Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

Parents Don’t Have a Right to Know Their Child is LGBT

I’ve been a strong advocate and activist for the transgender community for only two years now, since my young son came out.

It’s been such a journey.

I went from complete ignorance about what it means to be transgender, to shouting loud and proud about what our transgender youth needs are, in a very short amount of time. It became apparent to me very quickly that LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk for emotional trauma, self-harm, suicide, bullying, assaults, homelessness, and drop-outs. The statistics don’t lie.

My son was a statistic before he came out. He was hurting. He was self-harming. At the young age of 8. Talk about a wake-up call. It was a scary time.

Trans folks suffer widely due to how society perceives them and how they’re treated, specifically how their family responds and reacts to them.

These kids need ears that listen. And they need validation. And they need to be met with compassion, understanding, and affirmation. They need protection.

Their needs are simple: basic human rights, respect and dignity.

Once I realized how simple this was, did my research, and learned, it came quite easy for me, especially to save my child’s life and ensure he’s happy. What we are afraid of, as parents of transgender kids, is all of the hate that our children face, all of the ignorance, all of the fighting.

The bigoted stay rooted in their beliefs, unwilling to learn, assuming that their way is the only way, that the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t deserve “special rights”, as they call it, and that others’ lived experiences, their own identities even, aren’t valid.

And with that comes the fight for equality.

I’m still new here, still green to advocacy and activism, still learning. Allies can only listen, learn, act, help educate- lather, rinse, repeat. So, that’s what I do.

The Role Of The School

A big piece of my advocacy has been in our local school system since my child is in elementary school.

Ensuring that trans students have the same rights as every other student has been a national discussion and progress is all over the spectrum. Gavin Grimm pioneered this discussion in the now well-known lawsuit, which was won by Grimm just last week. We are seeing more and more courts siding with our students in these cases across the United States, which is resulting in many school districts reacting by implementing some version of inclusive policies to protect trans students.

Our small, conservative area of southwest Florida is one such county district that chose to be on the right side of history with this conversation.

Last November, after local advocates fought for over two years, the battle was won. Shortly after Drew Adams’ case, (heard in Jacksonville, Florida) was settled, followed by many of us speaking out {again} at a school board meeting, our superintendent implemented the policy to allow trans students to use their name, new pronouns, as well as use the bathroom that they feel the most safe.

{Our school board meeting, November 2018. That’s me in the Free Mom Hugs shirt, trying to hold my shit together after all of the hate being spewed from my son’s classmates’ families.}

{Lots of media ensued.}

Parental Rights Are A Fallacy Within This Discussion

What dog-whistled the media most about our county’s new guidelines, outside of the ridiculous bathroom debate, was the “parental rights” discussion, as you see above. Two of our school board members honed in on how these new guidelines “strip parents of their rights”.

In the guidelines, developed by a task force comprised of students, teachers, parents, counselors, advocates, and administrators, it states that parents do not have to be notified of any discussion surrounding their child’s request at school to go by their new name and pronouns, or any LGBTQ+ information brought forth from a student to school officials.

And everyone lost their damn minds over this piece.

I continue to see and hear this argued constantly and it seems to be something widely misunderstood.

It seems as though everyone has forgotten that children are humans, independent of their parents, and they too have their own rights. Rights that are scared to them, rights that keep them safe.

Because, not all parents are accepting. Not only are they not all accepting, home can be downright dangerous for them if they were to come out as LGBT. Sometimes school is their only safe place, a place to be themselves, a place that creates a safe environment to learn.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) deemed it illegal for schools to relay such info to parents for these exact reasons. Outing an LGBT student to anyone is illegal.

Ideally, parents are creating a safe space for their kids at home in every single way, including if their kiddo comes out as gay or trans. And if parents are creating this safe space, then no one should be discussing this fallacy of parental rights because their child will trust their parents with this proprietary information. We all hope for this. We all hope for parents to be involved in these aspects of their child’s life.

But it just isn’t the case.

Because I’m a public advocate, especially on social media, I receive a lot of messages. Some filled with hate from bigots, some filled with threats, some filled with accusations of child abuse.

But, those messages don’t phase me.

The messages that gut me are the ones from trans youth:

You’re everything I wish my mom was. I’m 17 and I don’t live with or speak to my mom anymore. I had to find my chosen family and live with my friends”.

“You inspire me and you give me hope that maybe someday my parents will understand. I’m not allowed to talk about being trans in my house or my dad said he will kick me out”.

“I’m 17 and my parents don’t accept me. They’re very unsupportive and said that I can’t make this decision to change my name and pronouns, let along start hormones, until I’m 21, and that even then, I won’t be considered their child anymore”.

“I’ve attempted suicide 3 times in the past 7 months and my mom knows why. She knows its because she won’t let me out of the closet. She doesn’t care. She would rather have a dead child than a transgender one. Every time I feel like cutting or attempting suicide again, I read your message of hope”.

“Sometimes I wish I could have the confidence to actually strip down and show the extent of self-injury scares I have all over my body. It started as a habit to deal with the sheer fact that my parents wouldn’t let me be myself…”

If those messages don’t rock you to your core, I have dozens and dozens more that I could share of similar content.

These examples of rejection are why parents don’t have the right to know everything about their children.

These examples of rejection tell some of the story as to why our trans youth struggle emotionally and why they need a person to trust with their secret. Sometimes, that person, or people, are teachers, administrators, coaches, counselors, and friends at school. If my son would have come out to someone at school before he came out to me, I would have been so grateful that he had someone he trusted with that information.

They need that space. They deserve that space. To be exactly who they are. To be free. To be themselves. To be safe. To be safe while they learn.

When I see and hear parents arguing over their “rights being stripped” by these policies, I have to wonder what these parents are so afraid of?

Children aren’t property. They’re not to be thought-controlled. They’re not to be molded into what we believe they should be. They’re not to be designed by their parents. They’re their own people, their own individuals who should be free to exercise their uniqueness and show all of their colors.

So, what is this fear about?

My guess is that it’s about bigotry.
The parents that are screaming and yelling about their rights being stripped are the same ones exampled above in the heartbreaking messages I receive on the daily from their kids. They’re the ones rejecting their children, telling them they don’t know themselves, insisting that they’re something they’re not, just to make themselves comfortable in the terrible information that’s been handed down to them.

And they’re scared to learn, accept, and embrace something new. They’re afraid to face the fact that everything they’ve learned…might be…wrong.

Parental rights in relation to knowing that their child is LGBTQ do not exist. It isn’t a right to know how your child identifies.

It is a privilege. 

If you’re a parent worried about what your child tells someone other than you in relation to their gender or sexual identity, please ask yourself if you’re doing everything in your power to make sure you’re a safe haven for them. Be prepared. Arm yourself with the knowledge as if they’ll come out to you tomorrow. Unravel your biases, your hangups, and all of the outdated, archaic information that was passed down to you.

Because you never know.

And to all of the teachers, coaches, counselors, and administrators who have had a student trust you enough to come out to you, thank you for being that student’s person. Thank you for keeping them safe. They’ll never forget you.

And to every district who has adopted inclusive guidelines, or even gone a step further and incorporates LGBTQ+ information and history into your curriculum: you’re saving so many lives. Thank you for seeing and affirming our children.

