My very good friend called this morning in relation to my recent Pride column and asked how I would solve the problem of a young kid who says they feel they’re a boy even though they were assigned female at birth.
“This is not a problem,” I said. “I wouldn’t try to ‘solve’ it.”
Kids know who they are. Some know it very early with impressive clarity. Others take longer, experiment widely, go back and forth a few times, circle around, or not. It’s all good.
My friend is a wonderful man who has lived his life among cis-het people. Folks who were assigned a particular sex and gender at birth, who feel comfortable in that identity and who are happy and comfortable living a heterosexual lifestyle around people who are in exactly the same situation. He definitely does not have a lot of personal experience of gender diversity beyond what I like to call “straight gays,” or people of one gender who are attracted to people of the same gender.
But what this friend has is an open mind and a loving heart.
“You’re heterosexual, right?”
“Yes!” He almost laughed, like it should be obvious.
“When did you find out you were attracted to girls?”
“About seven years old.”
See, I told him, at that age I didn’t know who I was, gender-wise. To be perfectly honest with you I am still not entirely clear and before you know it I’ll be 53 years old. I was assigned female at birth because all my visible bits are female. I grew and popped three entirely new humans (plus one who was never born) so evidently my internal plumbing is female, too.
But I never felt at home with girls and I don’t identify as woman to this day. I also don’t identify as a man. So what does that make me?
It makes me, me. I don’t owe you, me or anyone else a label. If you like or love me for who I am, you don’t care about that either. You care about me.
There is no problem. Except of course for those who insist I must belong in a binary, heteronormative box that hurts me. Those who demand I behave female (understood just the way they do, yes sir) because I was born with a uterus, some tubes, a cervix, vagina and all the rest of it. It’s those people who are the problem. Not me. I’m just here vibing.
We don’t raise kids; they’re not cattle
I did not grow up with the expectation that I had the right to be who I wanted to be. I was raised to conform to particular expectations. Let’s just say it didn’t work.
I’ve learned not to care but it took a lot of work and a lot of hurt to find a way to being myself. Still, I’m among the most fortunate in that nobody tried to deny me my own existence or push me into suicide by repeatedly refusing to accept me. Many kids have it much worse than I ever did, and I am here for them.
Nobody knows parents like their own kids. As I wrote and will keep repeating, if your child is out and you’re the only one who doesn’t know about it, you are the problem. You are the danger they are afraid of. And they are right.
It’s one thing for a kid to be nervous about coming out, including to loving and accepting parents. It’s quite another to freak out at the idea that their parents might find out who they are.
And what a burden to put on teachers’ shoulders. Imagine being forced to out kids to their parents and losing three of them every year to suicide.
School boards that take the child’s lead and respect students’ wishes are doing the right thing. Using legislation to compel them to out kids to their parents is criminally dangerous, wrong and also evil. Parents who are safe already know about their kids’ pronouns and gender identity.
If you think this is exaggerated or overblown, then you’re probably like my friend. Someone who has lived their life around straight people and whose queer or trans friends have the good fortune of being accepted by their loved ones. I urge you to keep your mind and heart open wide for all the others.
A large proportion of homeless youth are LGBTQ2S+ (as much as 40%) and they face a multitude of challenges which too often lead them down the path of drugs, violence, and worse. There are, today, parents who would rather kick their kid out on the street than accept them for who they are. As long as these people exist we absolutely cannot force schools to out kids to their parents. There is no parental right to abuse and mistreat your children.
Right now, for some queer and trans youth, school is literally the only place that is safe from violence. Do not take it away from them.