Friday, July 27, 2012

Good Question

Despite my interest in keeping this on general topics rather than personal matters, I was asked a question on Facebook that was sincere and the answer has relevance beyond just me. what follows is a somewhat revised version of the answer I gave her. It does contain some info I've blogged about before, and it is rather lengthy - but I wanted a complete answer.  I offer it not so much autobiographically but to make a larger point about how we all get to this place. As I noted to her, my #1 obstacle is the lack of accurate information and understanding in the public at large. That's not to say that for all of us who transition late in life, the obstacle is religion (though it's by far the leading issue) but for virtually every one, the issue is lack of accurate information and living in a culture that clings fiercely to a lot of customs and traditions that don't really have a rational basis other than "we've always done it this way."
The question was, in short - "if you always knew you wanted to be a woman, why did you wait until after you were married and had a family instead of doing this when you were younger?"

A reasonable question, but one which reflects a truth all trans (and gay, for that matter) people have to face.

You have probably heard me say that I knew about this before my 8th birthday. I did not know what it was called, or that there was anyone else like me - I thought I was a complete freak for feeling that way. But I knew that I knew I should have been a girl. It would be a few more years before I knew it had a name and that there were others like me. But I grew up in Tippah County in the 60's and 70's. 

This thing was not normal, it was something perverts in California did, so everyone believed and every child learned from the culture around them. It was an "everybody knows" part of the culture (which was even more strickly Christian 35-40 years ago than it is now. When I found out you actually could change sex, I was of course very tempted by the idea but everything I had access to pounded the drum that it was perverted and sinful and an abomination. I had no real choice but to accept that what "everyone knows" must be true.

Once puberty set in and I because aware of sexual desire, I had to consider the potential that i was gay (which wouldn't have been any better but still)- but my sexual fantasies were never connected to a guy/guy situation, it was always with me as the girl. I was never gay.

Through high school and 5 years after, until 1986, I was deeply depressed and miserable and hated myself. I'd have probably killed myself if I hadn't been a coward about it. In the summer of '86 I went to a crusade where Freddie Gage preached that if you had a "besetting sin" that you couldn't overcome, that all you needed to do was sincerely repent and trust God to heal you from it and dedicate your life to his service.

WHAT? I could be NORMAL? You didn't have to tell me twice!!! I fully embraced that message and spent many years believing that "any day now" God was going to deliver me from my affliction. It would be almost 20 years - during which I went from faith, to hope, to desperate tears asking God what was taking so long - before I figured out I'd been lied to and what "everyone knows" ain't always true.

During that time I clung tenaciously to the teaching I'd been raised on, that being trans or gay was a choice that sinful people made and anyone could choose to turn from it if they were willing to repent. And I preached and taught that same message to others whenever I could (for which I now deeply repent and am ashamed).

There was only a bit over 2 years after that when I met the woman I would marry and about 3 and a half before we married - AT THAT TIME I was ABSOLUTELY convinced that my faith would be rewarded, my "repentance" would be heard and I'd be healed and she would never need to know about it. I hope you can appreciate how VERY reluctant I would be to tell ANYONE about my desires, which I'd been thoroughly trained to believe were "perverted" - certainly I would not do that if it was never going to be an issue anyway.  Over the years as I realized the healing was not coming but at the time we met and married and had kids, I absolutely believed it would never ever come to this. By the time the cracks in that confidence appeared, it was too late.

In other words, I acted in good faith based on what I knew at the time. I was a product of my raising and my "churching" just as almost everyone around here is. I had believed it when I was told it could be healed, not just because "everyone knew" it but also because I WANTED it to be true. 

If it were true than I would not have to be the freak, I would not have to be the one that everyone laughed at feared,or hated - I could be a normal guy just like every other guy. why would I ever want anything else? the reason it took me so long to wake up and realize I'd been told wrong is because if God did not hate this, if He did not want me to repent of it, if He was not going to heal it any more than he'd heal any other birth defect for no apparent reason - then I was going to have to go through (and put her through) exactly what is happening now. 

But by and by it became obvious. the tradition I had been taught didn't line up with the Bible. Closer study, without the lens of tradition, showed the Book said very little about people like me, and it said massive amounts of things which stood in opposition to the idea that god would judge me for something I was born with.  Science confirmed what my heart already knew from my own experience - that people are born this way and there is no way to stop being this way  Logic and sound reasoning confirmed that the argument against me was paper thin and the one which said I was not, after all, a pervert, was massive.

It took a long long time to resign myself to that reality. I didn't come to this place in my life because I wanted it, but because it's the last resort this side of death. Surely death isn't a preferable answer for anyone. Certainly she wouldn't be in less pain today if I'd made that choice. Can anyone imagine how it would have felt to have found me dead one day and never have know why I made that choice? worse, she would have surely assumed it was her fault.

But the bottom line is, and this is where my story has general application, if people had not believed a false tradition then, if they had not taught it to me and every other child around me from the time we could walk, if it had not been taught to my wife in her youth - then none of this would have happened this way. 

