Bathrooms…And No Fucks to Give

giphy-downsizedSo we’re back to the bathroom thing…because Republicans have nothing better to do than to police people’s nether regions.  After all, a penis makes you a predator, did you not know?

Currently, we are seeing the effects of H.B. 142 in North Carolina which is so ambiguous that it leaves transgender people unsure of what will happen if they use the bathroom of their choice.  In addition, it also prevents local governments and school boards from crafting their own laws and ordinances to address the situation as they feel to be appropriate.

In addition, there is SB 3 in Texas, authored by Lois Kolkhorst, which she says is “to stand for for women’s rights and female athletes.” because, letting Mack Beggs (for more, click HERE), who was assigned female at birth, (AFAB) wrestle with the girls and destroy them is definitely standing for female athletes.  SB 3 essentially says that you must use the bathroom, lockerroom, and play sports as the gender you were assigned at birth.  This is regardless of the social, medical, and surgical interventions one may have gone through.  Kolkhorst claims that this will protect women from male predators entering their bathrooms, although there are already several laws in place that should deter that from happening.  One of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s chosen, she is helping to lead the bigoted, transphobe charge against transgender Texans.

Lastly, for the purposes of this post, there is US HB 2796, introduced by Pete Olson of…and you guessed it…Texas.  They say everything is bigger in Texas, and I guess that includes its bigots.  The bill states that, “No Federal civil rights law shall be interpreted to treat gender identity or transgender status as a protected class, unless such law expressly designates “gender identity” or “transgender status” as a protected class.”  In other words, in order to protect transgender people under Federal law, specific laws must be passed that specifically recognizes “transgender” persons.   Further, wherever “sex” or ”
gender” is mentioned these words would refer only to how one was assigned at birth, and it would ignore gender identity.  Further the language of the law would open up the possibility of discrimination against other groups as well.  While the odds are pretty high that this bill will never make it to a vote, let alone pass two Houses of Congress, it shows again that there is still a large segment of the population with little knowledge of transgender people or the issues facing them that have taken it upon themselves to try and define who transgender people are, and what corner of the box they should be forced into.

Now, as this blog always contains an element of how it affects myself and Fab, I am about to go there, and get to why I named the title of this post, “Bathrooms…and No Fucks to Give.”  As most people know by now, Fab is seven (almost eight), and she is for all the most part living stealth, meaning that most who meet her do not know she is transgender, nor does she share this with them.  People never mis-gender her in public and yes, she uses the girl’s bathroom wherever we go.  If her mother is with us then she goes with her, and if alone, depending on the setting I will let her go by herself.  It’s laughable to even suggest she should go into a boy’s bathroom by herself, and she would look at you as if you had lost your mind if you were to suggest such a thing.

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend, and by talking I mean Facebook messaging,  about the situation her daughter will face next year at her new school.  As is par for schools in the south, they refuse to let her use the girl’s bathroom and instead say she must use the family or clinic bathroom in the school.  My friend has told her daughter to use whatever bathroom she wants to use, and not to worry about what will happen, that mom and dad will deal with whatever happens, and all I could think is, that is awesome…see “No fucks given!”

See, this points to the stupidity of such bathroom rules and laws, especially in terms of children.  I have yet to meet a child who transitioned before puberty that doesn’t pass 100% of the time.  Most do not know, nor would they ever unless the information was shared.  In my friend’s daughter’s case, she will probably get in trouble, but she will gain strength from knowing that her mom and dad have her back, and she will learn that trouble in school isn’t really trouble, not really.  It has also made me think that I would tell Fab to do the same exact thing…You define who you are, and no one else can tell you otherwise.

Now, there may come a day in the future where Fab will be confronted with this, as are thousands of older transgender women everyday.  I say transgender women, because this isn’t usually an issue for transgender men, because the rush to bathroom laws is based in the misogyny of our society.  Women need to be protected, whereas men can protect themselves…even when there is nothing that needs protecting.  Transgender men, therefore are no threat to men going to the bathroom, and men have no issue with women using the men’s room (just ask anyone who has ever been to a concert or a college bar).  Transgender women on the other hand, are “sick perverts” according to the other side.  They’re men in dresses who are set to prey upon your wives and daughters.  I think of my child, and then I think of several transgender women I’ve gotten to know a little bit, and the thought is totally laughable.  Many transgender women have been assaulted already (Fab was before transition…in the boys’ bathroom), and many both physically and sexually (but that is a topic for another post).  A women’s restroom serves as a safe space for them to use the bathroom in peace, and then go about their daily business…just like everyone else.  Most people I know do not go into bathrooms with the purpose of checking out other people’s junk, men or women.