LGBTQ youth are sacred. They’re everyday heroes.

And their rights matter.

 

Life Lessons, Parenting, Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

Listening Harder

Over the last few years, I’ve really tried to focus on learning about the realities of marginalized communities.

I’ve chosen my books wisely, follow people on social media with intent- people of color, black activists, authors, LGBTQ folks. I’m thirsty for knowledge on experiences that I haven’t lived, trying my best to learn how to make things better, using my privilege the best I know how.

I’ve listened harder.
I absorb more information everyday. I volunteer when I can, I donate what I can, I attend rallies when I’m able.

I try not to be one-issue focused, but of course I’m partial to advocating for trans rights because this is my son’s reality. This is his life.

It took our lived experiences to truly wake me up. (And I say “our” because my son is young and I’ve had to do a lot of advocating on his behalf.)

Of course I’ve known discrimination, racism, and bigotry have existed. But my privilege tended to always allow me to look at society through rose colored glasses. So much so that when then Black Lives Matter movement began, I was one of the ignorant white people who just didn’t get it.

I had to listen harder. I had to read stories and recounts, look at statistics, absorb. Quietly, without the “but not all white people” interjection.

I was called out on Twitter once by the amazing Bishop Swan for appropriating the BLM movement by saying women should “take a knee” in protest to Kavanaugh last year. It was a humbling experience.

I listened. I learned. I didn’t respond in defense, but with humility and willingness to do better.

I do my best to teach Dylan about real history, the history that schools refuse to teach. I do my best to not recreate the ignorance I lived in for so long.

No ally is perfect. I’m far from it. But if we are going to change society, it’s the allies that need to do the work.

As a public advocate, it can be even more tricky because I’m always concerned with stepping on toes or somehow powering over voices who matter more.

Ally-ship is a verb and it’s a constant evolution.

And what I’m receiving on this end of advocacy in response to many of my posts are messages such as “Protect ALL kids, not JUST trans kids”, or, “Oh, SO MANY kids are bullied. It’s just part of growing up”, or, “Medical care can’t be that difficult to find”, or, “You’re being dramatic”.

Similar to what folks in marginalized communities hear every.single.day, and have for decades.

Here’s some wisdom to those sit in that camp, who make negating statements:

You’re not listening hard enough.
And you’re not an ally if you’re making these statements.

You’re dismissing every trial and tribulation of marginalized people.

When you tell me, “Protect ALL kids”, you’re not hearing me. You’re not listening to trans people. You’re not doing the work.

You’re not hearing that I had to sit through 3 hours of a school board meeting where I was called a child abuser, where my child was compared to a mass shooter, where my child was called a pedophile, where people spewed their hatred, all endured just so my child could have equal access to bathrooms, so his correct name and pronouns would be used in school.

You’re not hearing that we have to drive over an hour to find a doctor who is trained in caring for trans kids, and when I say trained, I mean willing to use his name and pronouns so they can treat my kid for a cold or a sinus infection or a sprained wrist.

You’re not hearing that every move I make as a parent, whether it’s traveling for the weekend, planning a move to another city, choosing a school for my child, etc., has to be decided and executed based on the fact that my child is trans.

You’re not hearing the stats on bullying, that approximately 90% of LGBTQ kids have been assaulted or harassed in school.

You’re not hearing that my child cannot serve in our United States military for no good reason at all.

You’re not hearing that homeless trans people are now forbidden to utilize pubic shelter, and that 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ.

You’re not hearing that most medical care for trans teens isn’t covered by insurance, even though it literally saves their lives.

You’re not hearing that the majority of states in our country do not have anti discrimination laws for LGBTQ people, so the likelihood of Dylan being fired or denied housing because he’s trans is real.

You’re not hearing that 51% of trans teen boys have attempted or thought about suicide…because society treats them like shit.

You’re not understanding that your cisgender (non trans) child, does not need protection from any of these things.

You’re not listening.

And just because society is talking more about equality and trans rights, “better” does not translate into “equal”. At all.
And “better” doesn’t translate into safety or acceptance, either.

There will always be work to do as an ally. There never space for complacency or sitting idle. And there’s certainly never space for dismissive statements such as “All Lives Matter” or “Protect ALL Kids”.

Are you really listening? Are you listening as hard as you can?

Listen until you’re uncomfortable. Until you’re pushed to rethink everything you every believed. Listen to the anger, to the impatience, to the rawness, to the the exhaustion of marginalized communities.

They don’t owe you patience or kindness or an explanation of their existence or validation of their experiences.

But as a fellow human being, they’re owed equality, equal access, and safety.

Stop negating. Those rose colored glasses are lying to you everyday. And you’re believing the lies…because you can.

Listen harder.

Protect Trans Kids. I didn’t stutter.

Raising a Trans Child

Love is Beautiful. And Messy.

I once wrote a vignette in my journal about how being in love feels an awful lot like going for a brisk walk in cold weather.

Something along the lines of, “when you begin on your walk, out of the warmth into the cold, it feels fresh and welcoming. But as you continue on, as your lungs start to burn, you realize the cold hurts a bit. But you keep going because you know this will feel good if you pace yourself. And in the end, you’re glad you made the journey”.

Or some shit like that.

It was pretty emo.

I was 18 and I had a broken heart.

Life was oh so cruel {and dramatic} as I navigated those emotions for the first time in my life.

And that’s when I really found writing. That’s when I realized I had a creative bone in my body.

I always had to tell my story somehow, even if it was only to myself in a tattered Florida State University notebook.

I think about that vignette, though. How I was fighting to find that perfect metaphor for love, reaching to connect with how it’s beautiful and ugly all at once. Because love is exactly that. And it isn’t even definable, really.

Every love we experience in our life is complex. Romantic love, love for our parents, love for our friends, love for our children. It’s all complex. It’s all disproportionately messy and never makes much sense, yet, it makes total sense…because it’s love. The universal language.

We all want to do the very best we can for that person we love. But love isn’t always easy. It’s not a paved road.

Since my child came out as transgender a year ago, at the age of 8, I’ve received so many messages of encouragement and accolades, and kindness, and genuine support. Messages cheering me on, messages proclaiming my son’s bravery, celebrating my bravery for being public about our story, and telling me how wonderful I am for affirming my child.

Sure, I get hate mail. Often. I do. But the good has outweighed the bad.

But listen, this love, the love for my child, is just as messy as any other love.

I’m not a perfect mom. I’m a questionable mom at best some days.

I yell and scream.

I allow too much Fortnite and don’t enforce enough reading.

I let my kid eat donuts for breakfast and he has dessert after lunch and dinner.

I cuss in front of my child {not to be confused with at my child. Let’s not get crazy here.}

I scroll through my phone endlessly some nights, begging for it to be 9pm so I can stop hearing, “Mom! Watch!”, only to see him dance some dance that makes him look like he’s in some sort of convulsion.

My expectations of him are high, too high, sometimes, and I forget that he’s not even 10 yet.

I sign his daily math practice journal without actually practicing said math with him.

My tolerance for saying things more than once has long waned and I lose my shit within seconds.

But.

I’m a single mom doing the very best I possibly can.

