I’ve been thinking about how to explain gender identity and expression to different audiences: children, teens, fellow parents, and grandparents. It requires different communication skills, vocabulary and vulnerability levels.
I’ve written about communicating with grandparents for Gender Spectrum (https://www.genderspectrum.org/blog/glitters-pink/), and I felt comfortable writing about the conflicts involved about being a good daughter, daughter-in-law and parent. I knew the familial bonds were strong and that no matter how vulnerable I made myself, I would be met with loving kindness from my family.
Recently, my own daughter has been a target from a girl at her school about being transgender. I haven’t found the strength necessary for direct parent to parent communication and the vulnerability for heart to heart discussion required for this type of work about the parent’s transphobia and how this is being passed on to their child. In part, my past interactions with this particular parent has been met with many mis-steps and mis-communications. I realize that it is less about vocabulary then about what happens when one side of a pair is open and the other hostile? How do we educate when the other cannot listen? How do I teach my child to be resilient when I feel so weak? I am struggling with how to model being strong when I feel so unsure as to how to approach a parent in my community about their transphobia. Do I educate? Is it the school’s role?
I know I can’t rage like a wild, protective mama bear. So, I back down. Being a member of a parent community versus an activists to educate a community is a much more complex role. Theoretically, these will be the peer group of my daughter’s and my family’s community for the next while. We need harmony, compassion, and understanding. Yet, somehow, it hurts. For the most part, the community has been amazing and so has the school. Yet, one student and one family’s transphobia had led to several incidents, left my daughter crying for weeks, and perhaps will become a barrier to her ability to emotionally and academically thrive at this school.
I didn’t face a large PTA of transphobia like Lori Duron did of “Raising My Rainbow” (http://raisingmyrainbow.com/2014/11/14/to-the-pta-moms-at-my-sons-school/). Yet one voice of transphobia (or any mistreatment) shoots arrows of poison into your child’s heart that they carry with them for the rest of their life. Any parent who has soothed their child’s soul knows this. I am searching for wisdom on how to teach a closed heart.
When the other can listen and when the heart of another is open, this presentation is an amazing visual lesson on gender identity and expression. Until then, I will wait for an opening. Hopeful. Optimistic.