Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Books: On Being the Outside World

If you are a parent, you know your love for your child has no end. As a mother, I can't think of a single thing that my kids could do that would make me stop loving them. Even if they murdered someone and ended up in prison (heaven forbid, on both counts), I would still love them. My heart would be broken, but I would still love them. My biggest fear for them would be how they would be treated by other people, both in and out of prison.

Now imagine something else -- not as tragic as murder, but still something that will give your heart fear for how your child will be treated by other people -- suppose your child comes to you and says he or she wants to be a different gender. You might be shocked, but you will still love your child, of course. What do you think your biggest fears would be?

The book I am reviewing is Transitions of the Heart, Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children edited by Rachel Pepper. It is a collection of individual stories, written by mothers of transgender children. Some of the children announced as early as age three that they want to be the gender that their body is not. Some wait until well into adulthood. No matter when it happens, it often is a shock to the mother and hard to wrap one's mind around.

As the mother begins the transition along with the child, trying to understand and support, yet full of questions, her biggest fear for her child is going to be the outside world. Will my child be bullied? Will my child have friends? How will my child survive in school, in a career, in a dating relationship? What will my child's grandparents do or say?

The more I read the more unfair I feel we as the outside world are to these families. Isn't it awful that the biggest fear is other people's reactions?! Why should that even matter? Yet it does, because people don't understand it, we fear what we don't understand, or it seems freakish to us upon a first encounter. As a mother myself, I can empathize with moms who go through this transition. At first it would be difficult, but as they come to terms with it, they SHOULD be able to trust others to treat their child with respect. That mom has boundless love for the child; we as outsiders have an obligation to help keep that child safe and loved.

This is true for all kinds of challenges. If we have a child with Downs Syndrome, we'll worry about the child's vulnerability; if our child has autism, we'll worry.. I could name any number of conditions. But scarier, I think, are the things which society has not yet taken out of the "freak" category, such as transgender and gender non-conforming issues. I wish this were not so. Opening our hearts will have positive ramifications in ALL areas so all of us can feel safer releasing our children out into the world.

Have you ever had the transgender issue touch your family or friends? If so, did you feel your mind opening? I hope so. And with the help of books like this, we can all open our minds and hearts even more, so that we create a safer world for everyone.

An excellent book and easy to read. The stories were varied, but with the thread of concern carrying through all of them.. fears for the safety and happiness of their children (from toddler to adult). We all have a responsibility to learn.

I'm adding some quotes from the book. These struck me as powerful.

...I am amazed at how love has energized our family relationships, activating our human capacity for change and adaptation. I have probed the mystery of transition and its personal, cultural, and global consequences. My son and I exchange "I love you" more easily. My partner and I embrace change with greater resilience. In response to a harsh world around us, we have worked harder to support one another...

...I have distanced myself from those who cannot accept. Those people are the ones who, in the end, may someday regret their prejudicial viewpoint... takes a lot of will power and practice to change the way you think. It's like a stoplight. Every time you catch yourself in the old habits, just visualize a stoplight and STOP! Then re-think the way you're going. It's as simple and hard as that...

...your child may simply be a lovely spirit trapped in the wrong body. Please don't ask them to be less than they are...

[a mother, to her son]: ...You are helping me grow into a better person...

...Little did I know that I was about to embark on the most painful, joyous, and educational experience of a lifetime, a journey that not many parents will ever have the privilege of taking.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have had transgender issues intersect with my life . . not with family, but in other contacts - gosh, long ago already! t like the quotes you chose to share.