I’m navigating this journey with my sword and my shield just jumping in front of my child, called to a battle I don’t quite know how to fight so I’m just swinging in the dark. I have my claws out, defensively postured at times, just waiting to rip into the flesh of anyone that hurts my baby.

I’m just doing what moms do.

We are a innately primal group of humans, us moms.

We fight for our kids. We support our kids. We hear our kids. We validate our kids. We carry the weight of the world as much as we can for our kids.

I’m just doing my version of love. And it isn’t anything special.

And although I realize that many trans youth don’t have a mom like me, although I realize why people send me such kind messages of appreciation, I truly believe that someday the stories of unaccepting parents will be the exception, not the rule.

Because we have the most amazing voices rising. Our kids voices are being amplified. Led by the adult trans community of voices, who after decades of oppression are continuing their fight.

We have all of these visible trans youth and trans adults and many, many parents that came way before me, and if it wasn’t for them, I would not even know how define transgender.

So, if you are one that wants to thank a parent of a trans kid for being supportive of their child, thank a visible trans person instead. They’re why I’m here.

They’ve guided me with their love for themselves, with their bravery.

They’ve led me to be able to completely discover the entirety of this beautiful, complicated, frustrating, quirky, loving, kind soul that I’m raising. They’ve led my mind to an open place so I can make sure my child feels comfortable in his own skin.

Although I’m humbled and appreciative of the gratitude I’m shown, I’m not deserving. I’m just being a mom, leading with love, and that’s a purposefully thankless job because this is what we signed up for.

All I’m doing here- affirming him, supporting him, fighting for his basic human rights so he can be afforded the same opportunities as everyone else, teaching him how to advocate for himself, to live his truth…

…that’s all just a chapter in our messy love story that we’re busy writing together, my son and I, as we pace our long walk in the cold.

Love is complex. It’s beautiful. It’s worth every step of the journey.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Relationships, Uncategorized

“But Not All Christians Are This Way…”

I didn’t grow up in a diverse environment.

Going from the very white suburbs of Chicago to a very white area of southwest Florida certainly didn’t expose me to much in my young life.

When I went to college, majoring in Social Work at Florida State University in Tallahassee, that experience was really my introduction to how colorful the world can be.

The majority of my classmates were black women of color. I remember one very vivid conversation during a group project in a class called Family Dynamics. We had to discuss all of the cultural differences between the 4 of us in the group, what our traditions looked like, how our heritage brought us to our norms, etc.

One of the women of color in my group, Stacy, said, “I wasn’t allowed to play with white kids when I was growing up”… and I don’t think I had ever been more shocked.

“What?? Why??”, I begged.
“Because my mom was afraid we would get hurt or hear terrible things about ourselves!”, she patiently exclaimed.
“But…what? Not all white people are racist! I was taught to love everyone and not see color of their skin!”, I defended, {saying the thing you’re not supposed to say}.
“Vanessa. You need to learn some real history and open your eyes. Especially if you’re going to work with diverse groups of people”, she said with pity and a bit of anger in her eyes.

I shut up.

Because I didn’t know what to say. But truth be told, I was angry, and hurt, and offended. I didn’t understand how an entire race of people could be deemed as a danger or a threat. I mean, how dare their decades of oppression, slavery, and discrimination that black people experienced, {and still experience}, at the hands of white people dictate such…reverse racism! {I hope my sarcasm is noted.}

It wasn’t until many years later that I would learn that lesson. The lesson Stacy was trying to teach me that day in that class when I was 19 and unwilling to learn:

That being a true ally isn’t about me or my feelings or my reality. It is about doing for the greater good, listening to experiences, and fighting against oppressive systems every single day. Oh, and hey, I also don’t get a pat on the back for any or all of the above. It’s just the right thing to do.

I talk about how parenting a transgender child has been the greatest gift of my life. And I say that with deep meaning; it isn’t just something nice to say. He has made me a far better ally to every marginalized group, a true ally who learns something new almost everyday. I no longer have the luxury of making allyship a choice, or some hobby I pick up every now and then. I now realize it is a lifelong process.

And that is the gift he has given me. He woke me up. He taught me how to show up for people, for humanity.

My son has given me the gift of examining my white, cisgender, straight female privilege.  He has taught me how to use that privilege to fight for those who need warriors marching next to them.

{And for those not in the know, the word privilege doesn’t mean I had an easy life, it doesn’t mean I grew up wealthy, it doesn’t mean I haven’t had hardships. It means that the color of my skin, my gender identity, and my sexual orientation did not cause any of my hardships, they afforded me opportunities.}

I was well on the road to becoming a better ally before my son came out as trans simply because I wanted to grow as a human. I matured and I chose to listen and learn when people spoke to me about marginalized communities. I asked questions, I sought information, I volunteered for organizations, voted for candidates that value equality, but the real work has been within the last year or two while raising a son who will live in a marginalized community for the rest of his life.

A community that is told every single day that they don’t exist, that they’re not real, not valid, not worthy. A community where the teen attempted suicide rate is hovering around 51% because of lack of acceptance. A community where they have to live in fear because they might be murdered just because they’re who they are. A community where medical care isn’t easily accessible. A community where certain religious organizations, therefore certain religious people, have deemed them unlovable, so much so that families reject their own flesh and blood completely.

I’ve never been overly involved in organized religion. I went to church with my grandmother as a kid, I dabbled with church in my adult life, I’ve studied numerous religions on my own, but organized religion never felt good to me for reasons I won’t dive into here. But it’s safe to say that I have my own spirituality that does not include attending church. Organized religion has hurt me more than it’s helped me, personally, and now it’s hurting my son.

I’ve been on the receiving end of many a tongue lashings from numerous Christians over this past year.

I’ve been disowned by family members in the name of religion.
I’ve been sent hate mail to my home address by strangers citing Bible verses from Christian journals.
I withstood 2 hours of a school board meeting where I listened to people that I know, parents and grandparents of children that my child goes to school with, call me a child abuser and compare my child to a school shooter, all while citing the Bible.
I’ve received countless messages and emails telling me I’m going to hell and so is my child.
I’ve been told that my son would be better off if I died so he has a “chance to go to heaven”.
I’ve had face to face conversations with strangers who have told me my child is mentally ill and that him and I are going to hell.

This is all in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. This is my reality.

And If I’m hearing this as a mother of a transgender child, just imagine what trans people are hearing every.single.day.of.their.lives.

Just imagine the invalidation. Only, you can’t imagine. Because you’re not living it. But I implore you to try. Try to visualize what that would look like, to have religion used against your being, against your very existence.

I have too many stories to count where religion has been used as a weapon.

When I share these stories on social media, I receive messages now and then from friends who say, “I hope you realize that not all Christians are this way”.

Yes. I know. I understand.
And I know these messages are well intended.

But you must understand that religion has been what’s harmed the LGBTQ community the most. It is why so many people are broken. It is why 41% of homeless youth are LGBTQ. It is why our kids are swallowing bullets, taking their own lives, because they are told that they’re not loved or seen in the eyes of God.

Just because you aren’t one of the “bad Christians” doesn’t mean this isn’t true.

I know many Christians who love my son and who love me. I know they do. And I know there are so many Christians who are true allies. I know many Christians with LGBTQ kids and I also know many pastors that are in the LGBTQ community themselves!