I know some of my transgender friends, like Fab, will use the bathroom they want to use, regardless of some law, and I think that is great.  They refuse to let others define who they are.  That said, it doesn’t mean they aren’t afraid of the law, they just choose to be who they are regardless of it.  I know some transgender folk will say they aren’t brave, that transitioning wasn’t a choice, that it was either do so, or die.  I understand where they are coming from, but still, how you approach life after transition with the ability to persevere, keep a sense of humor, and to find joy…I think most are brave, because the I see the same attitude in them that I see in Fab everyday.  Most step out into the world everyday with head held high, regardless of how they feel on the inside, most people never knowing what might be going on in their heads (fear, anxiety, worry).  I know, but only because a little girl chooses to confide in her parents, and we listen.  Her confiding is a big reason she is going stealth and will be at a new school this year.  Last school year, I was amazed at how she would go off to school and never crack regardless of what was said to her, or how it was said.  She would calmly stand her ground, no fucks given, and go about her day.

If you don’t believe this is a civil rights issu, then you are deluded.  Just as Rosa Parks refused to get up, and others used the “wrong” drinking fountain or the “wrong” bathroom” to prove a point, transgender people should continue to do as they feel best guided when it comes to bathrooms, regardless of what an unjust law says.  Last year, Fab was so happy she was able to be herself, that she tolerated the clinic bathroom.  However, I’m pretty certain from our talks that it would have become an issue this year, so I am thankful she does not have to deal with it at her new school.

If she ever does have to deal with injustice, and I fear she will.  I will tell her to do what she thinks is best, and that her dad will go to battle for her to make sure she is respected.  When a school administrator tells a little girl she can’t use the girl’s bathroom, she is being told, “well, you aren’t really a girl.”  When you tell transgender people they can’t use a bathroom or play a sport, you are telling them that they aren’t really who they say they are.    Nobody has the right to tell you “who you are.”  This is one of the biggest life lessons I can bestow upon Fab, and the fact that whatever she decides, her daddy always has her back.

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Stealth (2015) Thoughts on the Film

MV5BMTk1OTM4Mjk4MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDA5NDY1MzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_From the IMDb website:

“The heartwarming story of a brave, transgender tween. Stealth is the recipient of a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for science, 2 student Emmys, a student Academy Award, 20 festival awards, and it has played in over 50 festivals.” 

Plot synopsis from IMDb:  “Sammy is a transgender child. She was born a boy but is living in stealth as a girl with the support of her mother and a doctor. At her new school, Sammy finds the friends she has always dreamed of having and tells them her secret in confidence. When the threat of a betrayal arises, Sammy must decide whether to run or to live as her whole self.”

I was lucky enough to come across this film while hunting around for other blog topics, and was excited that such a topic was not only explored but also well received.  I immediately tried to find it online, but it was nowhere to found.  Luckily, I’m a member of several parent groups and a quick posting hooked me up with Laura Hernandez, the mother of Kristina Hernandez, the young lady who played the lead role in the film.  Laura was great, and after chatting a little about our girls, she hooked me up with the ability to view the 22 minute short-film.

I want to begin with the topic of the film, which is one of concern for anyone with a young transgender daughter.  Friendship is important to all children, but friendship among girls and women, on some level, is deeper than that between men.  Women and girls tend to share more, and as such there is the fear of sharing too much.  Add to it the age old tradition of the “sleepover” and it can become a little more tricky as a parent trying to protect your child, while also letting your child participate in an activity that most girls enjoy while growing up.

Fab has already been on sleepovers with other girls, but in those cases the other parent knew Fab’s status and so we knew that our little girl was in a safe environment.  In addition, most of her sleepovers have been at our house, because as she readily admits, she can be grumpy when she wakes up at someone else’s house and doesn’t want to be mean there.  As a result of all of this, her only sleepovers have been the ideal situations…out in the open with affirming friends and parents.

What will happen when she gets to middle school?  High school?…or even before that in grade school?  What happens when she makes new friends at her new school and they want to invite her to a sleepover party?  As I’ve already discussed in my last post, Fab will be going stealth at her new school.  This means, others will not know she has a dreaded (whisper) “penis.”  Heaven forbid they find out, and more importantly what would they do if they did find out. (Spoiler Alert!!!)  This is at the heart of the issue explored in the movie…a girl’s desire to be accepted, and information that could end her friendships or worse.

Kristina does an excellent job of playing her role, and displaying the angst and desire to be liked that I see my own child go through, and I was excited to see a young transgender actress cast in the role!!! (Jen Richards and Jamie Clayton take note.)  The movie takes on a more personal feeling when you know the lead actress is playing a part she not only identifies with, but also fully understands.  Melissa Hoppe wrote an excellent screenplay and Bennett Lasseter directed a film that tackles this issue with an appropriate grace and thoughtfulness.

