last week i learned that my youngest sister was avoiding me because of my support for zeeona as a transgender person. my mom slipped it out in a conversation in which she also said that no matter how much information i am able to provide to help either herself or my sister understand the issue it wouldn’t be sufficient to dispell their discomfort.
it was disconcerting to me at the very least to realise that they chose to be uncomfortable and unenlightened over accepting or at least informed.
no matter. my mother still doesn’t feel comfortable that i sleep with women. and certainly both she and my sister are in the majority with their stance concerning gay or transgender people, and especially transgender children.
i thought i’d seen some progress this year when my mother actually began to use the female pronouns when referring to zee and when she had gifted her at christmas with ‘girl’ things.
i thought there had been progress even further back in time when my mother told this sister and her daughter,(my niece), that i would not be banned from her home, and would be allowed to visit even when zeeona’s cousins were staying there as they do on a weekly basis.
but in lieu of the most recent remarks, i wasn’t sure if mom’s ‘i’m so busy’ replies when i’d ask if we could come over were her way of keeping zeeona and i away when the cousins were there.
so of course, being quite honest and above-board, i outright asked her if patsy and her daughter were uncomfortable with zeeona and i visiting when lexi and mikey, (zeeona’s cousins) are visiting. adding something like, “cause you know, it’s not contagious”.
mom assured me that she ‘didn’t think so’. but i sensed a subtle omission behind the words. still she apologised if she had sounded ‘put-offish’ when she’d described her busy day and told us to come over.
zeeona has a great time whenever she gets to play with her cousin lexi…in fact, being autistic, even while she had trouble relating to other kids her age, it was remarkable the way she from the first meeting seemed close to lexi. when i used to provide daycare for lexi and mikey, zeeona and she were inseparable. like sisters, even tho at the time zee was not yet living outloud, she shared knowledge with lexi about the fact that she wasn’t really a boy. more like a ‘girl-boy’.
yesterday while they played together, lexi used the male pronoun when referring to zee, and then corrected herself! replacing he with she. i hadn’t been witness to the event, because i was in the kitchen, scanning the news feeds on my phone, but my mom right away came and related the story to me, proudly adding: “i’ve been trying to help her understand.”
then, as synchronicity would have it, i opened a news article that reported a study correlating the incidence of transgender substance abuse with the discrimination and oppression suffered by this group. the report was replete with percentages and comparisons to the ‘rest’ of the population.
i began to read it outloud, my mom politely listening as i went through the data not saying much until i got to the parts about how in 29 of our fifty states it is legal to discriminate against gays and transgender folk, that 51% of gay and 90% of transgender people report having been subject to discrimination in employment and/or housing, that gay and transgender people were far more likely to be the victim of assault, sexual battery and other forms of abuse. at these figures my mom’s interest seemed piqued. as she clicked her tongue and “oh really”-ed the various bits of data.
but the article included something even more important. a fact of which i’m guessing she and all the others ‘uncomfortable’ with zeeona being transgender and my support or her are blissfully unaware. that it is a medical condition and recognised as such, with a bonafide recommended therapeutical remedy.
upon finishing the paragraph that stated this, i paused for effect, then said to her. “can you imagine someone feeling ‘uncomfortable’ with zeeona because she has juvenile polyposis syndrome, or judgmental of me for seeing to it that she gets the necessary colonoscopies and bloodwork to ensure she survives the condition and is healthy?”
from the look on my mother’s face i could see that she understood something new. that she’d been given a different context in which to consider zeeona’s transgender identity and my support of her. it wasn’t exactly an “aha!” moment. more of an “if this is all true then …” cognitive event.
before this, and partially because my mother had warned that no amount of information would alleviate her and my sister’s discomfort with the issue, i had almost decided to give up on them…but now, i am glad i acted otherwise.
it just might be that just a little knowledge can go along way, in easing open the door to understanding and dialog. and, who am i trying to kid? i can’t ‘not‘ offer a branch to minds stuck in quicksand…it’s just not who i am.
as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, queer and transgender folk we are controversial merely by being true to ourselves. of course if we lived in an enlightened society there would be little if anything to distinquish our life-stories from anybody elses. so in the interests of making tomorrow a better world, it seems appropriate to educate, and foolish not to.
cause in some cases, a little knowledge is not a dangerous thing, it is a beginning.