“Are you a boy or a girl?”
I must have heard this a hundred times growing up.
Sometimes I shot back, “Both!”
No matter how much I loved the look I’d perfected by the grand old age of 7; (short hair, button-down men’s shirts, and aviator shades) the constant inquiry gave me angst.
I got into a lot fights, always with boys, and usually won.
My 2nd grade teacher called my parents in and demanded I be sent to see a psychiatrist for gender confusion.
Eight weeks later, my psychiatrist (a pretty woman with whom I’d fallen in love) informed my mother: “There is nothing wrong with your daughter. She’s just a little eccentric.”
“Eccentric” that was a diagnosis I could work with.
I didn’t have a problem being a girl, but rather the litany of things assigned to the role of being a girl.
My sister wanted to play with dolls.
I wanted to play with Tonka trucks.
My sister wanted to wear make-up.
I slathered my face with my dad’s shaving cream and pretended I was shaving.
Things seemed to go along okay until puberty. Somehow, my “superman” (never supergirl) powers were usurped by losing my tomboy chest to two huge and horrible orbs. I was 11 when I got my period. If ever there was something about being a girl I didn’t want, it was that.
I spent the 7th and 8th grade in a cocoon, confused, isolated and defenseless. I became the victim of bullying.
Every day I would stare at the clock. The moment it struck 3, I would run home, dive into bed and bury my head under so many pillows I felt like I was in a tunnel. There I would dream about being powerful. I had no desire to wake up.
I didn’t know I was gay back then, but everyone else seemed to smell it.
I didn’t try to kill myself in those two years, but I thought about it... a lot.
I found my power in high school: badassery. I could be a girl, but in the way Joan Jett was a girl. I’ve stuck with that mode ever since. Feminism laced with leather and a hearty “F YOU!”
Back in the ’70’s and ’80s, we didn’t use the word “trans.” I knew about Renée Richards, the tennis player who had gender confirmation surgery in 1975.
Back then we said she’d had “a sex change.” Nowadays, it’s referred to as gender confirmation surgery.
I took me years to understand that she hadn’t changed her gender; she was always a woman.
These days, my life is filled with trans people; the daughter of a close friend, the son of another, the husband of another, my buddy Dan, my old friend Conor.
It wasn’t a stretch for me to understand how it might feel to be lonely, scared and isolated, to feel like I was an “other.”
But how hard must it have been to pretend to be a different gender than they knew they were?
I asked Conor. “I knew I was really a boy by the time I was 6,” he said. “In 1966, to say that revelation was not taken seriously would be an understatement. The ridicule, and taunting that followed was unbearable.”
From Dan, “Something as simple, and quite frankly, horrifying as going into the bathroom wondering if you will be ridiculed or worse, physically harmed, is untenable. A lot of kids commit suicide, because the pain of being so different is more than they can bear.”
Under Obama, a soft blanket unfolded, slowly yes, but surely. It spread out over the gay and trans community. It started to feel safe to be as “Lady Gaga” would sing, “born that way.”
When the new president won the electoral vote, a lot of the trans community, not to mention the gay, immigrant and women’s rights communities, grew frightened.
In a matter of a month, he lassoed the fear-mongering and hatred he’d campaigned on to target innocent people all across this country. The trans community became his latest victim as he announced that his administration would no longer bar schools from discriminating against transgender students.
Think of that.
His administration will no longer bar schools from discriminating against transgender students!?
He lifted the soft, warm blanket of protection we enjoyed and replaced it with a fist.
It’s now a national field day for bullies.
The trademark of the new administration seems to be find a vulnerable scapegoat and let loose the vultures. Trans kids are perhaps our most vulnerable.
Dan has a super human capacity to keep love in his heart in the midst of hate.
“Until we, we being a society, teach and demonstrate self-love and acceptance, kids will kill themselves,” he said. “In the meantime, stay vigilant, stay informed, stay authentic, stay safe and love yourself as the magnificent masterpiece you are. You’re all you have. ”
Everyone knows how it feels to be scared or alone if only for a moment.
And now we must all speak out.