THIS - this pain and suffering and heartbreak and sense of betrayal - THIS is what you get when you follow man's rules instead of following your own heart in good conscience before God. Good Christian parents across this country have no idea how many times one of their kids is lost to alcohol or drugs, or an "accident on purpose" or running away or even outright suicide because that child was taught BY THEM and by their church and their pastor to hate themselves for feelings they cannot control and cannot stop. 

A child who kills himself, or gives his life to drugs or whatever, because they are trans, or gay, is not doing that because of what they are - but because of how the world REACTS to what they are. That's why I speak up, that's why I answer questions, that's why I won't "behave" when people give me their good advice about being sure to follow the rules. Because if someone does not speak up, then somewhere down the line, another innocent woman will be standing in my wife's shoes because no one ever told them the tradition was a lie.

And make no mistake, it is NOT "God's word" that's at issue here, I've yet to find a Christian opponent willing to even TRY to make the case (and no, quoting a verse out of Deuteronomy is not making a case) that it is. It's just human tradition. The last 2,000 years is a laundry list of rules that everyone thought, at the time, to be "God's will" and which turned out to be nothing but tradition - usually a stupid or at least useless one. I'll be damned if I bite my tongue and be silent while another generation of people are victimized by useless traditions. there are real human lives at stake.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Living in the real world

[Disclaimer: strong language and strident tone towards the end. If you object to that sort of thing, You've been warned]

I recently had a deep conversation about many things with a good friend and one of the things we talked about was something I just had to raise my voice about. I've heard of this happening to other friends many times before and it is something so hateful i just can't wrap my head around it. In fact, it happens sometimes with a person's own children!

What am I talking about? I'm talking about the black-hearted bigotry which leads a person to decide that children cannot be allowed to be exposed to a transsexual person. Even sometimes their OWN children!

Now, before any of you read these words and see yourself in them and think I must be calling you specifically out in person, let me provide a blunt disclaimer: this is a GENERAL post about an all too common situation. for ease of description I'll describe it in specific terms but the point is a broad one. IF the shoes fits you, then wear that bad boy.. But don't flatter yourself that I am taking my time to attack you personally.

With that out of the way, let me elaborate:

The theme basically goes like this. A transsexual person is in the process of a full-time transition and the "good" and "moral" people in her circle of friends, family, and acquaintances profess shock and horror at this turn of events. "Oh," they say, "I don't judge and people can live like they want to but..."

See, there's always a "but."

"...but I don't want them in the bathroom with me."  I've been on that subject enough, and probably will be again - but not tonight. tonight it's for this one:

"...but I don't want my kids around them!"

Oh really? Why not? There can only be a few possible reasons, let's review them and see where they take us, shall we?

Possible Reason #1: Trans people are sexual deviants and perverts and I fear for my child's safety.

Is this YOUR reason? Are their people out there who have known me for many years and now presume that I can't be trusted around their son  or niece or whatever because I'm trans? Why not come right out and say that then. Own it folks. Do you really plan to look me (or the person in your life who's like me) in the eye and say "I believe you are a threat to my child." In fact, in the vast majority of cases, this is NOT the reason for the segregation. Despite the all too common invocation of the word "pervert," most do not believe being trans makes it likely you would directly molest a child. So lets dig further.

Possible Reason #2: My child might decide what you are doing is okay and want to do it too!

Really? Are you really afraid the Trans is catching? How stupid can you be? Do you not realize that no trans person who ever lived WANTS to be trans? Who would choose this for themselves? It's not enough that it's massively difficult, expensive, and physically painful to transition, we run the risk of losing EVERY thing in our lives up to and including our own children when this happens - who would ever do this casually?

The reality you ignore because it doesn't fit your narrow-minded worldview is that one is born this way. If your kid announces to you he's trans (and hey, if you are hateful enough, maybe he won't! Amiright?!)  it will be because he was born trans, not because he was exposed to a trans in-law or uncle or neighbor or whatever. The child could be raised by a whole flock of trans people and if they were not born with it they will never be tempted to follow suit. Ask any man you know if it ever crossed his mind as a boy. Whether or not your precious darlings ever lay eyes on me or anyone like me, they will still be what they were born to be, either way. Now, okay, maybe if they see a happy and joyful person who's transitioned it will give them the courage to face their own condition, if in fact they are born trans too - but what's your preferred alternative, O Loving Parent? To have your child spend their life in depression and shame and misery, hiding their true selves from you lest you hate them for it? what is your priority?

That's a tablespoon of reality for you. As long as you model bigotry for them, you set up the potential for misery, depression, and even death if, in fact, the child IS trans (or gay for that matter). You have no concept how many young trans people lived with crushing depression, ran away from home, or even took their own lives, because they felt trapped between their condition and a parent they knew would disown them if they ever revealed it.  Is your bigotry so VERY important to you that you are willing to risk losing or even burying your child without ever even knowing why they did what they did to themselves? Sadly, I think folks like that are out there - "better my kid be dead than to be a freak." Pathetic, and even worse when it's done under the cover of "God said..."

