nothing can be more dangerous than a secret. …sometimes.
when i think about what sorts of things are kept secret, it seems most often there’s an element of shame to them. often one is compelled to keep someone else’s secret…their burden. sometimes a secret hides a monster’s deeds. people having extra-marital affairs keep secrets. .pedophiles control their victims by hiding behind secrets. .one might hope to keep parts of an untoward past from being known. the threat of a secret being revealed gives power to the would-be tattler.
not all secrets are horrible. there’s the secret one keeps so as not to let the cat out of the bag about an upcoming surprise party…or an intended marriage proposal. . yes, there are good secrets, ones that are fun, and ones that tickle. and there are petty secrets too, the ones gossipers whisper in corners to ‘inquiring minds’ that want to know.
privacy is not the same as a secret. privacy is about natural boundaries, ones that everyone has a right to…things that are no one else’s business are private…for the purpose of this post such things are in another class from secrets.
the child molester has secrets, not privacy. the person molested has shame and fear, not privacy.
when i was a child i was beaten. it was no secret in our family, but was not known elsewhere. when i realised i liked girls, and not boys so much, i knew enough to keep it secret from my family…and everyone else. this was in the early 1960’s, long before stonewall, and pride parades with people chanting “we’re here! we’re queer! get used to it!” i learned that i couldn’t even share this bit about me with my girlfriends who were gushing about boys. i learned to pretend that i too like the silly creatures. i found out the hard way that disclosing my sexual preference to my girl friends made them put unnecessary distance between us…that disclosing it to boys got me teased and later on in years such a disclosure would be viewed as a challenge to their male egos. i found out the hard way, it could even get you raped.
times have changed alot from those days when donna reed and father knows best blared faux values into everyone’s living room. and tho many rights have been won, often the hard way, for people of the rainbow persuasion…there are still those kids who are afraid of being open about their sexuality, in fear of being rejected, or worse. loving families still disown their ‘different’ sons and daughters. hate and bigotry still exist in our society, even if such attitudes are kept hidden, or secret.
secrets can be dangerous.
if life has taught me anything, and i like to believe it has, it is this.
that is why people who are out in the open about being transgender are powerful. not open in a way that violates their privacy or feeds into the prurient sensationalism of society’s warped curiosity. but in the same way that we queers of an earlier decade reclaimed our power by owning our selves and refusing to let the dominant culture dictate to us our level of visibility or equality. yes, i know we are still fighting.
in the open…a sigh….a weight lifted! no more sword of damocles swinging overhead.
at the age of 3, my beautiful blue-eyed adopted child informed me that ‘he’ was a girl. to say it caught me by surprise would be an extreme understatement. it wasn’t that i had no knowledge of such a thing. one of my long time friends, whom i always considered my sister, had recently undergone sexual reassignment surgery. i had dated transgender women. but i had never, ever heard of a child as young as 3 or even 5 or 10 for that matter, being transgender.
then on my birthday in 2007, 20/20 aired a special wherein barbara walters interviewed a child named jazz. the skies opened up for ziona and i that day. because that family chose to be ‘in the open’ about the subject, i was set upon the way to go forward with my own special little girl. i began to do research and educate myself. .i began to be ‘unafraid’ to allow my sweet innocent child to live life on her terms, and as the person she is! now she doesn’t have to guard that secret, that she is really a girl who got the wrong parts.
the way forward wont be easy for her. she will have puberty blockers to stop her getting a low voice, adam’s apple and facial hair. she will have to use cross-hormones the rest of her life to assist her body to align with the soul that dwells within it. she will eventually undergo gender affirming surgery. but she will NOT have to keep it secret. she is not ashamed, and tho privacy figures in to our every decision, this is different from secrecy.
many parents, it turns out, are dealing with these same issues. when we attended the genderspectrum family symposium 2 years ago in berkeley i was amazed at just how many of us there are! and while each family and each person must approach the matter of whether or not to be ‘stealth’, ziona has already decided that she will live ‘in the open’.
secrets can be dangerous…but like any other bomb they can also be disarmed.
ziona used to refer to the fact that she was a girl in a boy’s body as ‘a secret’. but ever since she has lived as a girl, she doesn’t consider being transgender something that needs to be kept hidden. if people know from the start who she is, there will be no awkward moment of ‘full disclosure’ later on down the line. that is a wise point of view in some ways, and in other ways naive. it doesn’t take into account the bigotry and hate that feels all the more threatened when faced with things a narrow mind can’t comprehend.
i made up my mind decades ago not to keep who i am secret. because society has changed that is working out just fine for me. i’m proud of ziona, and her choice about being openly herself. i only hope that eventually transgender people enjoy the merits of a society that has broadened its scope to include them.
(bonus: update on 20/20 with barbara walters, interviewing jazz.)