The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

lion-and-cubI think the title sums up the events of the week for our family when it comes to trans-related issues in our family.  Obviously, as any family with a transgender child will tell you, and as I wrote last week, trans is just one facet of our family.  It does not define who Fab is, and it does not define who we are as a family, but it is a  part of our life that we are always aware of, especially when national events force us to think about it.

THE GOOD  

The kids went to visit their grandparents for the week (my busiest work week of the year), and I went to court for Fab’s name change.  Living where we live, and the things you hear does lend a certain nervousness to the event.  All that said, the day couldn’t have gone any better.  I was one of the last people to go before the judge, and while she asked others seeking name changes for children the reason why, she did not ask that of me, and in less than five minutes I was done and down in the clerk’s office to get the name change orders.  Fab was happy to hear it when we shared the news on the phone, and while we didn’t think it was a big issue to her, we found out otherwise the week before when she was at the doctor’s and saw the paperwork with her old name still on it.  It was a solid win for us, and another step towards getting all her official documents to match who she really is.

THE BAD

Trump…do I need to say anymore?  Reversing guidance that helps to make our kids feel safe and protected is not only irresponsible, but stupid as well.  Based upon comments before becoming president, I honestly don’t think he personally cares where transgender students pee, but his base and those around him do…so for me this is pandering of the worst kind.  Mom’s anger and fear for Fab is growing as a result of this kind of stuff, among other things, and I hate to see her feeling this way.  Fab, for now, gets to live in a bubble we’ve created.  We know she is aware of more than she lets on, but there is much we are still able to shield her from, and we are thankful for that.

For me, the removal of guidance was mostly symbolic.  A Texas court had put a halt to Obama’s guidance almost immediately, and so it hasn’t been in effect.  Gavin Grimm’s case will go before the Supreme Court in March, and for me this whole issue was always going to come down to Gavin’s case.  If the Supreme Court finds in favor or splits, then Gavin, and all transgender kids will be able to use the bathroom of their choice, regardless of what President Orange thinks.  Granted, it doesn’t help that the executive branch has removed its support of Gavin, but the Supreme Court does not exist in a vacuum, and I have to hope they will do the right thing.  Fab already uses the ladies room most of the time, and as of yet she doesn’t mind using the clinic bathroom at school.  However, we know the day is coming where she will start to care, and my hope is that before the next school year begins that SCOTUS will deliver it’s ruling, and it will be in favor of all transgender students rights.

THE UGLY

By ugly, I am talking about people, and with all that is going on in the world, both Mom and I find it harder to stay silent, and we are no longer hiding who Fab is from those we know, which means if we haven’t told them yet then we are no longer going to hide it when someone asks us “How are the boys?”.  Mom dealt with a co-worker on Friday who asked this question.  This is a woman that my wife has never really cared for, because the woman is ignorant on a wide variety of subjects, and a Trump voter.  She is one of the many who thought the Affordable Care Act was different from Obamacare, to clarify the level this woman is informed on.  Anyways, she asked Mom “How are the boys?” and Mom told her that we actually have a son and a daughter.  She then shared about Fab, and showed her a picture.  The woman responded with, “Well, at least she’s lucky she is pretty,” and Mom went off on her using language she was not proud of.  Another co-worker stepped in to explain why that statement was offensive to my wife.  All women should get why it is offensive without explanation, as if the worth of a woman is determined purely by her beauty.  However, if you take it a step further and apply it to transgender girls/women such a statement becomes even more offensive.

I am a man because that is what I am.  I just know it.  How masculine, muscular, handsome I am has nothing to do with it.  Now, Fab is a girl.  She has known this for a long time in her heart.  Living as a girl makes her feel normal in her own skin.  Living as a boy never felt right to her, and caused her the stress of always pretending.  She did not transition because she thought she would be a pretty girl, she transitioned because that is who she is.  Certainly most of us like to look our best, and I’ve discussed before, as parents, it makes us breathe easier that she will never have to go through male puberty, but telling a transgender person that they’re lucky they’re pretty or that they pass is insulting…period.  Not all cis-gendered women are pretty, or thin, or super feminine in the binary sense, but that doesn’t discount who they are as women, so why should it discount a transgender girl’s identity as a girl?  People need to think before they open their mouths sometimes.  I’m just glad that Mom didn’t punch her, as I’ve said Mom’s been on edge for awhile now.

Finally, I got to deal with an old friend who told me that he doesn’t agree with the whole transgender thing on Facebook.  I’m in no way close to this guy, and haven’t seen him since high school, so it really wasn’t skin off my back.  He ended up deleting his posts after I went after him online.  This is in large part because while his statements were bigoted, he didn’t seem to get that until after I laid it out. Even then,  I still wonder if he got it, or deleted his posts because he was afraid others would see him as a bigot.

