sometimes i’m not sure how much about ‘life as it is’ today i should share with zeeona.
i rarely talk about the really scary stuff, like rape, hate-crimes, wife beatings.
but today she brought up the subject of bullying. perhaps because she had recently had an experience with it during the very brief installment at a private school. (the boy had teased her because she’s a girl. irony?)
(i wrote about it in this blog but can’t remember what i entitled the piece.)
she wondered why people bully. in attempting to answer the question, since i really can’t imagine a good reason for the behaviour, i suggested that when people are younger they sometimes don’t know how to act. maybe they don’t like their selves so they try to make others feel bad about their selves too…misery loves company.
zee then said, “well, at least grown-ups don’t bully.”
then looked to me for agreement on the statement, which unfortunately i couldn’t in all honesty provide.
instead, i went on to say that sometimes grown-ups do bully. like men bully or tease women. it hadn’t occurred to me that we were about to get into a talk about gender inequality. but i’ve recently been re-reading ‘whipping girl’ (a great book, by the way! definitely look it up. amazon has it) so i began to launch into the facts surrounding this concept. (deftly leaving out things like rape and sexual harassment that the notion of men bullying women had evoked in my mind)
only half a diatribe into the semi-rant i began to notice the look of disillusion wash over zeeona’s features.
she said “well, then that makes me wish i were male”
i must have had that ‘deer in the headlights’ look on my face and i was nearly speechless for half a second, before i said: “well, you could do that.”
she looked at me helplessly and said “how?!”
now, zeeona is not ignorant of the fact that she will have to take hormones, and have surgery to prevent her body from becoming ‘a man’s body’. her question had nothing to do with how she could be male physically. because she knows that as far as her external form is concerned it already is.
but, you see, she’s as much a girl as i am. and even if i woke up tomorrow with male genitalia, it wouldn’t change a thing as far as my identity is concerned. it is the same with zee.
she moved quickly onto “do grown men tease and bully other men?” to which i answered, that they do and it is often through this behaviour that they bond or develop relationships with one another.
then we were on to discussing other areas of what my philosophy professor at university would call “man’s inhumanity to man”.
as i reflected on this conversation throughout the day, i began to understand just how much a girl she is!
my initial shock when she said the thing about ‘being male’ was short-lived. i didn’t respond as did to try to unseat her from her female identity, but i admit that if she’d have taken that opportunity to ‘come out of the phase’ i would’ve been fine with switching gears right then and there to allow her to try on that male persona: the one she’d never worn, even while being seen and treated as a little cute boy.
this knee-jerk reaction has less to do with her identity, or my acceptance of her than it does the fears that linger deep in my psyche of the ugly parts of the real world. those parts that allow transphobic folk to bully, assault or murder transwomen. (it’s rarer to find such attacks against transmen: see also “whipping girl”)
so we come again to the kinds of question that all parents face: how much about ‘life as it is’ should we share with our children?
perhaps i’m part optimist after all, because one reason i’m loathe to bring up some of the things i fear with regard to zeeona’s tomorrows is that i hope that world will also ‘grow up’. that tendencies to fear and harm those who are ‘other-than’ will begin to fall away and a more fair societal paradigm rise instead.
every day i come across evidence that today’s attitudes and ideals are in a state of flux with respect to transgender people. on the one hand, not a day goes by when there isn’t an article in the news (i get mine from the internet, twitter, and various websites) about some horrendous thing being done to a woman simply because she is transgender or transsexual.
at the same time there are many high-profile transgender people helping to bring about awareness regarding trans issues, (in poland a transgender person and open homosexual were recently elected into two of the highest political positions in the land,) and ever increasing news bites about new legislation made to protect transgender folk against hate crimes and discrimination.
so, it maybe that it’s okay not to share with zeeona today’s version of ‘life as it is’. because maybe, the cliche going around these days is true. maybe in tomorrow’s world, ‘it gets better’.