I'm sure that reason does apply in many cases, but how about another?

Potential Reason #3: I want to punish the trans person by showing my disapproval for them through the kids.

Yes. I will use my kids, and/or yours, as pawns to punish you for making a decision of which I disapprove. This one is VERY popular from the disapproving spouse. I can tell you how many times my heart has been broken to learn one of my trans "sisters" is being cut off from her own kids by a scheming and bitter ex- (or soon to be ex-) wife who sees nothing at all wrong with poisoning their children against their other parent. It's sick, twisted, and evil. But I'm sure it's not confined to just alienated spouses. After all, you can love and care for children which are not your own. How it must hurt to have, say, a beloved nephew that you'd spent a lot of time with poisoned against you; how it must cut to have, say, kids that once played on a team you coached shun you in public because of their disapproving parents. It's one thing to be an adult rejected by other adults you thought loved you - that's a bitter enough pill to swallow. But it's much worse to have a child you loved, whom you know loved you, be turned against you by a spiteful adult.

Not because the child objects, but because some narrow-minded adult objects. Experience shows that kids don't naturally reject a trans adult or even peer on their own initiative. when they do, it's because adults are in an uproar about it. I know that parents use kids as weapons in all sorts of divorces, and I know that virtually everyone not IN that divorce can see how evil that is. So how come those same people do not see how evil it is when THEY use kids as pawns to punish other adults?

But here's the real reason - no matter which of those reasons might apply in tandem, THIS reason is almost always present, and is at the core of the problem:

"I'm too damned ignorant and lazy a parent to teach my kids how to live in the real world."

THAT's the bottom line, folks. Whether or not you'd want your kids to be gay, or approve of them; whether you would want them to be trans or approve of trans people - they WILL grow up to live in a world where such people exists and you CANNOT protect their tender minds from that knowledge. More and more they will be exposed to this reality before they even get out of middle school. And a GOOD parent teaches their kids how to deal with such people, even in disapproval, with compassion and grace.

BAD parents keep their mouth shut except to badmouth anyone who's different and let their kids default to joining the crowd of bullies. Not that this is surprising. I've witness, sadly, far too many times a bigoted racist young person who learned that from bigoted racist parents. It's certainly no shock to imagine that such parents sit around and badmouth "perverts" (in their opinion) in just as strong a term as they bad mouth "niggers" or "wetbacks"- and thereby unintentionally train their children to be like them.

Harsh, hateful, unloving judgmental assholes just like them.

Just the sort of people that the "different" kid lives their life in fear of, if indeed they can bring themselves to keep on living at all. The bitter irony is that a huge majority of those very hateful parents were, themselves, the object of ridicule for one thing or another as kids, and they learn nothing from that but to look harder to try to find the people they are "better than" so they can look down on them and not be on the bottom anymore.

They are also the same parents who are first in line to be at the schoolhouse door in a rage if THEIR child gets bullied. But still, if there's a trans person in their life, they will not let a day go by without ridiculing and demeaning that person from afar. When you say "I'm not going to take my kids around Uncle Joe because he thinks he's a woman" - WHAT do you think you are teaching them? Truth is, you are NOT teaching them. you are FAILING as a parent.

A good parent will talk to the kids and explain the situation. Even if you disapprove for, say, religious reasons, it's not that difficult to say "Uncle Joe has a mental illness and we wish he would be over it but in the mean time we are going to be kind and loving to him because that's what Christians do." You'd be wrong, of course, about the condition but you would STILL be teaching your kids the highest and best values of your faith instead of leading them by examples to be hateful bigots like you.

Another question crosses my mind - do you keep your kids away from divorced people? Oh, wait - YOU'RE divorced? Funny, there's a lot more in your Holy Book about divorce than about being trans! Do you keep them away from all drinkers? Do you keep them away from all liars and gossips? Do you keep them away from people you casually refer to blacks as "niggers" (oh wait, maybe THAT is you too!)?

If not, why not? Are you cool with some "sins" and not others? Or are you just too damned ignorant and lazy to actually be a PARENT to your child and TRAIN them in the way they should go? I think the answer is obvious. Ultimately it all boils down to a very few things. Either you are:

a. too damned stupid to realize that being trans is not catching and it doesn't make you a child-molester; or
b. too damned hateful to rise above using your kids as a weapon to punish a person you disapprove; or
c. too damned lazy to be a good parent and prepare your kids to live in a world where people like me exist.

Or some combination of the three. Do I sound confrontational and "in your face" on this subject? Good. Someone needs to. Whatever you may think of people like me, the fact remains that we are out here and we are not going away. they are going to see us in Walmart, the grocery store, McDonald's, Chucky Cheese, the park, the lake, maybe even in their own schoolroom. And they need to know how to process that. Even if you want them to disapprove like you do, hiding them from such people isn't going to TEACH them how to live in the real world.

And, as a parent, that's your JOB. Do it.