What’s Another Word for “Ballsy?”

Guts. Chutzpah. Cahones. There are plenty of words to describe bravery. Who knew I’d be using them in this post to talk about children?

We hear about more people becoming comfortable with leading their authentic life and transitioning after years of feeling like they were born in the wrong body. I cringe to think of how uncomfortable that must have been for them, waking up each day and feeling like they just didn’t “fit.”

Which is why I’m so impressed when I read about young people who are figuring it out, and doing something about it, sooner. Like Jazz Jennings, star of TLC’s reality show, “I am Jazz.” Born a male, she’s a 14-year-old transgender female who’s been living as a girl since kindergarten. KINDERGARTEN! At such a young age, she knew! Her parents have been by her side the entire time, helping her to transition and be as comfortable as she can as a female.

And my sister just sent me a link to this article about Coy Mathis. Coy is now nine years old and featured in Growing Up Coy, a new documentary chronicling the Mathis family’s life. Coy was born a male but figured out pretty quickly she was supposed to have been female. She was six when she asked to use the girl’s restroom at her elementary school in Colorado. Six. I think at that point I was still trying to tie my shoes. (I’m slow sometimes.)

First, I’m in awe of these kids who know themselves so well at such a young age. I’m still figuring out who I am as a full-blown supposed grownup. Did I mention I am slow sometimes? These young people have a much better sense of self than I ever hope to have. And they’re a helluva lot more adorable besides.

I’m equally impressed with their parents for being incredibly supportive of a situation that they may not quite understand. That takes guts in a culture that often ostracizes, fears and shuns anyone who doesn’t fit the expected “norm.” Think about it: parents want to protect their children from hurt, harm and hate. And yet, by embracing their child and helping them to feel comfortable in their own skin, these parents are blamed by an often-judgmental society who not only spurns their child but also accuses them of coddling or confusing their kid. Wow. Talk about a tough spot.

There is plenty of sensitivity about this topic, and I’m beginning to understand why members of the trans community are reluctant, hesitant or even downright terrified to live their authentic lives. Fear of persecution is a pretty strong deterrent. I applaud those who choose to do so, whether they’re 8 years old or 80. Maybe if more young people choose to live their authentic lives, they’ll give others the courage others to follow suit. And if and when they do, I wish for them acceptance at every turn, from self-acceptance to inclusion.

I’m gonna wrap this up with a quote I love by Jessica Lange:

 “Acceptance and tolerance and forgiveness. Those are life-altering lessons.”

I can’t wait for us all to learn.

And I can’t believe I used “ballsy” in a headline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient ancestors had it right

You know how they say we can learn from the past? That applies to so many things. War. Economics. Fashion. And yes, even gender.

Maybe, just maybe, previous generations were on to something. Like the Native Americans, who recognized five genders. FIVE!

I find that fascinating. I learned so much in a  great article my sister shared with me. (The whole article is here.) In a nutshell, many many years ago, Native Americans recognized these five genders: male, female, Spirit male, Spirit female, and transgendered. They weren’t just inclusive … the article said people then were REVERED for being different:

In fact, people who had both female and male characteristics were viewed as gifted by nature, and therefore, able to see both sides of everything.

Sadly, that acceptance went by the wayside when European Christians got into the mix and started enforcing their own gender roles onto others. Religious influence brought prejudice with it, and forced openly androgynous people into choosing to live as either male or female.

Know another interesting thing? The Native Americans weren’t alone. Other older cultures were also more open minded than we are today, and seemed to live in harmony that way for eons.

Check out an article in the New York Times about how a Mexican town recognizes three genders, and has for generations. “Muxes” are people are born into male bodies but who identify as neither male nor female. They’re not only not ostracized, they’re also recognized as special. And they have been accepted as part of the everyday culture for years. According to the article:

A mixed-gender way of life was accepted in several pre-Columbian communities across Mexico, according to anthropologists and colonial accounts. It is unclear when the muxe tradition originated in Juchitán, or how it endured.

Unfortunately, like our own recent news, a bathroom controversy is brewing in this small Mexican community. Students at a local university there have recently complained – claiming hygiene issues – and now muxes are left without a bathroom when they’re at school. I am intrigued by the fact that muxes are mixed on whether having a third bathroom is a solution. Some think it’ll ease tensions; others feel it will create a bigger divide.

That’s something I haven’t seen discussed much here in the US. It’s easy to assume that labeling a bathroom as ‘non-gendered’ would fix our recent fights and calm the fears.

But would it? Or would it simply serve to further ostracize a group that already feels like outsiders, often even in their own bodies?

I’m sad to think this small Mexican community, which for generations has accepted its own for who and what they are, now has had even a slight shift in how it views its mixed-gender residents. I can only hope that they’ll consider the past … and rethink the future.

I guess I wish that for all of us.

 

 

When “Counting” Means More than Numbers

I recently read an article about why the government cares about the number of Americans who are LGBT. It discussed how having an accurate count of the number of LGBT Americans could expedite changes in military policies, health care, grant funding and more. Important reasons, without question. And it makes perfect sense to me — after all, how can you adequately care for a population without knowing how large that population is?

BUT.

