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.)
a while back a sci-fi series called ‘caprica’ aired. i followed it religiously well before i had seen even one ‘battlestar galactica’. being a big science fiction fan it is strange that i’d never bothered to watch ‘bsg’ but perhaps the word ‘battle’ in the title was enough to put me off.
‘caprica’ came, then went the way of many shows i’ve liked. it was discontinued. since the action in caprica occurs well before the ‘galactica’, about 60 years, no mention is made to ‘battlestar galactica’. then an acquaintance from a book club i belonged mentioned ‘battlestar galactica” after i used and explicative i’d learned from ‘caprica…(it was ‘fracking’ and has nothing to do with natural gas)
so i’ve been watching “battlestar galactica”.
for those who haven’t ever seen the series, cylons are robots with artificial intelligence. they became ‘self-aware’ and eventually were able to synthesize human bodies to house their consciousness, but flesh and blood bodies are easily injured and damaged to the point of non-functioning state. for this reason, they have ‘resurrection’ bodies just like the one that ‘died’ into which to upload their consciousness. there are 12 different cylon ‘human-like’ models. ‘skin-job’ is a derogatory slur used by humans when referring to these beings. altho even worse ones are often used.
for the most part, human beings and cylon humans are at war. but the loathing that humans feel for them seems to go deeper than just their dark, mutual history, a history from which it could be argued that cylons, subsequent to their creation having been enslaved and oppressed by humans have the more justifiable position.
when humans finally learn that some cylons have human bodies, can reason and communicate, feel pain and emotions, have memories, a sense of right and wrong, this does nothing to change the prejudice. instead they loathe them all the more vehemently, and fear them. but because the cylon models are indistinguishable from humans, some people fall in love with them without realising that they’ve been intimate with a ‘skin job’. and at least one such relationship resulted in the cylon model becoming pregnant and giving birth to a baby.
humans do not allow personhood to cylon “skin-jobs”. they are considered machines, despite the fact that they are flesh and blood, have memories, emotions.
being a poet, primarily, and thus wont to see analogies and metaphor, i began to see a commonality shared by trans-women and human-form cylons. that being, no matter how hard either may try, they will not be granted personhood. a cylon, despite fighting side by side for the humans with whom they live, are still viewed as ‘less than’, or ‘other than’ human. the trans-women, despite being relegated to a place lower than cis-women in society, despite going to much trouble to be women, despite having the same emotions, pain, as their sisters are denied womanhood.
so i say to my cis-sisters: “we are not now, nor have we ever been at war with, or attacked by transgender women. they share the plight women share and suffer things we will (thankfully) never know! how can we deny them personhood?, womenhood?!”
my daughter is not a cylon. she will not be resurrected into another body. but she is also NOT a male! she is a beautiful transgender and affirmed female. one who has, since she was 3 years old, been a real girl, despite the body she into which she was “uploaded”. one who has already suffered discrimination for being a girl, when she could have told the bully “i am not just a ‘stupid girl’!”. she will earn the same amount less than a man that any other woman will. she will be even more likely to be raped or abused than any other woman. so how dare you? my sisters. how dare you deny her the womanhood into which you were entitled by mere accident of birth?!
i put the article before my post, for a good reason.
it is important that people understand that i, as a cis-gendered woman, no matter that i am raising a transgender daughter, would be just another ‘gatekeeper’ did i not give credit where it is due.
some folk on a parents of transgender children chat site to which i subscribe have recently posted on forum that their previously transitioned kids have done an about-face. this despite the support of their family. whenever i read about this, my mind goes two ways.
first, i am embarrassed to admit, i think that i would be totally okay with it did my daughter decide that she isn’t really a girl. that she is, after all, a boy. altho i would wonder why she were changing her mind. it would be in so many ways a relief. not because of the cost in money and time invested in going forward with the puberty blockers, cross hormones and surgical procedures, or the legal name and gender changes. but because if she could live as the boy her body declares her to be she would be more safe. she wouldn’t be singled out by bigots and haters, trolls and bullies…at least not just for ‘being’.
