Since coming out publicly with Toby last year and welcoming others along for the ride as he transitions, and we transition with him, I have received daily emails and private messages from people the world over. Support from others on this same journey, praise for how we are "handling" this, and genuine curiosity as those who do not understand finally feel they have a real person to help them widen their scopes.
Of course, as with all pendulums, the feedback swings hard to the other side as well. Those who simply cannot help themselves and feel some moral superiority or right to tell me how awful this is, how wrong we are, that my child is a monster, mentally ill, and my personal favorite, "You have failed as a parent."
I get that one A LOT.
The most recent happened yesterday in a comment thread online. In articulating why all those who voted for Trump must be held accountable for what they have wrought, I made my reasoning clear - I HAVE A TRANSGENDER SON - and that those who voted for him cannot have marinated in a cesspool of bigotry, racism, misogyny, phobias, zealotry, and willful ignorance for 18 months and now profess themselves somehow clean and innocent as entire swaths of people are targeted and threatened.
It took all of six responses for "You failed as a parent." to show up.
Now, the good, decent people of the world were quick to step in and confront the comment bully, which I appreciate. Bullies come undone when confronted and their power is stripped away in real life. Online, they tend to deathgrip their keyboard commando role even tighter and get uglier. This particular coward, however, was what I have labeled a "shit and run" commenter. Like their vehicular counterparts, they do their damage and leave the scene quickly.
Here is what I tell those bullies, emailers, messagers - "If "failing as a parent" means knowing my children completely, and my love for them not being some arbitrary and ignorant lightswitch - then I am failing in spectacular fashion."
My name is Linda. I am a failure as a parent, and proud of it.
You may be wondering why this post is appearing on the DGMS page instead of on the Transparent Trans Parent blog. Well, I will post it there as well, but what I have to say this morning is important, far beyond singing to the choir of transgender people and allies who frequent the TTP page.
It has to do with all parents, all society.
I have been an ally all of my adult life. My embrace of all people goes back even further. I honestly could never understand treating decent people like shit simply because they were different. Maybe that stems from me not fitting the "mold" as it were from an early age. I was the chubby girl in elementary school. I was the uncool girl in middle school. I was a theater nerd in high school. I was "the other" for many, many years of my life. Honestly, I still consider myself to be "other." I am not a joiner, I do not go along with the crowd, and I am proud of that. My friends are many, they are varied, they cover all places on the spectrum. They are fat, thin, athletes, couch potatos, all colors, all religions, no religions, high school graduates, and those who have Doctor in front of their names. I have celebrity friends and friends who barely leave their homes.
They are ALL different in just about every area. Except ONE.
They are all decent human beings to other human beings.
But, back to my status as a failure...
In my own pursuit of growth and understanding, I have joined many FB pages, groups, etc. One in particular is a Transgender Alliance page with tens of thousands of people who cover the beauty of the spectrum as well as including allies like myself. These people are amazing. The page is strictly for support, a safe space where people may ask questions about their journeys, about reactions to hormones, about clothing, make-up, the changes taking place in their bodies. A place where parents who "get it" may find one another, and may offer surrogate parenting to those who lack real parenting in their day-to-day. It is also a place where the support is instantaneous, and oh, how support is needed.
That has been the most eye opening and heartbreaking for me as a member of that community.
You see, our journey with Toby is singular - it is OUR journey - and it would be easy to think that this is what it is like for everyone. We are open,loving, accepting, funny, and making great strides because of it. Has it been easy? Of course not, but we have held onto one another and we are definitely seeing far more sun than clouds these days.
But I only need open my feed to be reminded that our story is atypical.
The abuse from family members too concerned with how this reflects on them, people losing their jobs simply for being who they are, getting physically assaulted in public for not "looking" right, those in the depths of dysphoria but too poor to attain HRT, and the worst: the desperate cries of suicide.
That happens A LOT.
As in "so frequently that my stomach hurts daily."
Like so many who are members, I am quick to jump in and try to help. As a mother, my heart breaks for these people. As a mother I want to throttle the parents who abuse their children to the point of them "wanting to be six feet under." I want to make those uncaring, unkind, ignorant members of society feel the herd turn against them. I want to help their children because they won't.
I try. I pull them into private messages to let them vent, to offer what parental support I can to them. To talk sense, to try to make them understand that they MATTER, that they are not monsters, trash, garbage. <---Those are all words thrown at them by parents.
Last night was bad - another night when I could not let it go and reached out to a young woman being heinously emotionally abused by her mother. I spent 90 minutes trying to get through to her that none of it is true, that her mother is a bully, and that the last thing that women deserves is to have her words translated into suicide.
I cannot tell you how relieved I was to reach out again this morning and have her respond. She is still alive.
Yet this morning, as I type, I am simultaneously "talking" to another young women who feels close to the edge.
My point to you all is simple: The suicide attempt rate of 41% is REAL. And it is shameful. A shameful reflection of a society, of family members, too stupid to step up, too cowardly to care, too concerned with how a transgender child reflects on them.
I would like someone to tell me what they gain by torturing their child when they come out? Do you get some asshole merit badge when you throw them out? And society - what do you get by wallowing in your own ignorance instead of trying to educate yourself and treating others with compassion? Is there some payoff of which I am unaware? Do you get a check each month from the Bigot Brigade? Someone tell me how my child being transgender and simply wanting to be who he knows himself to be, means fuck-all to your life?
How hard is it to simply be decent?
I see a lot of complaints these days about the atmosphere of places like Facebook - "it's too political." "Why can't you all just shut up?" "I don't want to constantly see articles about <insert group>."
This - all of it - is privilege. And privilege exists when something does not touch your life directly. When you can turn away from something others find important or threatening, it is only because of some privilege you wear that you are not even aware of. You're not black, not brown, not a refugee, not an immigrant, not LGBTQIA, not Muslim, Jewish, etc.
I will tell you what you are though. YOU ARE A HUMAN BEING. And as such you should care about other human beings. If you are a decent person, goddammit, ACT LIKE IT. Do not go to your church on Sundays, dripping piety and "love" and quoting scriptures, and then enter society on Monday ignoring or intentionally hurting "the least of these."
'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'
I no longer go to church, but that line seems pretty damned easy to interpret. As does this one that follows:
“Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
Yes, that means those of you actively doing the cursing of anyone who just wants to be who they are, ARE the cursed.
Do I have privilege? FFS, of course I do. I am white, I am financially comfortable, I am healthy. I practically drip privilege. Even with a transgender son, I am privileged. Because our journey is not fraught with suicide attempts, unending darkness, because we can afford therapy, HRT, surgery down the road. So even in that arena, I could easily turn away from that FB page when my stomach again starts to roll.
BUT I WILL NOT.
Because if I can spread my failure as a parent to these suffering souls, telling them they are valued, they matter, they are beautiful, they should stay, maybe I can help heal even a tiny spot in them that has been ripped asunder and left to bleed.
Compassion costs nothing. Emotional support is free. Yet they are immeasurably valuable to the one receiving them.
I need only look as far as my own child to see how they translate into light, strength, and hope.
I poured my heart out to Toby last night after counseling that young lady. Through tears I told him how much I love him, how my support for him is sincere, my pride in him true, and that I cannot even begin to connect with rejecting him for simply being who he is.
I love him today just as I loved him the day he took his first breath on my chest in the hospital. Completely, without reserve, forever.
If that makes me a failure as a parent, I am the proudest failure you will ever meet.
Do better society. I beg you, DO BETTER.