I am the single father of a 15 year old transgender teen boy, and would like to clear some things up.
My friend, The Devout Atheist, would like to share his experience raising a transgender teen. It’s a very interesting read:
Even those of you who consider yourselves tolerant of this issue must recognize that you do not understand it; there is a lot of gray area in the subject of transgender equality, and it is my intent to help decipher it for those on the outside that wish to be supportive, tolerant, or understanding.
First off, we must all agree that if you will admit sexuality is not black and white but a sliding scale, then it should be a simple jump to grasp gender is the same.
Some people are gay, some people are straight, some people are bisexual, some people are asexual, some people are pansexual, and some people are things that we don’t have labels for. Honestly, the label is the problem. A person should be addressed in the way they request, and what you think about it is irrelevant.
Have you ever met someone that you thought at a glance was a man, only to discover embarrassingly that it was a woman? Her voice was higher than you expected, and she was introduced as Michelle (or whatever), and you immediately let go of your previous misconception. Being told she was a woman was enough for you.
What’s the difference? Let me help you; there isn’t one.
Once we’re at the point of admitting these things, then understanding may begin. If the entire extent of your knowledge and experience about transexuals and transgenders is what you’ve read about on Facebook or seen on a porn website, you’re not much of an authority. Since I live with this on a day-to-day basis, I’m going to hereby declare myself more of an authority on this subject than you are. I am not trying to give a holier-than-thou speech, merely listing credentials that give me some perspective you likely lack.
Let’s start out by discussing how the genitals are related to being transgender. Are you ready? Here goes: They’re not. Moving on.
No, I’m serious. The genitals you were born with, and the genitals you possess now, really have nothing to do with your gender identity. If you are born with a vagina and feel like a boy, your gender identity can be decided by how you feel. If you are born with a penis and feel like a boy, it’s absolutely no different. The only part that changes the perception is the culture that buys baseball gloves and toy guns for penises, and buys dolls and makeup for vaginas. The genetics that were put in place to create the body that you have does not relate to the way your mind works. If your mind would make you happier in one instance as opposed to another, generally speaking, you would choose the instance that provides you happiness. Nobody is going to tell my son what body will make him happy, whole, or human.
We do this all the time. When you go to McDonald’s, you don’t pick your food based on caloric intake and health concerns, nor is nutritional content high on your list. You’re at McDonalds. You buy what you like. It tastes good. It makes you happy. If someone asks you why you like it, you tell them because it tastes good. I’ll ask the straight men this, because it’s easy: Do you like being straight? Do you enjoy having a penis? Of course you do.
The debate about transgenders in today’s culture and media is exactly like this. Someone who is not eating your McDonald’s and is not paying for your McDonald’s has no say in what you order.
With gender identity, much the same can be said. None of you reading this has any right to tell my son who he can fall in love with. None of you have any right to tell my son what gender he should be attracted to. However, for some reason, it seems that the general consensus is that since he is my son, he must have a penis. He must not have breasts. This is a horrible misconception, as it pigeonholes my son into what you think should make him happy.
The very essence of being transgender is that how you were born does not make you happy, and since the pursuit of happiness is specifically listed as an inalienable right in this country, your opinions on how he should fit your preconceived notions are not relevant. My son is pansexual. Not bisexual, which is an attraction to either straight or bi males and straight or bi females. This means that my son does not consider your sexuality when deciding if he is attracted to you or not. If you are not interested in my son, this does not mean you have to get gay-married. If he thinks you’re attractive, this does not make you gay.
If you think he should have a penis because we use words like he and him, then you don’t understand the difference between gender and genitals. Genitals are sex characteristics determined by your chromosomes. Gender identity is a much more fluid concept, and has nothing to do with the body you were born into.
If you were born into a body that does not suit your gender, in many cases being acknowledged as the gender that makes you comfortable is enough. As a pansexual, my son’s genitals not only do not determine his reality, they should not determine yours.
What my son has between his legs is none of your goddamn business. Whether you share a public restroom with him, sit in his classroom, go fishing with him, or play video games with him, his genitals are not your concern. The same can be said about you when he shares a bathroom with you. He doesn’t care what’s between your legs, he’s in there to pee.