I’m so glad you put feet to your faith. You live it and don’t just say it. I believe you’re doing exactly what Jesus would want you to do.

And no one is asking you to defend Christianity. It’s your faith and yours alone.

But until our trans kids stop killing themselves because of rejection, what we are all doing as allies is not enough.

So, my ask is this- instead of messaging me that good Christians exist, just be that good Christian everyday. Don’t show me, show my son. Don’t be a closeted ally…because that’s not how allyship works. Show him by being a true ally, whether you’re Christian or Jewish or Atheist or Catholic or Buddhist or whatever.

Ask if your church is affirming, and when I say affirming, I mean they love and accept the LGBTQ community and recognize that these humans are born this way.
Call people out on their transphobic, homophobic bullshit.
Call people out on transphobic and homophobic “jokes”.
Open conversations about trans people, bring some education and data and research and medical facts to the table.
Seek information. Research. Read. Follow people on social media that are influencers in marginalized communities.
Speak up.

Additionally, as allies, we cannot make anything about us. We will hear truths that will make us uncomfortable. We will. And we will want to defend ourselves. But nothing is learned when we say things such as, “I’m sorry that happened to you BUT I don’t do that, blah blah blah”.
Get rid of that “But, I“. Stop it.

Instead, try, “I’m sorry that happened to you. What can I do to help make a difference?”

And as allies, we will screw up. I certainly have {even recently} and I will again. But we have to be committed to learning. Every fucking day.

Show. Up. For all marginalized communities. Show the fuck up.

Open your mind to the possibility that there’s more to life than your reality. And that although you don’t believe you’re doing anything harmful, there’s always something else you can be doing to be helpful.

Uncategorized

The S.H.A.R.E. Movement Is Here!

Welcome to S.H.A.R.E.!!

