a popular saying for a while now has been the one that states, “it takes a village to raise a child”.
i fully subscribe to the intent of that statement. altho, for those of us raising gender variant or neuro-diverse children, the village seems hard to find and far away.
some parents of transgender kids in supporting their child find themselves ostracized, by society, neighbors or even family. to the point that it can feel like we’re alone. despite the wealth of information that is ‘out there’ about trans-kids often the folk that need schooling the most are simply not going to search it out, we parents end up in the wearing all the ‘hats’.
we become advocates, first and foremost, for our children. but we often become teachers as well. we become inadvertent pupils of some of life’s hardest lessons about society, about just how evolved humans aren’t when it comes to welcoming those who are ‘different’. even some of the hairier groups among the primates seem to have more going on when it comes to acceptance. i refer especially to bonobos (by the way; great book to read:’bonobo handshake’)
last week however, ziona and i found our ‘village’.
we had to fly all the way across country to UCSF and the child and adolescent gender clinic there, but there seemed no doubt in my mind that we had stumbled into a most wonderful group of people: ziona’s new team.
the program there owes much to dr. spack and the GeMS program at boston’s children’s hospital, a pioneer in the field of gender issues and their treatment. and the team of folk tending to ziona’s needs include a primary care, a social worker, dr. stephen rosenthal (the department head and best i can tell, an angel) as well as folk with experience in legal issues. in fact, the very person with whom we have been in contact regarding legal issues is becoming part of UCSF’s program. in addition, dr. shawn giamattei is the gender specialist psychologist, well reknowned for his expertise in transgender matters, will be a part of our village.
it almost brought tears to my eyes to have met with such warmth by the folk who will help in my efforts to ‘raise’ the beautiful daughter into the beautiful young woman that she one day will become. the journey to UCSF, and the CAGC program; the planes, airports, red-eye flights and 5 hour layovers were well worth the trouble all things considered.
altho it is much easier these days to find a village when it comes to autism. there was a time when the neuro-diverse, such as autistic children had to struggle to find adequate support systems. and whereas it is still necessary for parents to advocate and fight for these children, recent years have found autism on the rise and understanding to have increased. years ago, autism was blamed on the ‘refrigerator’ moms and the services available for parents to help with raising these special kids were few to nil.
so who knows? maybe in the future the same sorts of programs will be established to help see to the needs of transgender kids, and to work along with their parents to ensure the most favourable outcomes in their treatment/therapy. but for now, like the refridgerator mom theory of autism in the past, the blame (as tho blame were appropriate) for our kids presenting as transgender is likewise hefted onto the backs of the parents/caregivers. no ‘telethons’ for trans-kids, to raise moneys for research, as is now the case for autism.
but my point is that there does exist that village it takes to help us raise our transgender, genderqueer, gender variant kids. it isn’t a very large village, it may be far away, but it’s there. it takes the form of websites, chat rooms like TYFA, rights organisations and programs established here and there across the United states and the world.
perhaps someday, in the not too distant future, understanding and compassion will have caught up with technology, prejudice will lay slain by the sword of truth, and societies finally will evolve to include all of their various memebers, having broken free of fear and loathing for what is ‘other than’ or different…perhaps then, the village will be everywhere.