Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Our Society’s Weak Spot

Years ago, one of my children brilliantly coined the phrase “weak spot” when he was trying to politely communicate that he had just impolitely hit his sibling between the legs. So clever! ‘Weak spot’ worked on multiple levels, I thought: physical, and sexual, but lately I’ve noticed that it also works on a societal level.

I've noticed because my oldest child is transgender.

Last year, while Christmas shopping, I had a cashier who was tall with lovely make-up, long hair, and a conspicuous 5 o’clock shadow. I saw the uncertainty in this person’s eyes and was polite, but I did ignorantly wonder why anyone would choose to live like that. In March of this year we discovered that our oldest is transgender and I immersed myself in trying to understand what that meant, because I obviously had no idea. Now that I’ve studied it and I’m faced with the prospect of sending my adult transgender daughter out into the world, I want to educate the whole world about “why anyone would choose to live like that.” So here is your chance to take my Transgender 101 course!

You are familiar with the idea of opposites: there are opposite seasons, and opposite poles on a magnet. I feel pretty confident in offering the idea that everything that you have thought or experienced, someone has thought or experienced the exact opposite. You were likely born with organs on the inside of your body, and there are people born with their organs on the outside of their bodies.  Obviously you love chocolate, but our law of opposites says that some one out there hates it (but probably only ONE person, right?). You can recognize the face of a loved one, and there are highly functioning people who cannot (prosopagnosia). Your sense of gender matches your biological body, and my daughter’s does not. Why is that last one so hard to accept? Because our society’s perspective on 'weak spots' is a weak spot.

Close up of the Genderbread Man from the link below.
Your first reading assignment is found here, a link to the Genderbread ManIt’s illustrative and short. It defines the four aspects of self. The one that everyone is best educated about is biological sex (A.K.A ‘the weak spot’), or what the doctor looked at when you were born so that she could inform your parents as to whether you were a boy or a girl. Once they heard that, your parents assumed that you would dress accordingly, align your gender with this announcement, and fall in love with someone of the opposite sex. Those are three assumptions based on one declaration, and in about 90% of people, it works out that way. But in reality, each of those four aspects is independent of each other: biological sex, gender identity, attraction, and gender expression. But you already know that because you just studied the Genderbread man!

Nature fascinates people. People were so excited when those Planet Earth videos came out. Scientists love to study nature and marvel at the uniqueness; the animals that operate outside the majority. There are male sea horses that carry the young, girl reindeers that grow boy-sized antlers, and then there is the platypus. If any animal can empathize with the scrutiny and disbelief that transgender people face, it's the platypus! We marvel over how these animals operate outside the realm of the majority. Yet we struggle to accept the minority in our society – it’s a weak spot.

A person who is transgender has gender dysphoria. Their mind identifies with a gender that does not align with their biological sex. Reading #2: link here to a medical definition of gender dysphoria. That was the first article I read after hearing that my oldest may be transgender.  Then I scoured YouTube, watching transgender people bravely share their experiences of changing their bodies and appearance to match the gender that they identify as. And after a month of study I had my answer to why anyone would choose to live like that. It is really pretty simple: because it is their physical challenge and they are trying to deal with it. To me, it’s parallel to why a diabetic needs insulin: because their body failed them. A transgender person needs hormone therapy because their body failed them. I believe that the reason that our society can support insulin for diabetics, but not hormones for transgender people is because the latter has to do with “the weak spot”.

Finally, after talking a little science, I want to talk a little religion. I know that God loves my daughter. I plead with you to focus your energies on something that God has made clear, and that is "that ye love one another". And if you think that you are showing love by pointing out what you consider to be a sin, then I ask that you focus on Matthew 7:12 and treat others as you would want them to treat you.

As we have shared our daughter’s challenge with family, friends and neighbours we have only been met with loving and supportive responses. This experience, although challenging, has not been without truly beautiful moments. Following the example of Glennon Doyle Melton, I will be closing the comment section to my post, so that it stays a safe place for my daughter to visit. Unfortunately, that leaves no way for you to leave your address so that I can mail you your Transgender 101 certificate, so just demonstrate your new found knowledge by making the world a more accepting place for transgender people.

As a reward for completing Transgender 101, please listen to Sara Bareilles' upbeat song BRAVE(Thanks, Katie!) which puts into words my hope for my daughter, Robyn.