When someone tells me they “don’t agree” with the transgender thing, they are telling me they don’t agree that my child should be able to exist as herself.  If you take a moment and substitute “trans” thing with “black” thing, “Latino” thing, or “Jew” thing…how does that paint a person who says such things?  Just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t mean it is wrong or incorrect.  My statement led to the man telling me he worries about the safety of his son and daughter…which is also shadow speak for “trans people are perverts.”  I told him he should worry more about cis-men he knows as they are the ones most likely to assault his children.  I invited him to share his data on evil trans-predators, but as I said he deleted his thread without ever sharing…because it is all bullshit.

My hope is that perhaps it made him think, and will continue to make him think.  I can’t know for sure, as I probably will never have contact with him again.  I dropped him as a FB friend, because if someone sees my kid’s existence as a “joke” then that is someone who will not be in any part of my life.

On another note

The kids came home from their grandparents yesterday, and we are thrilled to have them home.  After spending all day in the car to go and get them, this leaves me with one day for my weekend, and so on that note I’m going to stop writing and go spend some quality time with my little monkeys.

 

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Tolerance or Acceptance?

1922_anger_insideout_341Feeling a little annoyed and angry this morning because of something I just saw, which got me thinking.

Have you ever listened to someone say they had a “black friend” or a “gay friend”,  but you knew that person would also never invite that “friend” into their home for dinner or a party?  I’ve been quietly feeling this way more and more on behalf of Fab as of late.  Part of the reason has to do with Facebook giving me insight into a parent of one of Fab’s friends, and also the knowledge that Fab has numerous little girl friends at school that adore her, and yet she has not been invited to anyone’s house since her transition.  People are supportive of our decision and tell us we’re brave and that she’s an inspiration, etc.  Many of us with trans-kids have heard these words from people, but this is America, where talk is cheap and putting action to those words doesn’t seem to always go along with the talk.

September was the last time that Fab went to a friend’s house.  She’s had a friend over several times since then, but the invite hasn’t gone the other way.  This happens with cis-kids as well, but at a certain point it leaves you wondering are people tolerating my baby, or do they really accept her?  (I freely admit that this could also simply be the by-product of the busy life of working parents and/or working single parents as well…but I also know there have been invites to other kids since then.)

Tolerance is a simple thing, and many pat themselves on the back when they display such behavior.  Obviously, as a white male, I am going to speak from a position of privilege,  because I recognize I enjoy more than most.  When people confide to me, not knowing about my daughter, and I listen to what they’re really saying…they’re saying they tolerate minorities and LGBTQ folk but they don’t really “accept” them.  Tolerance is easy.  It’s working with or being at the same party with people that make you slightly uncomfortable, but not letting on.  Tolerating someone means you are equipped to make small talk, maybe even give a compliment, but you have no “real” interest in getting to know them better, other than as maybe curiosity to be used in some anecdote or story you might tell other people.

Tolerant people often only see that marginalized individual as one-dimensional.  Fab is transgender, and that is what a tolerant person would see first.  They might think:  “She looks so passable.”  “Her mannerisms are so feminine.”  “Her clothing choices are so girly.”  or one of my favorite.  “If you wouldn’t have told me I would never have known.”  These are surface thoughts, and sometimes they even emerge as comments.  I feel bad for trans-women especially on this front when someone tells a woman, “you are so lucky you pass, most would never know,” because, as any transgender female would tell you, the measure of why someone transitions is because of their ability to “appear” as a beautiful woman (you should be able to detect my heavy sarcasm).

Now, I’ll be the first to say as the parent of transgender girl, that the ability to grow up “passing” is a bonus for Fab.  However, I have listened to the stories of of older trans-women, and it both angers and saddens me to think what many have to go through because society has been so intolerant of them.  As a parent, who loves his child, I would never want her to deal with such things.  The fact that she’ll never have to go through male puberty, and all the scars that it can bring for a transgender woman is a blessing for her, from my perspective as a parent.  However, I also don’t think “trans” when I look at my daughter.  I think little girl, and that is how she sees herself.  I also am thankful to those women who are paving the way, who transitioned later in life, and are making the world a more accepting place for my little girl to become an adult in.  “Trans” is also a label for them, and some embrace it proudly, others just want to be seen as women, but regardless of how others see them, of how you see them, I can guarantee you they see themselves as women because that is who they are.