The American Film Institute (AFI) financed and produced the film, and was supposed to make it available for streaming.  However, two years on and it has yet to do so.  Watching this film, I couldn’t help but think how wonderful it would be if this film were made available to middle schools and high schools to educate about trans-youth and acceptance as it does touch upon the fact that these children develop the same as their cis-counterparts, and that finding out how they were born does not change who they are on the inside, an important lesson for both educators and youth to know.

In addition, other parents have shared that they watched it with their daughters, not because they wanted to scare them, but because they wanted to drive home what could happen if they shared their birth designation with people at the wrong time and/or place.  Some informed me that their daughters still talk about it, which means that the film hit home on an appropriate level.

In keeping with the idea of sharing it with daughters, I’m not sure if Fab is old enough yet, or if it would be better to wait until she is around 10 years of age before watching the film.

I am going to tag a bunch of people on my twitter feed in the hopes that word will spread and people will send emails and tags to the AFI in an effort to get this film made available for public consumption.  It’s rare to come across a film like this,  that has the power to evoke such emotion and understanding on this topic.

Again, thank you Laura, for giving me the opportunity to view this film.  You’re daughter is a beautiful young woman, and I can see big things in her future wherever she decides to take her talents.

I’ve included the trailer below:

To Be or Not to Be…Visibility or Stealth is the Question!

OutI borrowed this image from another blogger because it was perfect for what I want to discuss in this post.  Check out Kai’s page, if you’re so inclined.

As of late I’ve given thought to this topic quite a bit, and while not transgender myself, I am the parent of a young transgender girl who is not old enough to entirely make this decision for herself yet.  I know that there are parents who have allowed their children to make this call at such a young age, but I will disagree until the day I die that a seven year old has no way of understanding fully how such a decision may impact them for years into the future.

Last year, as a first grader, Fab decided to transition early in the school year, meaning that at school there was no choice but for her to be visible.  This was a choice that she made with us, but one that really wasn’t a choice.  If she was to live authentically as her self than her transition had to happen, and she had to be visible.  As such, we had the opportunity to observe a visible seven year old in the bubble of “school” and also observe her the rest of the time as just another little girl who was seen as a little girl by everyone who came into contact with her.

In the case of school, it was the only place that caused her anxiety and also roused her dysphoria.  Being the “girl who used to be a boy” or the “Tomgirl” didn’t seem to bother her on the surface initially, but it would creep up every now and then because it made her wonder if she still looked too much like a boy.  This wasn’t something she actively thought about, other than she wants her hair to grow longer, but when she heard the words, her mind was left wondering, “what do the other kids see?”

It was directly due to the anxiety she felt that her mother and I have decided to transfer her to a great school where she will be allowed to go “stealth,” meaning that no one but administration will know that Fab was assigned male at birth (AMAB).  Her mom and I are hoping that this will allow her to focus on school and not what other kids see because she gets to be just another 2nd grade girl.

From her daily life outside of school we know her to be sassy, outgoing, and non-stop in a world that sees her only as a girl.  When people hear “trans” they fixate on it, especially when “trans” has been so much in the spotlight as of late.  Yes, Fab is trans, but that is only a part of who she is.  Fab is a girl, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an athlete, a student, and an all-around great kid.  This is where the focus should be for her as a child.  There will be time enough for her to make adult decisions later in life, but for now we have decided to leave the adulting to us.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that another’s decision to have their child be visible is wrong, but I think it should be taken in context to their unique situation.  If fighting to get my kid what she wanted also made it necessary to have her visible, and if she was ok with it, she might end up visible and an advocate.  In our current situation, taking such a path is not necessary, nor do I believe a child should be outed by their parents for no reason…hence this blog is anonymous.

There will come a day when she gets up to her teen years and the decision to be visible or stealth will be heavily dependent upon what she wants.  Does she want to be visible, to advocate, to stand-up and fight for her rights?  At a certain point we won’t stop her from following the path she chooses, but that time will come when she is better equipped to understand all that being “visible” entails.

Visibility brings its own positives and negatives for a trans person.  I wrote about Athena Del Rosario in my last post, and her decision to out herself after four years of living stealth while playing college soccer.  She had been out before, but chose to go stealth so that she could focus on school, athletics, and just being a woman in college.  All of these can be positives for self-esteem, identification, and growth.  It was her personal choice to make.  Coming out has also had positives for her, and she can use her experiences as a platform to help trans youth and athletes gain access to opportunities she did not have growing up.  However, being out also makes her a target of transphobes, TERFs, and people who just don’t want to understand who she is and instead seek to tear her down.  Luckily, from what I can tell, her past (she’s in her early thirties) has strengthened her to have a “no fucks given” attitude when confronted by ugliness and hate.

