Yesterday I had a man say in the same breath to me that he did not have any bias against GLBT people and then told me that my child did not have a right to use the men's rooms and then likened my kid and all kids like him to a child molester. I walked away. It was the only thing I could do that would leave my conscience clear. This is not the first time I have had deal with this. It will not be the last time. And what I endure as a father is nothing compared to the potential of pain and very real danger to my child. This was, however, the first time it was from someone who had heard me speak of my son with love and adoration. It is someone who has seen how much my kid and I look alike, seen the eyes and still said what he had to say. It cut deep. But that is not what the story is about. It is what inspired the story...as have some other things.
I am so tired of well meaning allies who read a book somewhere who are suddenly experts in trans affairs. I am tired of conversations about bathrooms, which is not an insignificant issue, but it is one of so many issues facing trans youth and adults today. It is one of many issues and the well meaning allies are so focused on the distraction hates have created, the important details are lost in the shuffle. Bathrooms are not about bathrooms any more than it was about drinking fountains in the 1960's. It was a straw-man of fear by small minds and this time, the open minds took the bait.
While this rages on, According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, schools are one of the most unsafe environments for transgender children and adolescents because of the high frequency of bullying that occurs: almost 2/3 of transgender adolescents are verbally harassed and 1/3 subjected to physical harassment; 89.5% of transgender students do not feel safe in their schools; almost 50% of transgender students report regularly skipping school because of safety concerns; 15% of transgender and gender non-conforming students face harassment so severe that they drop out of school; 78% transgender and gender nonconforming youth report facing harassment (physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%) in grades K-12); and 41% of gender diverse individuals report attempting suicide, which is significantly higher than the national average; and 50% of transgender Americans report having to teach their medical providers about transgender care and 19% report being refused care based on their gender identity. But that is not what this story is about.
Here is what this story is about:
Month after month we go this wonderful thing at a wonderful place. It starts as a pizza gathering among transgender and non binary teens and their parents. Then the teens go into one room and the parents in the other. The teens make friends and laugh and are given topics and information and the parents get more serious parent information. Name changes, gender markers, school laws in your favor, recognizing signs of depression, and a lot of free form discussion.
Month after month the parental bonds get stronger and they become friends. Month after month the children become more and more beautiful and that is what this story is about.
When you see these young men and women, you see normal teens who start out the same way. The new kid who has been through hell and is terrified and curious about what is going to happen. Then, month after month you see the face relax, the eyes light up and they become themselves and join the cacophony of dumb jokes, discussions of video games, movies and comics. The weird begins to come out and it is delightful as they try to out do each other in hair color, clothing, and dumb jokes.
When you see more and more lovely flowers blossom each month, every session is spring and the colors dazzle and move you. You are surrounded by life and beauty and laughter and delight of becoming. You fall in love with them and their parents and the families. They become a part of you and your story.
As parents we talk about not only the serious trans stuff, but we also roll our eyes about the normal teen stuff like not doing math homework, up until 2 am on skype, not listening and specializing in eye rolls and claiming we don't understand. I am sure in their space they are saying how daft we are as parents.
There is so much more I want to say here that I am having a hard time describing. I will close with this. They are beautiful. They are blossoming and growing right before my eyes as they find pockets of acceptance and love. Their gender identity does not define them. The light in their eyes, their smiles, the quirky sense of humor, their interests and passions and hobbies and character define them. They are, like all children, beautiful and precious and to be treasured. They are, like all children our future. And I love them and wish those that are using them as pawns on both sides of this debate for their own agendas could do that too....fall in love with them. It's not that hard.