Supporting Happiness, Acknowledgement, Respect, and Equality: A card sharing movement for LGBTQ+ friends who could use some cheer!

~~~~~~~~

I have an amazing friend I met through advocacy work, Ashley, and she brought this amazing idea to me yesterday. I just had to copilot this movement.

The holidays can be a difficult time for so many of us, specifically for some of our LGBTQ+ friends that aren’t in contact with their families or maybe just need a little boost of love.

So, we’re here to spread CHEER and POSITIVITY through greeting cards filled with heartfelt messages.

What a way to spread JOY and LOVE!

Here’s how it works:

  • Click this link.
  • Sign up as a sender and we will contact you with details on how to help.
  • Sign up as a receiver, or someone you know who would appreciate a holiday card, and they shall receive!
  • Share, share, share, share this S.H.A.R.E. Movement on social media!

We hope for this to grow into a huge movement for other holidays, birthdays, weddings, graduations, or any event where an LGBTQ+ friend needs a pick-me-up.

{Please note that home addresses are needed for greeting card deliveries. Privacy, security, and safety is our top priority so if sharing an email address feels more comfortable, do that! And we will send some virtual cheer!}

GET SHARING! Let’s spread some love this holiday season!!

Questions? Email me: VanessaVNichols@gmail.com

Thanks for being a part of something special,

Vanessa and Ashley

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Social Media

The 10 Things People Say to Parents of Trans Kids

Last week, our school board finally made a decision to protect our trans kids in school.

It’s been on their docket for well over a year, so it was about time.

There was an uproarious school board meeting in 2016 when one of the first trans kids came out publicly to challenge the {oh so exhausted} bathroom conversation. And the conversation continued to get louder as trans students, allies, community advocates, and parents pushed for policies and guidelines to keep our kids safe.

It took quite some time and a whole lot of conversation but the superintendent finally pushed these supportive guidelines out after ten of us spoke during September 2018 board meeting, which seemed to be his tipping point. Finally. They’re on the right side of history.

It was a big win for our small, red county in southwest Florida.

But of course, the fight is far from over.

The opposition is out in full force donning all of their ignorance and hatred. All because one uber conservative school board member dog whistled for her base to assemble. They’re digging their heels in, kicking and screaming that the guidelines are “radical”, especially because they state that parental involvement isn’t necessary if a student comes out at school; the school is to respect and honor that student, (as they should since family acceptance is not always guaranteed and home can be a flat out dangerous environment).

It’s an ongoing discussion.

And because I’m a public advocate for trans rights, specifically for students in our district, I field a ton of hatred and tongue lashings via every virtual media outlet possible. Keyboard warriors unite!

But some questions I receive are out of genuine curiosity. Questions that I believe most parents of trans kids field nearly every single day.

So, I would like to dispel some myths and hopefully even squash some outright dangerous lies. Especially since the Trump administration is attempting to erase our entire trans community by redefining gender, which scientists have fiercely rejected, yet, here we are.

Here goes.

1. You Make Your Kids Trans

Sigh.

I literally cannot get my child to do the two simple chores I ask him to do in a week. I can’t get him to brush his teeth twice a day. I can’t get him to keep his clothes neat in his drawers.

I certainly cannot make him into something he isn’t.

And I know because I tried to force him into being a girl once upon a time, before I understood what it meant to be transgender. Because I really did secretly want a girl, the gender he was assigned at birth.

I dressed him in pinks and purples with bows and headbands, up until he made his own clothing choices. And even though I allowed him to wear boy clothes as he grew, trying to support his unique character, I was still rooted in the idea that he couldn’t possibly know his gender at such a young age.

I wanted to wait and see what age would bring, despite his verbiage of feeling like a boy in his mind. Which in turn, only soaked him in shame. So much so that he was self-harming at age 8.

Once we sought professional guidance, I realized that he knew exactly who he was. He began using his new name and pronouns and like magic, he was happier, well adjusted, confident, and no longer self harming.

We don’t make our children into what they’re not. We follow their lead. Not to mention, why would we sign our kids up purposefully for a lifetime of societal rejection? That defies all logic.

They were born this way. And if you need science to prove it, there’s plenty of it.

2. They’re Too Young To Make Life Altering Decisions

Referenced above, I myself once thought that elementary aged children don’t know themselves well enough to understand their gender.

Which actually sounds ridiculous as I type this out.

Because…what age were you when you realized you were a boy or a girl?

I was 3. I loved dresses that twirled, carried around baby dolls, and embraced everything else that falls into the category of the female gender.

But more so, since it isn’t about just toys and clothes, I never had a devout misalignment between my brain and my body like our trans kids (and adults) do. I was in complete acceptance of who I was as a female in a female body.

My son was drawing himself as a male character by the age of 3 or 4, imaginary playing as male characters, begging to change his name from that same age. Because his body and his brain weren’t aligned.

So, kids know. Just as we knew.

Usually the “what if this is just a phase?!” question is asserted in this same conversation. And to that I say, “what if it is?!”. Who cares? At least I followed my child’s lead and allowed him some autonomy in exploring his gender identity. It’s really ok.

Also, we cannot confuse gender identity with sexuality. Gender doesn’t have anything to do with who we are attracted to but I believe many of us confuse the two, therefore believing kids are just too young to know themselves since sexual preference usually emerges around puberty.

Oh, and a change in name and pronouns…is not life altering, but it is life enhancing for our trans kids.

3. You’re Pumping Your Kids Full of Hormones and Mutilating Their Genitals

Um. No.

This actually makes me fucking angry.

Medical professionals are a part of our kids’ lives, as in, a trifecta of physicians including a primary care doctor, a mental health professional and an endocrinologist. And this team develops a treatment plan for our kids including talk therapy, possibly puberty blockers, which simply pause puberty since that time in life can be detrimental to our trans youth, and maybe, possibly, eventually, hormone replacement therapy that aligns with their gender identity. This usually would be prescribed in the teen years, as puberty would be occurring.

And gender confirmation surgery might be discussed as a young adult. Possibly.

Not every trans person follows the above mentioned treatment plan.

Everyone’s transition is different.

But I assure you, we are not pumping our young children full of hormones or surgically altering them.

Just no. Stop.It.

4. Being Transgender is a Mental Illness

I might hate this one the most. Not because there is anything wrong with mental illness. I live with one myself (severe anxiety).

I loathe this one because it’s used in such a dismissive, oppressive way towards the trans community.

The World Health Organization historically classified being trans as a mental illness, just as homosexuality was at one time, but it is now considered a “health condition”, solely for the purposes of allowing access to medical treatments that trans folks might choose to seek, such as hormone replacement therapy, so their body can align with their identity, so they can minimize gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria, the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex, does remain in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual as a mental health diagnosis, where professionals, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have agreed that the only course of treatment is that of the affirmation model, meaning to guide them in transition socially, and possibly medically {hormones and/or gender confirmation surgery}, if diagnostic criteria has been met.

To put in perspective what that means- not all mental health issues listed in the DSM V have a cure per se, or aren’t exactly mental at all, such as restless leg syndrome or narcolepsy which are also listed. They require a diagnosis for a treatment plan but they’re not something to be undone or medicated even.

So, the only time mental illness comes into the conversation might be if the individual experiences anxiety or depression, which usually is the result of family, peer, or society’s rejection of them.

Family rejection remains high, unfortunately, even given all of the scientific data that supports that being transgender is, indeed, real. And statistics show that suicide rates can be as high as 58% when a young trans person is rejected by their family, comparatively to 4% if accepted.

And of course, most of us acknowledge that the general population remains grossly undereducated on this subject, which results in stressful social situations, which can certainly contribute to emotional distress.

So, we have to do better about educating one another. And stop the stigmas.

5. You’re Pushing Your Liberal Agenda

I’m not even sure what this means but I hear it all.of.the.time.

The way I translate this is, “we need to just ignore this entire community to preserve everything we view as ‘normal’ because it threatens the patriarchy”.

But I doubt anyone would own my interpretation.

So, what I’ll say is- ok. Sure.

Our “liberal agenda” consists of fighting for equality for our kids and for all trans people. Because they’re American citizens and they deserve some equity in society. And they need to stop being “other-ed” by society.

Our kids aren’t political pawns. They’re humans. And because they do happen to be trans, they need advocates fighting for their basic civil rights.

If that’s “pushing a liberal agenda”, yep. You’re right. That’s what we’re up to.

We prefer the term “social justice warriors”, but potato, pata-toe. “Liberal agenda” will work.