Stealth and visibility also don’t just impact the child alone, but the decision will have implications for the entire family.  It is said that when a person transitions, the entire family transitions.  In our house we call it our new normal, but this decision also impacts Fab’s brother.  He is her biggest gender defender, but this can also be a negative for him in that a visible Fab means he feels the need to defend and protect her even more than he already feels the need to do so.  Going stealth will also allow him to stay a kid for a little while longer, and so such a decision is the right one for not just Fab, but for both of our children.

I strongly suspect that one day Fab will stand up in front of the world and shout “Here I Am!!!”  It’s in her nature, and she already has the freedom to share her truth with those she chooses to.  To date, she has made good decisions with who to share with, and I trust her instincts when it comes to who is safe to tell.  She seems to have this instinctual ability to sense affirming people.

If she decides to live out in the open as a teenager, then going stealth will also mean she has had several years to fully form her identity as a person and a young lady.  It is our hope that her stealth years will help equip her to deal with the ugliness that, unfortunately, the world might throw her way.

Soccer Brought Us Together

athena_punchAnyone that knows me knows that I’m a freak about soccer (football to the rest of the world).  I have season tickets to an MLS team, and I’m an avid fan of Chelsea in the English Premier League.  My children, both Fab and her brother play the sport, and Fab, wanting to be more like me has also taken up playing goalkeeper, as that is what I play on the Over 40 team I manage and play for.  We are soccer family, and for us it not only brings exercise, but also contentment and joy.

Fab plays in a local league, and because of her age she still plays in a coed league.  Most do not know she is transgender, and she enjoys being able to play as just another girl.  Luckily, US Soccer allows amateurs to play as the gender they identify as with proper documentation.  This means she will be able to play club soccer until the age of 18 without fear of being told she can’t play with the girls.

Recently, the NCAA also got on board, and allows transgender individuals to compete as the gender they identify as, but there is greater stigma for them, and especially for transgender women as people try to claim they have a physical advantage over the other women, having been born “assigned male.”  Now, this could not be further from the truth, as the NCAA tests and ensures that transgender athletes hormone levels are within the same range as that of cisgender females, but still transphobia is alive and well, making the life of a transgender female athlete interesting to say the least.

Yesterday, I was poking around the internet, as I sometimes do, and I came across an article about Athena Del Rosario (click here), a recently graduated goalkeeper from the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC).  Athena not only competed at a high collegiate level, but she did so as a transgender athlete.  For two years in junior college and two years at UCSC, other than letting the appropriate administration know, she lived stealth, and simply got to be one of the women on the team.  Having gone back to college in her late twenties, she had already dealt with much of the nasty the world can throw at a transgender woman, and having seen my child already go through some similar stuff (understanding that treatment is also relative to age), I totally agree with her decision to go stealth until she felt “she” was ready to come out, and then when she did, she did so on her terms.

See, I get the desire to just be herself, Fab experiences it quite regularly, to not have the sole focus of people be that she is transgender.  People fixate on it, even those that mean well.  The focus should be on who she is, and from what I can tell Athena  is a kick-ass woman, a wife, an athlete, a teammate, and a friend.

I read the article about Athena, and immediately was drawn to the fact that she is a transgender goalkeeper, the same as my baby girl, and that she chose to out herself so that other little girls might look up to her and say, “If she can do it, then so can I.”

Athena and I began sending messages back and forth.  Initially, it had to to with what she had in common with Fab, but soon it turned into what she and I had in common with soccer.  It wasn’t about trans and cis, or male and female.  It was about soccer, two goalkeepers talking favorite teams, favorite players (our ATF male keeper being the same, Oliver Kahn of German and Bayern Munich fame), and playing styles (hers quick and fast, mine old and fat).

On the issue of transathletes, we both agree that high school athletic associations have a ways to go, as there is one for every state, and many refuse to let children compete as the gender they identify as.  There is a way for states to move into the 21st century, and high school athletics to give dignity to those transgender athletes with a desire to compete for their school’s athletic teams.  It is on this point that perhaps Athena and I agree the strongest on.  No child should be told “they can’t” because of how they identify, and if she and I come together to try and affect change then I know there would be others who would join us.  This is an issue that affects all of  us with children, and it is sports that can also teach our children, trans and cis, that they have far more in common than what is different.

As for Athena, she has a spirit I see in Fab everyday, and simply by living her life she moves the bar forward for girls like Fab.  I also have to admit, she’s a lady I could be friends with, share a pint, talk soccer, and watch soccer.  She’s someone I hope to get to know in the future, because as I’ve shared with her, you can never have too many positive, affirming people in your life, and I hope she’s one more that I can add to my list, and that she’ll add me to hers.