I have a lot on my mind today, though the thoughts are muted, like when my head is buried under both our pillows, but I can still hear the morning alarm sound off. I’m ok with this fogginess because I feel like I have been hyper-focused lately. There’s a lot I am settling in my brain, which is not unusual, but the one thing that sticks out that I feel I need to share is this: I have been a judgmental, “stone-throwing” person in my life, and I am ok with that. I have not always been as upstanding as I can be, and I really wish I was more of a Champion – but I am only just finding my voice and style of standing up to people. I am proud of who I am and how I act now, which is what matters most because I have done a lot of work to get here. So, please always remember that if what I am saying seems very one-sided, I have absolutely considered the other side. If we are disagreeing, I hope you will consider the argument from my position as well, before reacting and maybe ‘firing’ me (/ˈfī(ə)riNG/: a condition common in my family, of quickly and forever removing yourself from the friendship because your perceived opposites seem to be too great to fuse).
I have just read Jennifer Finney Boylan’s opinion piece “Coming Out as Trans Isn’t a Teenage Fad” and am feeling all sorts of things. I’ll start with the deepest scratch: R.O.G.D.
Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria is the term used by Lisa Littman in her “scientific” paper where she describes her um, methods(?), for determining the phenomenon of post-pubescent gender identity change (mean age 16.4 yrs). I’ll save you the read because her study is based on a 90-question survey available online to parents of children expressing this behavior. Her means of distributing the survey?
“Placed on three websites where parents had reported rapid onsets of gender dysphoria. Website moderators and potential participants were encouraged to share the recruitment information and link to the survey with any individuals or communities that they thought might include eligible participants to expand the reach of the project through snowball sampling techniques”Lisa Littman
I am not trying to devalue the importance of parents in this journey. I have the highest regard for parents, I just feel like asking them to be the ones to weigh in on the mental journey of figuring out if you are trans is like asking vegans about their experience digesting the newest wagyu meat. I appreciate that she says this is a launch-pad only, that,
“One of the main conclusions is that more research needs to be done…. you can’t tell cause and effect, and you can’t tell prevalence. It’s going to take more studies to bring in more information, but this is a start.”
And yet, friend, your launch pad is exactly what certain politicians, religious leaders, doctors and, sadly, parents are hungrily searching for to disprove the experience their child is having.
I had a cousin, a beautiful boy I didn’t really know. His name was Aiden – and he killed himself.
While his parents innately validated all aspects of his identity, the world at large did not. Why? I don’t know; he had been very pretty and soft. He looked a lot like me, actually; big gentle blue eyes and an impish smile filled with childlike wonder. I won’t tell the whole story here, but I will let you know this: the world may have doubted his ability to choose his identity (he was trans), but this sixteen-year-old was mature enough to find a place to end his life where 1. it would not ruin a memory for his friends or family, and 2. where it was unlikely that he would be found by someone that loved him. When someone is gone, their gender is so insignificant compared to the loss and grief you feel when you realize you’ll never see what that wonderful smirk would have grown into, who they would have become and what they would have accomplished.
My world is seeing a shift with me. My sister and I are now having frank conversations about my gender identity (or lack thereof!), which is extending rapidly to her family and friends. Aisha and duderonomy are totally in the loop. But this slow and gentle shift of mine into a “true” gender is not new. I’ve never felt like my peers. Any of them. I came late to sexual attraction and urges. What I distinctly remember is watching Bryan shoot hoops in grade eight, seriously conflicted about whether what I was feeling was finally ‘attraction’, or if I just wanted his muscles and power, or if I just wanted to be sporty instead of artsy. I had always wanted his body as my own; the grade eight body that looked like a twenty-year-old with lean muscles, bulging pecs, and hands that let go of that ball with such grace and power. Bryan also appeared as my checkpoint when I was trying to figure out the gay thing. I came out without having touched another human in a sexual way. Ever. I’ll tell that story another time, but the thing is I just knew. And the day I really really knew, I remember looking up and there he was, through the cafeteria doorway, no joke, the light surrounding him and his 6′ something frame, his shaggy brown hair resting across his forehead (sixteen guys, he was so gorgeous) as he leaned against a table. My eyes caressed his frame for the last time, and I walked away from gender-based doubts, because guys, I was gay! I wanted Bryan’s body, not him!
What I am skirting around is the actual mental stuff that has taken me a long time to figure out and is no easier at 35. It is hard being disjointed, uncomfortable or knowing you are not ‘performing’ your gender correctly. It sucks being shunned by friends because they, too, know you aren’t ‘right’ yet. The fact that I had a lot of other stuff going on during puberty and therefore couldn’t focus on my gender, probably saved my life.
I’ll leave the details and statistics of this study for you to read and I encourage you to do so. I just can’t figure out how to present them without taking up a billion pages. So, I’ll go back to my original genuine question to Lisa Littman: At what age is it appropriate to decide you are trans? It is not valid before puberty, because well, you are a child; It is not valid if the subject suddenly expresses themselves after puberty since they may then be diagnosed with R.O.G.D because well shit, they were fine until sixteen, so this is obviously a ‘social contagion’ (Yes, I just wrote “social contagion”, but not my words). And finally, it also isn’t ok (and in a lot of countries and states it’s actually illegal) to make this choice when you are old enough to vote.
I know it’s uncomfortable. I know that people busting out of their gender boxes makes people feel like they have to adjust or consider their own box (no pun intended). But you don’t at all because it has nothing to do with you.
When I try and find my footing in this debate, the “something can’t be real because I don’t like it” debate, I can’t. It’s like when people try and argue with me that ‘bisexuality’ isn’t valid. Why? Why isn’t it, because I happen to know a few very happy, well adjusted, and real, bisexuals. I can’t weigh in on the validity of their attraction because I am not attracted to men. So, the thing is: it is what it is. Trans people are here. GNC people are here. Gays. Bi’s. Asexual people too. Super straight seeming people who are actually kinky-AF behind closed doors are here, in spades, folks. And so are cis-gendered, heteros. Don’t worry.
“Comparison is the thief of joy” and the grass is not greener. I think the chicken and egg showed up at the same time (no, I don’t). But hate is the action spurred on by jealousy and insecurity. Judging comes from a place where you aren’t speaking the words you need to. So instead of people being worried about what trans/non/multi/whatever gender or sexual orientation or this whole unicorn movement thing may have an effect on, worry about things that matter when we’re ALL gone. I focus on garbage reduction and water cleanliness, personally.
I loved how Jennifer ended her piece. I loved so much about it, and I’ll say it – I especially loved that she is trans, and wrote about the negative, impulsive feelings she felt when her child also came out as trans. Because no one ever wants someone to suffer the exact hurt you’ve worked your life to avoid. I know the people in my world are going to be gentle with me. I know this because I already have support from those (minus one because they don’t know) who matter most.
What I wish was more prevalent as the take-away from Littman’s piece is that there are a lot of children in the world right now who have anywhere between 1-7 mental health disorders or neurodevelopmental disabilities. There are children who are pulling away from established friends and family because they don’t feel connected. It does not matter that these kids happen to be trans – I want to find the children of the parent-respondents and ask them if they are actually unhappier now that they’ve come out. Because I am fairly certain they’d just like a voice.
“No matter what your political views are or which side you’re on, You must be a decent human being, care, help & do good. Period! ❤️”George Stamatis