lucky girl to have you in her corner. Bravo.

    Julie, the one thing I’ve learned this past year is that ignorance and intolerance have no limits on Facebook. Whether you are transgender, Jewish, Muslim, Black, short, tall, fat or a Southerner, there are people who will hate. As long as Facebook allows anonymity people will feel safe to spew any vitriole they choose. I was disillusioned and depressed when I realized this…now I just watch cat videos.

    I hope to see you soon.

    Susan

  18. Amen !!! Why people feel so strongly about something that effects them in no way is beyond me. I love that you stood up to them. Won’t make any difference. You can’t fix stupid, I guess. I love your blog.

  19. I try to remember that people that are so judgmental and full of opinions like that are most likely just trying to feel better about themselves. The experts who don’t have a clue but have all the answers. — Been there, done (dealt with) that. Count me as another parent who you’ve helped (with a chuckle, tear, or “aha” someone gets it moment) as we travel this adventurous journey with our children.

  20. You know, I started to read your blog and the minute I saw “Facebook”, my stomach went right into my defensive knot mode. I , too, am re-thinking my feelings about this whole social media thing. In the last week since SCOTUS’s same sex marriage ruling, I have gotten involved in more than one (actually more than five!) Facebook threads with the most vile people on the planet, all of whom claim that (Select one:) 1. Their Religious liberty is being trampled upon 2. Heterosexual marriage is on the verge of extinction due to said ruling (Huh?!) 3. These are the end times and we are all going to hell or 4. This is all part of the “gay agenda” to convert everyone to their side. C’mon…really??? So I jumped in and did pretty much the same thing you did-tried reasonable and rational. Didn’t work. Went for educated and intelligent fact-sharing. Zippo on that one. And then went for the snark. It actually felt pretty good for the moment, until I realized that I was doing almost the same thing as the vile haters were doing, albeit in a waaaay more civilized manner. So now I’ve decided to stop reading the comments- can’t win with stupid and I truly don’t care what Ethel May Blatherbrains has to say about gay people, transgender people, or any people. What saddens me the most is that there are so many people willing and happy to spew their hate-filled ignorance in the most vulgar of words all over people they have no connection to nor ever will. So my plan is to stay in this safe place, here on your blog, Julie, where what I read is loving and intelligent and compassionate and real. Where people are supportive rather than judgemental; where we come together to lift each other and share our experiences, knowing that it IS a safe place. Blessings to all of you and, most especially to you, Julie.

  21. The joys of social media and online news articles and discussions.
    I have to admit that I love reading comments on things, especially when you get the ignorant and uninformed rolling out the same old cliched responses. Most of the time I let the comments go over my head but sometimes I do have to respond. Sometimes I get a response back, most of the time I don’t. Still it does feel good to point out the flaws in what they’ve said.

    Thanks for continuing to try and educate people on what its like having a transgender child. We’ve just discovered that not only do we have one family that we have known for years who have a transgender child, but another family that lived by us and moved away years ago also seem to have a child who is transgender.

  22. First of all, it was a Faux News report. That alone is a red flag to stay away LOL. You can’t take any of these comments personally (even if some seemed it). This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the folks who were nasty. My hope for them is that someday they wake up and learn to either be supportive of people (and issues they really know nothing about) or learn to mind their own business. Keep doing what you are doing, the world needs your voice!!

  23. I have not replied in a long time, but as a parent of a transgender adult child, who has never been happier, I wanted to say “Way to go”. Ignorance is everywhere, and when it appears in social media, it is even more important to set the record straight. I fiercely defend my adult F-M child, and will always. It is the right thing for any parent to do. Jessie is very lucky to have such a wonderful mother.

  24. Julie, What you told we earlier did not do the depth of the rudeness (on that thread) justice!! Thank you for always teaching me and making me think about this issue. How can someone who does not know you or anything about this personally begin to think they can put themselves in your shoes and judge I do not know. What awful things to say to someone you don’t know! We know different.

  25. Sending you love….if only all children had a mother who loved them as much and as hard as you love yours. I wait for your postings anxiously and am always inspired by your wisdom, your honesty and your openness …but people who you encountered on that thread are not open…the tragic thing is they think they are…but will fight tooth and nail only to prove just how closed they actually are.
    I’m sorry you got caught on the mindfuck of Facebook, and as ever and always you gave back with wisdom and strength…and personal experience….don’t let the bastards get you down….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s