This is the first step to acceptance, seeing someone for how they see themselves.  Fab is a little girl whose favorite color is pink.  She loves dresses and hates sneakers, preferring flats, sandals, or dressy shoes.  She loves anything with Dove Cameron in it, and would dress like her character, Liv, from Liv and Maddie, everyday if we’d let her.  She loves Beanie Boo stuffed animals, but she isn’t a fan of dolls.  She likes playing Lego video games with her brother.  She loves the outdoors, especially taking walks in the woods.  Athletic, she will play soccer this spring.   She gave up a promising future as a male gymnast, and while she misses it, she has no desire to currently go back to anything from, before.

Her school teachers, staff, and students know her to be kind and caring for others.  While we at home also know this, I also know her to be a little girl that likes to cuddle, and who loves to laugh, and who looks forward to me coming home from work every day.  We also get to experience the diva with a temper that she never shows others outside our family.  I’d like to think most adults around her see her as she wants to be seen, and am thankful that she believes this to be true.  All of this points to acceptance, and for me and her mother, she is our daughter and we love her like no other.  We know her and see her for who she is.  Trans is just one facet, and a minor one when it comes to our daily lives.  Now this may change as she gets older, but it is up to her to decide how much being “trans” is a part of who she is, and it is never for others to decide that for her.

Accepting someone doesn’t mean you have to be their friend.  We all have different personalities, and some we click with, others we don’t.  That’s alright.  What’s not alright is when you see someone and immediately discount who they might be because of the color of their skin, an accent, or the way they look.  Just because you stayed in the room doesn’t make you accepting.

Would you be willing to strike up a conversation on a park bench, or would you count the minutes until the bus arrived (Think Forrest Gump)?  This is the most simple of ways to think of it.  Acceptance is seeing the person and not the label you use to initially define them.  Do you see a black man, or a man?  Do you see a gay couple, or a couple?  Do you see a trans-woman, or a woman?  If you see the former and not the latter, then you have some work to do.  If you can admit it to yourself then you are on the right track.

A Date with My Best Girl

vday1So…I should be working right now because I am swamped at work, but I make it a habit of getting at least one post a week up.  This week I just wanted to take a moment to talk about being a dad.  This will be the first Valentine’s Day I celebrate as the father of a daughter.  For most dads the first usually involves a baby, but for me it involves a precocious 7 year-old.

Fab loves everything about Valentine’s Day.  The red and pink hearts, the idea of candy and flowers, and that it is a holiday centered on love.  While Mom and I have always seen it as more a commercial holiday than anything, and believe that love is something that should be shown every day, and not just once a year…firsts are important to children, and when your daughter gets this excited, you go with it.

About a month ago, Fab asked Mom if I would take her on a date for Valentine’s Day.  She wanted  me to take her to a fancy restaurant (where you get salad before a meal), and where she could wear her Valentine’s dress.  How could I say no?  Not even an option, and so we will go out on Saturday night to celebrate, as February 14th will be a school night, and most restaurants have a pre-set “expensive” menu that my little girl wouldn’t eat anything off of.  To be honest, I am actually looking forward to it.  A year ago I had  what I thought was a son, and now I have an extremely happy little girl.  I couldn’t be happier to see the joy she rampages through each day with.  However, it also strikes me that I have an important job ahead of me, which takes on new significance because my daughter isn’t completely like most girls out there.

Reading the data on trans-women and what they face on a daily basis terrifies me as a father.  Now, I know that many are paving the road for Fab, and our hope is that it will not be near as bumpy when she reaches adulthood.  Nonetheless in a world where trans-women are regularly attacked, beaten, demeaned, ostracized, denied work, forced into sex work, and seen as a sexual fetish…I have the ability to help reinforce in my daughter her value and worth to not only those who know her, but to the world at large.  Put in more simple words…I am the first man that can love her for who she is, unconditionally, and I have the power to show her this daily.  She knows that with my heart and eyes I see her as a girl, and not a “Girl*”.

I don’t want to get into romantic discussions, because I have no idea what Fab’s sexuality will be, and to be honest, I couldn’t care about anything except I want her to find someone who will value and love her as much as her mother and I do.  If I can do anything it will be to create in her a demand to be treated in such a way by anyone she might become romantically involved with as she grows up.

Valentine’s Day, Daddy/Daughter Dances, Birthdays, etc. are all important days where she is watching to see if I treat her as she thinks a dad should treat his daughter.  She doesn’t feel complete yet.  She hides it well, but it comes up in conversations, usually with her mother.  Making some of these things important is stepping out of my comfort zone, but as any good parent knows, it isn’t about me.  Besides a smile and spontaneous hug goes a long way to making it all worth it.

If there is one thing I hope that another father might get out of this post, it would be for you to take your daughter out on a date.  It’s important  for her to feel valued and special.  It also will serve to show her that you see her as she wants to be seen.  Be the man that she will measure all other men by in all manner of situations.  You have a special power to make her strong enough to take on the world as she grows up, and you also have the power to take that strength away.