There have been a number of recent events that have motivated me to finally get around to start writing this blog (I’ve thought about it a long time!) I hope to write about a few of them in the coming days. One I haven’t mentioned yet is that I have a longtime straight male friend who’s adolescent child has changed gender presentation and the family is now considering next steps. The other day we had coffee and a long talk that got me thinking about what to say to someone in his position without being judgmental or trying to advocate a certain viewpoint. When I got home that night I started writing my first blog post. My friend has been incredibly supportive of his child’s gender exploration – I am actually surprised because for years I avoided my friend because I thought he would hate and judge me because I had transitioned. He is much more open minded than I gave credit for. I should have known better and for that I feel guilt because I let a lot of years slip by.
So anyway, we have talked about his child a few times and I always try to be supportive and just talk straight to him as objectively as I can about what I know without trying to influence him to push his child in any direction. I do worry though that a lot of kids and parents are starting to see changing genders as being a lot easier than it is. Real life isn’t an anime cartoon – decisions have very real and lasting consequences. Unfortunately up until recently the “detransition” related sites, articles and blogs I would see were not (in my opinion) particularly helpful. I don’t think that becoming reactionary helps anyone or that attacking the trans community for a personal decision that is now regretted really achieves anything productive other than making a difficult societal discussion much more tense and difficult. Just because in my own case I think that I have found out, for my own path, “transitioned” isn’t where I want to be, that does not mean that I need to start trumpeting my personal truths as some sort of gospel that I think others should believe or follow. I see other people doing this and it pisses me off. To me it is yet another way people try to validate or feel better about their own life choices by trying to get others to agree with them. I can’t say this enough – we are all on different paths. As the saying goes, and I truly believe this, your mileage will DEFINITELY vary.
All that being said, there are some life experiences and personal observations that I have made over the years that might be helpful for someone to hear. Maybe it will make someone modify their path towards transition. Or maybe, just as easily, it might make them even more confident in the path they are on towards gender congruity by seeing someone else work through some of these issues (with the theoretical reader coming away from reading my blog with the thought that – “yeah that was kinda interesting – but I can see what that person is dealing with does not apply to me. I am secure in my choice of gender presentation.”)
I can’t say this emphatically enough – I think the resources that exist today (support groups, clinics, doctors, websites) are a very good thing. I just think they need to continue their natural evolution and in many cases need to expand the conversation. I really do think we are still in the stone age when it comes to talking about gender and transgender issues. I know it seems like we have come so far in being able to talk about this stuff but the conversation has really just barely started. It’s just a blip.
A couple of distant memories recently returned to me when I started blogging. Although I had totally forgotten about this for many years somehow, I just remembered my fruitless search to find someone to help me sort out my dysphoria when I was around the same adolescent age. I can remember the only resource I could find was a number in the local phone book for some sort of transsexual support line. I was too afraid to call it from my parents phone so I went to a pay phone and try to call from there. Nobody ever answered. Eventually I stopped calling. When the next phone book came out the number was gone.
There was another long forgotten but recently recalled desperate incident that I think I must have blocked from my memory because I felt such shame in the aftermath. This happened before I was old enough to drive. I remember I had my mother drop me off at the local university medical center using the faux premise that I needed to go to the medical library to do a book report for school. In reality I went to various departments, literally walking down hallways and trying to get up the nerve to ask someone if there was a program or treatment for someone who had gender confusion. After about an hour of pacing and wandering around in absolute agony I finally worked up the nerve to approach someone and tell a complete strange the most intimate secret of my young existence. At first they had no idea what I was talking about and then I watched their eyes turn from bemusement to maybe something approaching mild sympathy as they said that, no, unfortunately they had absolutely nothing like that there and they had no idea where I might find the kind of help I was looking for but all the same they wished me luck and I scurried away. My mom picked me up from my “school report research” and I went home horribly discouraged and depressed (not to mention really embarrassed.) To say that I felt like a degenerate freak would be an understatement. In reality though I was only a confused and lost kid.
I think it is fantastic that a youth in a similar position today doesn’t have to face such obstacles. And it is wonderful that parents can access resources that help them discuss and think about these very complicated concepts. In the end I have no advice for my friend on how to interact with and support his child. What I do have are my thoughts and my personal experiences (internal and external) and I want to at least offer them to him so they can be added, if he chooses, to his rapidly expanding mental collection of information on the subject. I have learned what I should have known all along – my friend will not be guided by prejudice nor be swayed by shallow talking points. He will do just fine on his own.