It also misses a crucial point, in my humble little opinion. Knowing how many of our fellow Americans are part of the LGBT community could mean recognizing that they are not some small, separate, segregated group that’s too inconsequential to matter. Dollars to doughnuts, I’d bet that if there were true, accurate and all-encompassing data available, the numbers of the LGBT community in this country are far greater than anyone realizes. Many of these people have chosen to stay silent for many, many reasons. Fear of discrimination. Fear of alienation. Fear of repercussions from family, friends, employers or places of worship. Fear of being attacked. Fear of being harassed about something as basic as using a bathroom.

Which means that too many of them haven’t felt the luxury of being honest about who they are. Luxury being the operative word there.

How sad is it that anyone in this day and age has to hide who they are for ANY reason? We like to think we’ve come so far as a society–and in many ways we have–but not in this one basic, HUMAN way. What if redheads were ashamed to let people know they had red hair and wore wigs to blend in? What if anyone with brown eyes wore sunglasses simply to hide their eye color because they were ostracized otherwise? These aren’t choices – they’re how we’re born. Those in the LGBT community are no different.

In my last post, I carelessly used the phrase “choose to live an alternative lifestyle.” I was mistaken for phrasing it that way, and I’m grateful a friend pointed it out to me. Those who are lesbian, gay or trans don’t CHOOSE to be so, anymore than I chose to be straight. They are who they are, just as I am. The difference is, I don’t have to hide it. Many of them don’t have that luxury … which is why the numbers that good ol’ Uncle Sam is trying to collect are not likely to be accurate any time soon.

I love that the government is trying to get this data, don’t get me wrong. It’s crucial that those who are LGBT be recognized as a legitimate community, with the same rights and benefits as the rest of us. Having those numbers can go a long way toward making that reality. I just venture a guess that the data the government comes up with won’t be truly representative, because so many people still feel they simply can’t speak up.

To those who do identify as any one of the letters in the LGBT world, my greatest wish is that, some day, you’ll feel the luxury of living your authentic life. If not, I understand why… I’m just so sorry you don’t feel you can. Uncle Sam’s numbers or no, I count you as important. You matter.

 

 

 

What’s in your paycheck?

So this is  LGBT month. President Obama signed the proclamation yesterday officially making June 2016 Pride month. It’s not the first time, of course … Pres. Clinton was the first to mark Pride month waaaay back in 2000. (Back then, it was just Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.) And then we didn’t mark it for eight years (not pointing any fingers here, but a different party was in office during that period), until Obama got it going again in 2009. His proclamation yesterday included this:

I urge the Congress to enact legislation that builds upon the progress we have made, because no one should live in fear of losing their job simply because of who they are or who they love.

This is paramount, in my mind. It’s about more than bathrooms and who can marry whom. Those are important topics, for sure, and I’ve blogged about them plenty. (Actually, I haven’t blogged so much about marriage equality. Look for that topic coming soon.) But that particular sentence … “fear of losing their job simply because of who they are or who they love” … that one kicked me in the gut.

Of course we’ve all heard about the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. In my naivete, I didn’t think much beyond the military when it comes to those who choose an alternative lifestyle. Someone you know is LGBT. Maybe it’s family, or a friend, or a co-worker, they’re gay or trans. So what? It has no impact on how well they perform at work or whether they’re capable of carrying out their duties. Why in the world should they fear being without a paycheck because of being gay, lesbian, or trans?

I’m glad that we have a month to celebrate LGBT Pride. I also hate that it’s necessary. If we could just accept each other for who we are, we could all feel pride all the time and wouldn’t need a special presidential proclamation to mark it. When I rule the world… 😉

Until then, I’ll just be glad I have a good job. And because I’m straight and CIS, I’ll thank my lucky stars I don’t have to worry about losing it based on who I am or who I love.

 

 

Bullies or Bigots?

With lawsuits flying back and forth between the US Justice Department and the state of North Carolina, there’s a whole lotta drama going on. NC Gov. Pat McCrory seems to think the government is confused about its HB2 law, otherwise known as the “Bathroom Law.” The state sued the Government, and the Government sued back. Think of it as Civil War 2.0.

McCrory is fundraising for his campaign’s re-election, asking supporters to “fight back against the federal government’s overreach and bullying tactics.” He seems to think that the government threatening to withhold federal funding as a result of HB2 is overreaching. The government says, “McCrory, you’re about as wrong as pairing okra with ice cream.” It’s a matter of equal rights for all.

I love Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s statement to the LGBT community:

“Let me also speak directly to the transgender community itself. Some of you have lived freely for decades. Others of you are still wondering how you can possibly live the lives you were born to lead. But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.”

Wow. For all of the times I’ve complained about Government losing sight of the people it’s supposed to protect – which is frequently, sadly – I believe they got it right this time.

(By the way, for you trivia buffs, Obama is the first president to ever mention the word “transgender” in a State of the Union speech. I know, you probably thought Washington said it, but he probably glossed over it in favor of things like Valley Forge and paddling across the Potomac. Different priorities, I guess.)

Of course, it remains to be seen who will win this particular battle. Each day seems to bring a new development for the so-called Bathroom Law. What do you think? Is the Government overstepping its bounds by enforcing equal rights and cutting off funding to NC?  Is NC discriminating against the LGBT community?