Finding Common Ground

The first generation of transgender children is stepping forward in a powerful way. Children that have taught us who they are and who they need to be and now they are on the edge of adulthood. They are hell bent on challenging their parents, occasionally questioning all adult behavior and unknowingly worrying us in ways that did not exist a decade ago. We need to find common ground with the people that do not understand their world to keep them safe. We need to reach out in a calm and inviting manner to help strangers grow. A strong loving mother that I know very well shared recently her concerns with you and some of the comments were difficult to read. I understand her fears and her protective instincts very well. I understand her disappointment when others fear our children and I have a great deal of admiration for her work and her passion to promote change.

It is hard to stay calm when we read about transgender violence, and we continue to experience discrimination in our community's. It hard to be patient when our children's self-esteem is being eroded in ways most parents cannot fathom. We worry about adults with unfounded fears that make it difficult to move forward. We are challenged everyday as we try to access the same healthcare that others demand and sometimes take for granted. We worry about colleges and universities that are not ready. We are fearful that transgender kids do not have the skills needed to survive away from home, where there are new dangers and uncertainty.

I wish that adults that fear our children could spend time with them, to experience the things that make them strong, sensitive and wise beyond their years. People, good hard working, honest people that fear the unknown are still lashing out. It is hard for any parent not to be afraid when they imagine things that might be harm their children. We need to remind everyone that acting on these fears without knowledge and assessment can be harmful and sometimes life threatening.

No parent or community should stop fighting to protect children. All I am asking is that they seek out the facts so they might learn how much we have in common. I realize that parents who do not agree are protecting their children with the same love and commitment that I have for mine. I want them to join us in open discussions so we can chat about our fears, our differences and strive for common ground. I want them to understand that we love our children, we believe in god, hard work and the golden rule. I want them to feel our pain. We need to agree that the bullying, harassment and discrimination are ever present and the physical and emotional pain is real.

We have to give up many things to protect our babies. We give up careers, homes, family, friends and schools to protect our babies. We give up simple life pleasures. As November approaches I should be out scouting the forest, preparing my gear and dreaming of a successful day in the woods, but I am not. I am still fighting battles internal and external. Soon I will be preparing for another Day of Transgender Remembrance. An event where we honor all of the transgender adults and children that been killed this past year. This event strikes my core hard. It could be my child's name and I am far from alone,

I wonder how we can help the world understand that transgender children need adequate medical coverage, community support and schools that go beyond the inadequate anti-bullying and anti-harassment programs that are being touted as cure-alls across the nation. My Great Uncle Harry, at age 97 had a saying: "90 percent of the people in the world are good people, 5 percent do not know they are good people yet and for 5 percent we need to just hope for the best." I would like to add to his theory, that if we can reach the hearts of the 95 percent we can impact their minds. We should not forget about the other 5 percent, we should watch them closely and when time permits again look for common ground.

I spent my summer painting our home. Painting in the early morning is peaceful and provides time for me to think. As I was mixing the paint my mind wandered; thinking about sending the kids off to college, worrying about elections, my health and being a better LGBT ally. As I was climbing up the ladder, I flinched, a touch of fear hit me as I thought about hundreds of mothers and a few fathers that I know that are struggling to balance their lives, to protect their babies and are making hard decisions. I wondered if they are struggling in the same ways I am, trying to get back my health, to lose forty pounds, to be more productive in my life and maybe finally having the chance to spend a second honeymoon with my wife.

We all need to take care of our minds and bodies so we can have the strength and energy to reach out in new ways to build new partnerships and relationships with people outside of our comfort zones. Recently I attended the "Teachings in Mindful Education Summer Institute" at the Chewonki School in Northern Maine. I knew I would be stepping outside my comfort zone. Yoga, meditation and taking time for self-reflection. We were asked to identify three things we would like to accomplish during the Institute. The first for me was physical. I am sick of being classified as moderately obese. The second is that I am mentally exhausted and the third was to spend more time with family. The third is based on a poem that my son wrote and shared with me recently.

Keeper of the House

I remember back to the warm summer afternoon.
In the massive forest that I called my backyard.
It seemed so huge, unthinkably huge
Perhaps because, I was so small.
I remember the acres being painted with light and
Infinite shades of greens and yellows.

My Father would stand among a pile of stumps and logs,
The crisp smell of sawdust still lingered.
His grey sweatshirt decorated with wood-chips and paint.
His hands were scraped at the knuckles, and the sun
Bore down on his neck, leaving a bruise of red heat.

He always seemed to be working on something to me.
Whether it be the house, or the yard, or the shed that
Lived about forty yards back from the house.
When he wasn't in his office, he was out here.
He was a different man at home- he wasn't the administrator
At some big college with the itchy coat and the tie that
Makes it hard to breathe.

All of my memories of him back then at home
Are of him with a saw in his hand, and blisters on
The web of skin between his thumb and index finger.
He wore sweat and dirt and ash like face paint.

In the late afternoon he would return home,
dragging the dirt in with his big boots that
Santa Claus wears. He would sit on the couch
For the rest of the day, watching
Golf on TV.
I prefered Spongebob.

When I would wake up the next day his bed
Would already be empty, the sheets cast aside.
And his boots would be gone, and as if on a loop
He would go back to his work, where the sun and
His axe kept him company.

I sat there in the sun, working alone again, I thought about his poem, knowing that I needed to let go of the resentment that I feel for the people that have and continue to target our children. I remembered that as he watched me work I was angry and the hundreds of logs cut and dragged with my own hands to the shed were moved with a heavy heart thinking I had nowhere to turn for help. But help came in many forms. I have learned that heroes are every where, they are average moms and dads, attorneys, doctors, counselors, church leaders, teachers, politicians, celebrities, writers, family, friends, and even strangers, strangers that have big hearts and open minds. They taught me to reach out. Everyday I reach out to strangers. Asking them who they are, looking for common ground so we might work together to make the world a safer place for all children. Please do the same.