yesterday when ziona and i were finishing up at the check-out counter after shopping, the clerk smiled and told me how much ziona has grown, what a beautiful young girl she’s growing to be…etc.
but behind her eyes i saw the unasked question, “didn’t she used to be a he?”
no, the clerk didn’t come right out and ask (altho others have). in fact, the closest she came was saying “didn’t she used to keep her hair cut really short?” quickly adding something about how nice she looks in long hair.
this isn’t the first time i’ve noticed the ‘unasked question’ in the face of people who have seen us, clerks at stores mostly, since we don’t go many places outside of home, my mom’s house, or shopping. on occasion, the person upon whose face such ‘unasked questions’ register will actually allow their mouths to frame the inquiry.
usually something like, “where’s the little boy you used to come in with?” or “i always thought she was a boy”.
to these folk i offer a short explanation. such as…’turns out he was a little girl all along’ and if they appear open to further discussion, i teach them the word “transgender”.
teach is the proper way to describe the interactions, because most of the people have either never heard of the word or confuse it with ‘inter-sex’, an unrelated condition in which a person has both male and female ‘parts’. keeping it light and avoiding a tendency to be pedagogical whilst doing so, i briefly illumine them as to the meaning of transgender. usually by saying something like:
“some people are born with female brain, but a male body, or a male brain in a female body”
then i direct them to some information online, or the t.v. documentaries done by barbara walters, and recently lucy ling on oprah winfrey’s network. the name-dropping of such well-known and esteemed personalities whom they have invited into their living rooms via their televisions in the past, from whom they’ve learned about subjects far less controversial, seems to dispell the judgmental thoughts that begin to creep in after the initial curiousity has been sated.
and so, i’m thankful for the recent media attention, the high-profile appearance of chaz bono on dancing with the stars, and other such attempts by documentarians to elevate the social discourse about people like my daughter. i’m eternally grateful to such resources as genderspectrum.org and boston children’s hospital’s dr.spack for paving the way forward for young people who are gender variant. and as for those brave souls going forward with being who they are, despite the mountain of discrimination that they must face, clearing the myriad hurdles to becoming themselves and doing so unapologetically and in the open, i wish i could meet them, embrace them and let them know how awesome they are for the courageous endeavor of being who they are!
shortly after leaving the woman ‘with the unasked questions’ as we started towards the exit, an older gentleman, maybe in his mid-seventies, gave us the biggest compliment of our short shopping excursion, when he said simply: “what a beautiful little girl…and her mom”
tho i am clearly too old to be the mother of an eight-year old, and ziona is probably not exactly the little girl he imagined her to be, i turned to him and said a great big ‘thank you’, knowing that the fact that ziona is adopted and transgender didn’t make his statement any less true!
i smiled inside thinking about the truths he’d not seen or had chosen to overlook. feeling a bit relieved, perhaps for his lack of ‘unasked questions’, but most of all, very pleased that someone that day had perceived the normal of us: just a pretty girl and her mom.