6. I Don’t Understand What it Means to be Transgender

This sounds innocent enough, innocuous even. And I’m always, always happy to educate when I hear these words.

But this usually results in people steering clear of the scary family with a trans kid. They might not outwardly spew hate, they might even do a great job of tolerating us, but because they’re not educated, they keep at an arm’s length.

Which is fine. But personally, I would rather they ask questions, even if they’re invasive.

Questions are good. Sticking your head in the sand is bad.

7. What Will I Ever Tell My Cis (non trans) Kids?!

This is an easier question to answer than it sounds.

Kids are easy. And whether you are onboard with what it means to be trans or not, you frankly don’t need to say much.

It’s as simple as, “well, little Sally, your friend at school who you’ve known as Lily is now going by the name of Dylan and will be using he and him instead of she and her. He feels like a boy in his heart and brain and so this is honoring him. Try your best to respect his new name and pronouns. It’s ok if you make a mistake. Just gently correct yourself”.

And, like magic, kids will simply say…”Ok!”.

That’s usually that.

Yes, really.

The remainder of the conversation is really up to you and how much you want to explain.

There are some great books available for young kids. And older middle and high school kids, trust me when I tell you that they already know.

Because kids are very accepting and loving.

It’s the parents that teach bigotry and hatred.

Keep the conversation simple and honest.

8. You and Your Child Are Going To Hell

I cant even with the religion conversation. And I hate the phrase “I can’t even”.

There’s so many things in the Bible that aren’t honored on a daily basis, like, hello, you’re not supposed to touch the skin of a pig? Or be around a woman on her period? And you’re supposed to gouge a man’s eyes out if they force him to sin?

Get the hell out of here. No pun intended.

But other than that, my God wouldn’t want you to be an asshole. He would want you to be accepting and loving and He will sort us all out.

And yes, God does make mistakes so don’t come at me with that shit either about Him “not making mistakes”.

We have glasses for bad eyesight, braces for bad teeth, hair color for grey aging, and so on. Sometimes, bodies aren’t perfect in terms of how we see ourselves. And trans people are no exception.

God loves everyone. Full stop.

9. If Your Child Has A Penis, They Are Male, A Vagina, They Are Female

First, the obsession with genitals is alarming. It’s very strange to me when grown adults talk about children’s genitals.

But if you must, I’ll engage.

This is fake news.

Because, did you know that 1 out of 1500 babies are born intersex, which means they have sex characteristics of both male and female, such as a penis and ovaries.

Which gender are they?

Unfortunately, for many years, doctors were making that decision and surgically modifying these babies at birth…only to choose the wrong gender in some cases. Some intersex people never even knew this about themselves. Some that do are very private about it.

All of this to say, genitals do not always determine gender. Even though many of us do identify with the gender assigned at birth, gender lives in the brain. And science, once again, has drilled down on this with research.

10. But! Bathrooms!

I know, I know. You don’t want your precious girl in the bathroom with a penis lurking.

This whole bathroom debate is a complete fallacy with zero substance.

Studies have shown that not one incident is on record of a trans person perpetrating in a bathroom. Not one. Cis men are the ones we need to watch out for. Not trans people.

When is the last time you saw someone’s genitals in a bathroom anyway? I never have. Because I go in the bathroom to do my business.

And I have news for you- you’ve shared a bathroom with a trans person whether you realize it or not. That’s a fact.

But the bathroom debate that was sparked a few years back, and just won’t die, is all a distraction and aimed to continue to the oppression of and discrimination towards trans people. There’s no other basis for it to exist.

Not to mention, when my child was still identifying as female, he was policed in bathrooms constantly since he presents in such a masculine way. Everyone assumed he was a boy and would call him out when he was SEVEN YEARS OLD.

This is unacceptable. Don’t police genitals, friends. It’s weird. It’s creepy. It’s unnecessary.

And if you’re along this line of thinking, shouldn’t you also be concerned about gay and lesbians in bathrooms? I mean, they’re attracted to the same sex, yet they miraculously don’t go around humping and molesting in bathrooms. Because they’re far more focused on peeing.

And if you’re worried about high school locker rooms and kids seeing the opposite sex genitals, our tran kids are very private about their bodies. They’re acutely aware that their bodies and brains aren’t aligned. They tend to use the stalls. And again, I never saw any genitals in my years of changing into my PE clothing.

So, please. Just take a shit, pee, change your clothes, whatever, be sure to wash your hands and exit the bathroom. That’s is all.

*******

Whew. That was information overload. But all very necessary to work through for those that need to catch up.

We are in desperate need of an education so we can see more allies rising up for this amazing, resilient community.

Our kids are the bravest of the brave and we, as their parents, are the fiercest of the fierce.

Once you break down your biases, challenge everything you’ve known in terms of gender, and get to know our kids, get to know our families, you’ll find that are all the same, navigating this thing called life. Doing the best we can.

No matter what happens in the world, our trans kids will always exist and we mama and papa bears will always love, support and advocate for them.

Parenting, Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting

Why Parents of Trans Kids Are A Special Kind of Tired

Yes. All parents walking the earth are tired.

We are all absolutely in solidarity with that fact.

We could all use about a week on a deserted island without any children, technology, or responsibilities of any kind.

But I feel the need to tell you about the special kind of tired that parents of transgender kids are experiencing.

It’s different than most versions of tired.

And this isn’t to “one-up”. And this certainly isn’t to take away from an LGBTQIA child themselves, their own struggles and hardships. This isn’t to take away from, or distract from… anyone.

This isn’t a competition.

This is just to simply explain and shed light on how we’re feeling, since it’s of my belief that we, the parents of trans youth, are living in our own marginalized community.

Unless we happen to live in some uber progressive area, we are all acutely aware of the discrimination that the trans community faces. We see it everyday, especially on social media. We hear it on the news, we see how the current administration is rolling back Obama-era LGBTQIA protections.

Or maybe we all aren’t as aware as I hope we are. Maybe that’s utopian of me. Because it doesn’t matter to most if it’s not personal, if it doesn’t hit your heart.

I’m not sure.

I digress.

Although the conversation about trans folks is seemingly becoming more expansive, even a bit more accepted amongst the general public, (especially with headlines such as the American Academy of Pediatrics recent policy statement on how to care for trans youth best is by affirming them), we still have such a long way to go overall.

And who is leading the fight for trans youth?

Parents. {Mostly. But not ever to slight or dishonor our trans warriors themselves.}

And it is indeed a fight.

The pioneer parents in this fight have been visibly on the scene for less than a decade. True publicity and awareness for trans youth has really only been discussed for the last 3-5 years. And amazing strides have been made in many ways.

I, myself, just joined the fight within the last 9 months.

And I. Am. Tired.

In the short amount of time I’ve been on a mama bear, warrior path, yes, I’m a special kind of tired.

Because we are the advocates, the fierce allies, the public speakers, the meeting schedulers, the school board meeting attendees, the researchers, the therapist seekers, the medical professional seekers.

We are the ones out in front of our kids with swords and shields, fighting like hell for equality and basic human rights.

We are fighting for our kids to be heard. To be seen. To be viewed the same as every other child.

We are fighting for policy changes, locally and globally.

We are fighting for bullying protections, for bathroom spaces, for name changes, for gender marker revisions, for medical care.

We are thinking about our children nonstop while they’re at school, wondering if others are being kind, if the correct name and pronouns are being used, if teachers are abiding by our requests, if our kids are being bullied, assaulted, chastised, outcasted.

We are wiping our kids’ tears for far different reasons than that of any other parents, fielding emotional meltdowns, especially when dysphoria hits our kids, when they loathe their bodies, when they’re frustrated.

We are navigating emotional issues when their peers reject them, when they can’t find jobs, when they can’t participate in sports with the rest of their cisgender peers, when others refuse to use their chosen name or intentionally misgender them, when adults harass them, when people tell them God hates them and they’re going to hell. When their classmates tell them they should kill themselves.

We are running to doctors to treat urinary tract infections because they held their pee all day so they didn’t have to use the bathroom in which they feel unsafe.

We are sometimes not even the biological parents fighting this fight. We are the amazingly unselfish, loving adoptive parents, accepting and affirming someone else’s child who was rejected by their own family, by their own blood. Just for living their truth.

All the while, we are simultaneously defending ourselves from hate.

We are falsely accused of pushing agendas, of having some sort of “liberal” brainwashing scheme that we are somehow instilling in our children and poisoning every other child within a 100 mile radius.

We are falsely accused of administering hormones and “mutilating” our children at the young ages of 7, 8, 9, and 10.

We are falsely accused of being crazy, of making our children mentally ill, of abusing our children, of allowing them to be transgender.

We are told we are wrong.

We are told that our children are confused, sick, misguided.