Laws concerning bathroom access supposedly meant to protect children are nothing more than discriminatory actions from those who do not understand and do not tolerate differences in others. There was a recent story shared on social media regarding a transgender man and his usage of restrooms. He looks pretty tough, has some facial hair, and seems like a cool guy to have a beer with. I did not read this story wondering what he has between his legs, but I bet you did. His tweet shows the disparity in the laws pretty blatantly.
Another popular social media story making the rounds recently involves a trans woman being told that since she was born a man, she must use the men’s restroom. She is a tall, statuesque, buxom blonde that likes flirting. She’s very forward, and we’ve all known women like that at some point. Do you trust a woman of that sort alone in the public restroom with your husband? Your boyfriend? Your teenage son? She makes no excuses about her behavior, merely points out that if she were allowed to use the women’s restroom, no one would have anything to worry about; but if she is forced to use the men’s… Well, she admits that she’s “that kind of girl.”
Another story I caught in my news feed tells of a man in a women’s locker room who claims to be a transgender woman, but did not dress female, did not appear female, did not act female, and was clearly a deviant intending on abusing the tolerance afforded to transgenders in order to enact his perverted fantasies. These people are out there, and I won’t pretend that they aren’t. But the instances of this happening have not risen alongside the growing tolerance for trans individuals in this country recently. The guys who would use this to access girls’ bathrooms for dishonest means will access those bathrooms anyway, and they will be prosecuted as vigorously as they were before this era of tolerance came about. This story is only newsworthy because it is the exception that proves the rule; I think we can all agree that rapists haven’t been calmly waiting for centuries for this exact loophole to allow their devious plot to finally come to fruition.
The problem comes in when we want to regulate and discriminate the genitals of others, without realizing we are actually creating problems, yet not solving any. When you go into a men’s restroom, do you look around and make sure everyone has a penis? Do you assume that a beard means a penis? I have bad news for you. You’ve occasionally been wrong already.
It doesn’t take much browsing on the internet to discover how wrong you are. When you go into a public restroom, generally speaking, you’re not terribly concerned with the genitals of those around you. Why are you now? Because you don’t understand. And frankly, there’s not much more to it. You want the rules and laws written in such a way that you don’t have to change your mind, or struggle to understand a thing you’ve never grasped before. That’s a little selfish; in much the same way that the Pacific Ocean is a little damp.
A common misconception is that genitals determine gender. But if we will accept that a person’s gender is defined by how they feel, and not the genitals they were born with, then what right have we to tell them what genitals they should have? If you think my son does not possess a penis, does that mean you get to label him what you think he is? Or should he be able to make that determination himself? I’m pretty sure you don’t live inside my son’s head. If you do, get out. That’s creepy.
It is also mentioned to me regularly that if my son does not wish to have a lower sex change operation, then maybe he’s just a gay woman. Again, you don’t live inside my son’s head. I’m pretty sure he knows better what makes him happy than you do. Some trans people don’t get any operations at all. Some get only the top done. Some get only the bottom done. Some get both. Some are in transition, which is a lengthy process, and because of exactly this kind of cultural fear, it is not in any way covered by insurance. That’s right; the harder conservatives make this process, the longer it’ll be before you can tell the “boys” from the “girls.”
Here’s a quick link for those basic questions people always ask, and sometimes shouldn’t…followed by my son’s thoughts on each:
Should you ask about their genitals? Yuck. You don’t ask strangers on the street, don’t ask me. Not your business. You don’t ask two straight people about their junk.
Should you ask about who they used to be? It’s demeaning to the person you really are; who you were in the closet was like a mask, and you don’t want to be reminded of it. The mask is locked away in that closet. Also not your business.
What about their name and pronoun preference? Politely ask. Assumptions are usually wrong for anyone not done transitioning, which destroys self-esteem.
What have you learned growing up trans? Be more accepting, and people are shit.
Can someone showing common decency be that big a deal? Treat me like a human. I’m a human, I deserve basic human rights. I haven’t killed anybody today. I think.
I don’t think he’s asking anything unreasonable, nor are the rest of the LGBT community. The same things that women, African-americans, and minorities of ALL sorts have struggled to gain from the rich oligarchy: They want basic human rights. Health care, in equal measure. To live without shame. To love without shame. Legal rights suitable to an average American person. They just don’t want to be discriminated against.
What is so fucking hard about that?