the second way my mind goes upon hearing about young people deciding to ‘de-transition’ is addressed in the article. what sort of psychic pain at being ‘different’, or rejection by peers, or sense of fearing never being accepted into their perceived gender might be behind their change of heart. does it just seem as if it is “all too much”, overwhelming? a sort of suspiciousness enters my thought upon hearing about this which belies my cis-gender privelege…as if it were my place to judge the person’s motives.
it seems clear to me that ziona wont be one of these who reconsider their gender identity at some point and decide that she is a boy after all. but it would be her right to. and altho as her parent i might want to have some explanation, some reason given me to smoothe over my confusion or assuage my suspicions, none would be necessary for me to support her right to self-definition or re-definition.
i am part of the cis-priveleged dominant society…it isn’t for me to say what is the right way to be ‘transgender’. nor is it my place to declare that there is an underclass of ‘not true transgender’ folk, as many within the trans-community feel is their right when a woman doesn’t opt for the ‘surgery’, or falls short of their guidelines for whatever reason.
it is a source of wonder to me that people within one’s community might be so ready to disregard the personal reality of those who share membership therein.
don’t we get enough of that from the oppressors?
today was there was a birthday party for my niece’s daughter, lexia.
i wasn’t invited, nor was ziona for that matter. lexia’s mother doesn’t like me, doesn’t like the fact that my parenting includes believing my child when she tells me that she is a girl.
ironically, (i think) it was at lexia’s 3 y/o birthday party that ziona told me that she was not a boy. that was 6 years ago today.
ziona and lexia played together today, before my niece came get her kids (lexia and her younger brother, mikey.) it is wonderful to see that no rejection of my daughter is present in either the children, despite their mother’s position about ziona. this is due, in no small way, to my beautiful mother and her mentoring of these, her great grandchildren.
at first, lexia didn’t know quite how to feel about ziona…and at one point had even led a playroom full of kids at a local ‘chick-fil-a’ to tease ziona. made worse by the fact that it was my daughter’s first time in public dressed as the girl she is, this betrayal stayed with ziona for the next full year, during which time the two girls didn’t play together. in fact, if ziona knew that lexi would be at my mom’s, we waited until she wasn’t before visiting.
my mom was uncomfortable with the whole ‘transgender’ thing at first. she was no more comfortable later, when i began to really believe my child, to the point of allowing her to live outloud, and dress how she wanted, to the point of referring to her by her girl name and pronouns. in fact, it took my mom the better part of that first year of ziona’s transition, almost four years ago, to succomb to the proper pronouns.
but at some point along the way, while she adjusted to our decision and to seeing ziona with her long hair and dresses, she began to explain to lexia and mikey as best she could, that ziona was a girl that got the wrong body.
today the little boy and the two older girls, (my daughter and her cousin lexia) played together, as they have many times in the past four years since ziona’s transition, and i watched…eavesdropping in on their play. as i watched them, i remembered that birthday party 6 years ago and ziona’s innocent assertion that she was herself going to grow into a big girl someday. it was the beginning of a whole new phase in my life.
i had to educate myself about all things transgender, as i had educated myself about autism years before. i had to go beyond my fears so that i could hear my daughter’s needs. and i had to stand strong, facing possible rejection by my family, by friends, by society at large…all so that i could support her and advocate for her right to self-definition.
the occasion of lexia’s birthday being the anniversary of ziona’s revelation to me is a strange coinciding incidence. it serves to remind me that in truth, there are three births to be celebrated. lexia’s, ziona’s and mine. for in a very real way, ziona and i started over that day…born into a new relationship and a new reality.
so, happy birthday, one and all!
the following article is a great thing to see in the mainstream media. many people who don’t – but want to – understand more about our transgender children can be directed to this article, for their own education and edification.
for parents like myself and so many others, who are helping our gender variant, or gender dysphoric kids become who they are, such articles as this one serve to preach to choir perhaps, but are an affirmation of sorts.
introducing, dr. norman spack
and i believe necessary for transgender, gender variant folk to have their own acronym! because it isn’t about sexual orientation after all, like the lgb part of the lgbt acronym is. (altho people like my daughter belong have a part in the sexual orientation, the L)…it is about who they are NOT who they love!
so excited about this…and such nice videos and photos! click the link