Last month, my daughter, I mean son, I mean…, shit, I don’t know what I mean. Anyway, she/he came out as transgender. It wasn’t really a big surprise since they’d been flirting with the idea that they were trans for almost a year. It’s been almost two years since my child came out as…, not heterosexual. Initially, they identified as bisexual. Later that morphed into pansexual and, finally, they came to grips with the realization that their gender identity didn’t match up with the sex they were assigned at birth. Like I said, it wasn’t a surprise and I thought “Cool, now we can move on to other stuff”. Oh, how I wish that was true.
You’ll notice I struggle with pronouns when talking about my child. There are two reasons for that: one, the last time we talked about it, they hadn’t chosen a preferred pronoun so I’m not sure which one to use. Two, calling someone I’ve known as my daughter for 19 years anything but “she” or “her” isn’t exactly what you’d call “easy”. Until things get sorted out, I try to use gender-neutral pronouns as much as possible. Even that’s hard because it makes my language seem stilted and just wrong. But, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make out of respect for my child’s feelings and well-being.
Interestingly, one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with is their decision to stop shaving their legs. Well, actually, that decision was made quite a while ago but I never noticed it because they don’t wear shorts much and, when they did, they would shave. Not anymore. I am of an age where hairy legs on women((as I said, I’m still coming to grips with the fact that I have a son and not a daughter)) is just weird. Not hairy armpit weird, though. Thank god they’re not a fan of tank tops.
These things are all trivial when set against the realities I know my transgender child now faces. It’s not pretty. The ignorant remarks of19 Kids And Counting‘s Michelle Duggar are just the tip of the iceberg. Trans people are discriminated against on a daily basis, encountering “difficulties”((what an understatement)) in finding housing, jobs and health care. Even something we cisgender people take for granted, like going to the bathroom, isn’t easy for gender-nonconforming people (see link about Ms. Duggar for more on this). But, all that pales into insignificance when set against the violence transgender people have to deal with.
Yesterday was the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, honoring people who lost their lives to transphobic violence in the last year. Since last November 20th, 81 people were killed simply because they didn’t fit the gender-binary system that dominates our culture. Maybe you think that number doesn’t sound all that high, but understand that it covers only the murders that are acknowledged as resulting from transphobic violence; god only knows what the actual numbers are. Even in death, people who are transgender are often cheated out of their true identity.
As the father of a child who is trans, these statistics scare the shit out of me. It’s frightening enough being a parent in today’s world without adding the fact that people who are transgender face a significantly higher chance of being victims of violence than people who are cisgender. As scared as I am, I’m also pissed off. I’m pissed off because all too many people are silent on this matter. I’m pissed because, as a society, we shout long and loud about marriage equality, income equality, racial equality, etc, but don’t seem to give a shit about the equality of people who are gender nonconforming. And, most of all, I’m pissed off at myself because, until it really affected me, I didn’t bother to find out what these people deal with every day. I don’t like it when I have to confront my own shittiness. So, yeah, dealing this transgender thing is kinda hard.