We are fighting false claims coming from anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups, Christian extremists, politicians, none of whom base their claims on facts or research. We fight the ignorance and dismissiveness of the general public.

We are the educators, the question fielders, the soundboards.

We are losing friends and families, fighting battles that our children might know nothing about.

We are fighting online trolls, personal attacks, worrying about safety for our families, especially since trans women are being murdered at alarming rates.

We are also having to pack away the child we thought we birthed, the assigned gender of our child, the hopes and dreams we had tied up in that little human. Some of us are even grieving a loss of sorts that’s very difficult for others to understand. We are grappling, struggling to understand what’s happening, how our child is feeling, how best to help them.

We are putting old pictures away that are hurtful to our kids, literally packing away our memories, careful to not use their birth name, vigilant about using the correct pronouns even though it might feel profoundly unnatural to us.

We are doing an unbelievable amount of emotional work.

And we are tired.

Because none of this is for us. This isn’t about us.

Because when we have children, nothing is about us, our needs, our wants.

Because this is about loving fiercely, loving unconditionally, and loving unapologetically.

Because this is about paving the very best path for our children that we possibly can, leading with love and acceptance, working with what we’re given in our hate-filled society.

Because that’s what makes our tired a different kind of tired: our tired involves fighting hate, discrimination, prejudice, erasure, and bigotry.

Unfounded, unacceptable, misaligned hate is pervasive in our lives. Just because our kids are trying to live their lives as who they really are, without hurting anyone or interfering with anyone else’s life.

They just want to live. And we just want them to live.

This isn’t an attention grab. This isn’t a post for accolades. This isn’t for praise.

This is for knowledge sake.

This is for awareness.

Because we are tired.

And we just want our kids to be able to have the same rights, the same opportunities, as every other human.

And we won’t rest until that’s real.

———————–

Edit: I had no idea this post would resonate with so many and make it around the internet. Thank you for reading.

I’ve upset some wonderful people and I’m so sorry if you’re one of them. Please click here if you’re a trans teen.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Social Media

The Bullies Have Arrived. And I’m Ready To Use My Words.

My daughter was bullied for the first time two weeks ago.

Unfortunately , I’m not surprised. But that doesn’t mean it hurts any less as a mom.

When you’re a little girl that appears to be a boy, when you don’t fit into a perfect little societal norm box in this hateful world, bullies will find you.

She was on a play date in a different neighborhood. Her and her friends went to the community’s playground and met two boys around the ages of 10-12.

All started out well and fine, they all played together, until they didn’t.

The two boys began picking on my daughter, before even knowing she was a girl, making fun of her clothes, her shoes, her hair. When she corrected one of them for calling her an “ugly boy”, telling them she was a girl, they then called her a “tranny”, a freak, a fag, and gay. None of such terms were even understood by my child. Because she’s 8 and ignorant to such slurs and hatred.

She handled it well enough. She talked it out with me when I picked her up. She asked a lot of questions about the words they used and just seemed overall confused, but not overly sad.

She is the type to stuff emotions a little bit so I’m not sure the validity to her dismissive attitude but I was proud of her strength. We keep open communication about the incident and I made sure to tell her that these boys were just mean because they didn’t understand her and that they must have felt bad and ugly inside to do that to someone else, to which she responded well.

As for me? I didn’t handle it quite as gracefully.

I was so sad. I am so sad.

This is a tough pill to swallow for a parent. This bullying epidemic is some scary shit, especially when you bring the notion of social media into the conversation. It’s fucking terrifying.

I analyzed the incident for days. And by analyzed , I mean obsessed over it. And by obsessed over it, I mean I lost sleep, I cried and I thought about running away with my child somewhere it feels safer than this. Anywhere that posed promise for more open mindedness.

Because I know this won’t be the last bullying incident. I knew this was coming and it was the day I dreaded for years.

When my daughter’s gender identity adventures began at a very young age, of course I was hoping it was a phase. Of course I was.

Who would want their child to have a more difficult life? Who would want their child to be different, to stand out, to struggle? No one. Absolutely not one parent on the face of the earth.

But alas, she continued to express herself in the same patterns: “boy” toys, “boy” clothes, “boy” haircut, all with a bit of a masculine nuance to her mannerisms since age 4.

I’ve never labeled her transgender, as I’ve written and talked about publicly. Let me be clear here and interject- I would label her transgender, and let her socially transition, if she asserted herself that way, if she affirmed that in her heart she feels like a boy, if she ever went into depression or anxiety over it, or if she attempted suicide over it as many young children do when they’re trans. Because I now know that being trans a science based fact, because I’ve done my research, because I know families that have had a suicidal 7 year old because their brain doesn’t match their genitalia.

But thus far, that hasn’t been the case. We keep an open dialogue and yes, she sees someone that specializes in gender issues. Because it’s confusing as fuck, for her and more so for me. This is not a made up thing.

So, for now, she’s a girl with a very feminine name who looks like a boy and confuses so many strangers.

Which is where the bullies will continue to dive in. Because they’re afraid. Because whether you’re a child, a teen, a young adult, or full grown, fear breeds ignorance and ignorance breeds terrible behavior, as we have all been privileged to witnessing.

People are afraid of things and issues and other people that they don’t understand. They’re afraid and they react out of that fear. And the bullies aren’t taught to filter that out by their parents. Ignorance is perpetuated in their homes, it’s learned behavior. And that behavior translates into hatefulness. Just look around social media. Adults are the absolute worst offenders.

People ask me all of the time. “why do you write about this? Why do you put this information out to the universe to get scrutinized?”.

And all of this analysis of this first bullying incident solidified my answer- to preach the word of kindness. To maybe, just maybe, educate one person on what it is that makes my child different. To advocate for all differences.

I posted a little blurb about this incident on my personal Facebook page, trying to spread a message of kindness and teaching children to not say anything if they don’t have anything nice to say.

I received a private message from a person I knew from high school who stated that I set my child up for this bullying, that this is my fault, because I “let her dress like a boy”. To which I replied, I simply will not shove my child’s wants and needs aside, force her into a box, for the comfort of everyone else. No way. That would certainly make it better for everyone else wouldn’t it? But that is not allowing my child room to be who she is. That is not setting her up on a solid foundation.

She is who she is.

And that’s why I write.

For her.

To create a better world for her the only way I know how.

And to those that believe writing about this topic is over exposing her- that’s a fair concern but listen, she will grow up knowing her mother is a fighter for equality. And I hope that makes her proud. I will absolutely stop writing about this the moment she asks me to.

But in the meantime, I will fight for a better place for her to exist just how she is. Her authentic self. I will use my writing as a super power of education and plea for kindness.

And hope for a day where acceptance is commonplace and bullies have no place in the world.

A mama can hope. A mama will fight.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Uncategorized

The Great Bathroom Debate is Bullshit. Here’s Proof.

A few weeks ago, my non-gender conforming daughter (who is 8), and I were in a public restroom. As we were washing our hands, an older lady standing next to me looked at my daughter, (who was out of earshot at the hand dryer at the moment), then turned to me and said, “So, what’s the rule these days? When do parents allow their kids to go to the correct bathroom without a parent?”.

I fell silent for a second, completely confused as to what she was asking me. She took notice of my confusion and filled the silence with “You know what I mean. When will you allow him to go to the boy’s bathroom alone?”.

It took my brain a second to process that she was certain that my daughter was a boy and she was judging me, inferring he should be in his gender assigned bathroom.

“Oh, um. She’s a girl. She’s in the correct bathroom.”

The look on this lady’s face was somewhat indescribable. She could not have been more shocked, stammering and befuddled in that moment. I then saw the look of confusion take over her face, trying to make sense of my child’s gender and what I was saying.

She tried to backpedal and muddled something along the lines of, “Oh, well, well, I, um, just meant that she looks older and, um, I didn’t know…”.

My emotions were somewhere between annoyed, angry, and still confused by the whole conversation. The only thing I could choke out was, “Can’t judge a book by it’s cover, right?”, and she couldn’t manage any words.

First and foremost, stop judging parents, period, lady. Because that’s where she wanted to go with it, I’m certain. She wanted to get on her pedestal about how her generation allowed children to go to the bathroom alone at the age of 2 or whatever higher horse conversation she was encroaching on. I could hear it coming.

But secondly? This is exactly why the transgender bathroom debate makes no sense at all and is utter bullshit. Here it is. A prime example.

