I remember asking my mother when my penis was going to grow. Bless her heart, Millie Pete just nodded and said it wouldn’t because I was a girl.
I am not transgender, nor have I ever had a desire to alter my assigned gender in any way, but when exposed to discussion about transgender issues, I reflect upon the time I wanted to be like my Dad and big brother. You see, they got to do cool things outside, like use power tools and ride the big lawnmower in the summer. With their shirts off. I also asked Mom if I too could play outside without my shirt on, and again she just gave a nod and said no because I was a girl.
I think what was most important about that situation was not my question, but the answer. My parents were pragmatic people, being very efficient with their emotions until anger struck, and each of them usually gave me a fairly limited response to my questions. In this case I think they handled it well, because they never made me feel wrong in asking. It was a simple no, without inflammatory language or shame for asking such a ridiculous thing.
However, I was comfortable in my own skin and was simply becoming aware of the limitations placed upon women and what was expected of us. I could look in the mirror and recognize my own face. That’s the difference from what our transgender family face.
I had coffee with friends the other morning, and one was concerned with the new labels for varying gender identification. She said she felt they were simply placing new targets on themselves for ridicule from others.
“If I see a girl, I’m going to say girl,” she added. “I don’t understand what’s wrong with that.”
A very open and progressive straight woman, she was asking with authentic concern. I responded by explaining that term may trigger a person who doesn’t identify as a woman to feel uncomfortable and even humiliated.
As I grow older, I find there is an intense self-reflection on how I’ve lived my life and what I plan to do with the rest of it. Add to that the upcoming 20th anniversary of my kidney transplant, surviving COVID-19 and having a young son, there is a real motivation to live the best life I can moving forward. And that includes not having to understand things to offer my help.
For instance, I cannot stand the term “queer.” Yet, our community uses it as an embraced adjective. I’m not sure why, but I also am not one to tell others they can’t use it and support their sense of empowerment. I may not understand what the transgender community has gone through, but that doesn’t matter. I have been and will continue to support and defend their rights to be joyful.
There are no stupid questions, only irresponsible people who handle the situation incorrectly. From my mother to my friend at coffee, these questions and conversations should be allowed safe spaces, because that’s where education happens.