Here’s a person that assumed my child was a boy by mere esthetics. Boy clothes, plus boy hair, plus boy mannerisms must equal boy. She certainly could not see her genitalia. And because we were all in the bathroom to do what people do in the bathroom, take a piss, we were not bothering anyone. Why this woman felt the need to say anything at all is beyond me but by doing so, she proved a much larger point.

She proved that had my daughter been in the men’s bathroom, no one would have questioned her at all because she looks like a boy. If my daughter was/is trans, she’s visually acceptable and it would go without notice that she is in the stall next to another little boy. No one would know that she actually has a vagina.

The fact of the matter is, you have taken a squat in the very next stall to a trans person. You absolutely have. You just don’t know it. Because, as my daughter proved to this woman, looks can be very, very deceiving. Guys look like girls, girls look like guys, and trans people look like who they are. But more so- who cares?

Straight, gay, trans, bi- when we go into a bathroom, we all just need to go to the bathroom. That’s it. Pee, or take a shit, wash our hands, and move on. Why everyone is so goddamned concerned with our genitalia is bizarre. There are plenty of hard facts documenting that straight men are usually the perpetrators in any kind of bathroom assault or perversion so what’s with this preoccupation with transgender people or gender in general?

Since this whole bathroom debate began a couple of years ago, it caused me so much confusion about what it is everyone is so afraid of. I know the big bathroom debate is tired. I know it’s been written, it’s been discussed ad-nauseam. So, this is me half venting, half {hopefully} educating in a spill of emotion.

The truth seems to be, people just don’t want to be wrong about this marginalized community and this is why this is even still a topic of discussion. They don’t want to try to understand the biology and how it’s different from their own, or even if it’s different at all. They don’t want to realize that they’re just like everyone else.

Regardless of what your bible might tell you or what “morals and ethics” you hold true, or if you’re just one of those that believe those that challenge gender norms are “freaks”, try to put that all aside for one second. They’re people. Just living. That’s it. They’re just human beings. That’s it. Normal, breathing, thriving humans that need to go to the bathroom. If you don’t want to try to understand anything else about gender issues, fine. But just recognize the simple fact that they need to go to the fucking bathroom, just like you.

It hurts so many people when we move backwards, back towards exclusivity, opposed to inclusiveness. The us-versus-them mentality. The you’re-different-so-you-must-be-wrong mentality. And we are, indeed, slipping backward.

I hope we can do better as a whole with this entire topic. I’m not overly optimistic lately.

But also? Don’t give unsolicited parenting advice. Ever.

And, Stop judging books by their covers. Let my daughter pee and mind your own business.

 

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Life Lessons, Ranting, Uncategorized

My Bond With Ke$ha.

So, Ke$ha’s legal debacle. If you don’t even know who Ke$ha is, don’t be too hard on yourself. I didn’t really know much of her either until the recent media hype. I knew she sang horrible songs, mostly about getting drunk, that became party anthems worldwide, but I’ve never been a fan of hers. The fact that I’m even using a dollar symbol in her name makes me cringe.

Yet, I share a deep bond with her. Her story of sexual harassment/assault from her professional superior is something I am familiar with and I’m here to tell my story, not only in solidarity with her but of the millions of others that have experienced this in their workplace. I’ve been working on writing this for years and Kesha gave me more of a platform to do so. Her situation isn’t unique and I’m so angry about it.

I’ve been in medical supply sales for almost 12 years. I sell devices to orthopedic surgeons. It’s a male dominated field and it’s always been intimating for that reason.I’ve worked so hard to prove my worth in many professional situations. I’ve had physicians say the most inappropriate things to me, hit on me, suggest infidelity, the list goes on. I had one surgeon actually tell me that he masturbated to me. That is a true story. These situations mostly occurred in my first couple of years on the job and I assumed this was part of the deal. If I wanted to make a sale and keep the customer, it was part of the territory. It was a sick, twisted way of thinking but this was a career I wanted so desperately. I wasn’t proud of accepting this behavior but I was exceptional at rationalizing it.

A few years ago, I was a mid-level management employee of a company. My boss, to whom I directly reported, was an attractive guy with a cocky sense about him but likable and charismatic all the same. He was the national sales manager, the highest level management under the president, and someone who I had to spend a lot of time with when he traveled here and even more time on the phone with daily.

The first year remained professional enough between us. My boss and I had our disagreements and I did noticed his lack of decorum in certain situations. I noted his need for control and that he didn’t like to be second guessed. All points taken. He was my boss. I was just so proud to hold this management position that I was willing to endure a lot of questionable comments and conversations. As a female in my industry, or most industries, if you question or complain about almost anything, you’re viewed as the bitch and a trouble maker. So I trudged on.

Heading into my second year, this boss of mine contrived an entire business trip to sexually harass/assault me. After dinner one evening on said trip, in a city full of lights, bars, and drinking, he pulled me into an unmarked store, which happened to be a store full of porn and sex toys. He forcefully dragged me by my arm into the back of the store where they had private porn-viewing rooms, about the size of a dressing room at a retail store, and held me there against my will while I struggled and attempted to get away for approximately 2 minutes. It seemed like an hour, as he was holding me down with one arm and trying to find appropriate pornographic viewing material with his other.

I escaped quick enough from the situation but the next few days, weeks, months, and even years, I would struggle with a ton of fall-out.

It took me weeks to come forward to our company’s legal counsel, who happened to be a female that I trusted. “This was my boss. I had to have done something wrong to cause this. I had to have led him to this situation”, is what I told myself, amongst other things, but I logically knew that I could not see this man again face to face. I was physically ill over the entire situation, playing that evening in my head over and over. I knew I would potentially be helping other females if I spoke up, so I eventually came forward.

Our company clearly did not have appropriate protocol for these situations. I was required to fly out to our headquarters and verbally explain detail by detail what happened to legal counsel, and the president of the company, over breakfast. I had to tell this man, the president of our company, who was a personal friend of my boss, exactly what happened verbatim. This in it of itself was abusive.

That same evening that I flew to headquarters to have this conversation, I received a call that my boss resigned. He was not fired. He was given the option to resign. I later found out that several other women came forward with similar stories and despite that fact, he was allowed to simply resign.

And. It gets worse.

He was then given another position within the company as a contracted employee a few months later. That’s right. After 4 or 5 women came forward with their stories of sexual harassment and/or assault, he was welcomed back into our company’s DNA.

When I heard he was working for our company again, I was livid. I reached back out to legal counsel and at that point was then asked to speak to the CEO and tell him my story over the phone. Yet another man, who I barely knew, had to hear gory details of this disgusting, sexually explicit event. His response? “Everyone deserves a second chance”.

So there it is. A victory for the abuser and a “shut the fuck up” for the victims.

I share this because here’s the issue: like Kesha and many other women that go through this experience, we are automatically speculated upon when we make these accusations. We are either deemed as liars or viewed as women who encourage these sexual advances, we “ask for it”. We are trouble makers, we are whores, we are wanting notoriety. Kesha’s court ruling proves that point. Sony will not let this woman out of her contract after making these accusations of sexual abuse which tells me that the court doesn’t believe her.

Can’t we, once, as a society stop blaming the victim and realize that men in power sometimes use their power for evil? Can’t we speculate on these men that commit this crimes? Can’t we speculate that these stories might actually be true and give the victim the benefit of the doubt? Because the fact of the matter is, no one knows what truly happened to Kesha, or even to me that night in South Beach. It’s our words against these men that reign superior to us. But here’s a thought: we might be telling the truth, society, and you’re putting other women in harm’s way by assuming we aren’t. You are perpetuating the cycle of abuse by assuming we are a bunch of liars.

Could Kesha be lying? Of course. She could be to get out of her contract. Sure. But let’s assume for one second that she’s not. She is now working along side of her abuser, just like I had to, only her case is much more severe than mine. Can you just imagine what this would feel like? It’s like reliving a traumatic event every.single.day. When all that judge had to do, in Kesha’s case, is allow her out of her contract and go elsewhere to make music. Simple as that.

We have not come very far in this realm. Kesha’s situation, my situation, and many others, is a testament to that. Many women aren’t speaking out about this type of issue in the workplace because, really, what’s the point when the abuser has little to no consequence? It’s defeating. When all we want is a safe work place. It’s not too much to ask.

It’s going to require the men of our society to do some work on themselves before we can expect change. Stop assuming we are lying. Stop making us the troublemakers. Stop making us work in a hostile environment.

Solidarity, Kesha. Keep fighting the good fight for what’s right.