In July 2010, life in the BoyGir house had reached a level that one might tag as “controlled chaos.” That is to say, things were on the brink of falling apart. BoyGir Papa was doing his best to hold the fort down, ensuring both kids reached their respective destinations (school and preschool) on time with lunches and homework in hand while I merged with the masses on the highway for my wretched 55 mile commute. I would leave at 6:15 am and would return around 6 pm. Just in time to hit the ground running with my other full-time job as mom cooking dinner, and God-willing and I had energy, to bathe the kids before their 8 pm bedtime. Somehow in all this, I found time to blog with relative regularity.
By August, I had realized that the happiness of our family was at stake, mainly because the majority of the day-to-day parenting challenges fell squarely on BoyGir Papa’s shoulders. Something had to be done and that something meant my leaving my thankless job and wretched commute.
Within a few days, a job only 10 miles from my home literally landed in my lap. Although a blessing, it also held its own new challenges, not the least of which included a twenty-five thousand dollar cut in pay. The other, even greater, sacrifice I knew I would make would be the commute. For as much as I hated every last mile on that stretch of road, the one thing it did was allow me the “me” time to process everything that was going on. I then put those thoughts into (semi) coherent sentences and posted them here. With less mental processing time, I knew deep down that it would be the death of my already so elusive muse. With the new job came a bittersweet farewell to the flood of words that rattled in my brain on my long drive.
It was without regret that I sacrificed my creative outlet to take on more parenting duties. In doing so, though, my new work environment afforded me far less freedom of expression and was a place that many hard-leaning Leftie and LGBT advocates such as myself would most probaby avoid like the plague—my new job was located on a military training base.
They say everything happens for a reason, and I think I now have an idea about why I landed here.
In my new work environment, everyday I encounter people who work for a greater organization that has made its opinion quite clear: DON’T ASK—DON’T TELL. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am a woman of many opinions and has no problem sharing them. Being that my kids and family are the center of the known Universe (according to me), naturally I will talk about them. And when I talk about them, invariably it comes out that I have two children: one boy and one BoyGir. Indeed, why should I hide anything about my kids? I'm proud of them both!
In the eight months that I've been at this job, I'm slowly beginning to realize why I'm here--and it's not to work at a pauper's wage to edit military documents as my job title would suggest. No, this experience is actually happening to help me find my voice as my child’s advocate, to bring a human face to a subject that is aggressively avoided and not talked about in the military environment.
I've asked myself why I've put myself right in the middle of a culture that is all about rigid conformity.
I've concluded that I'm there to be the person in someone's life that connects them to the headlines on Huffington Post about J. Crew editors painting their boys' toes pink, or ads on OWN for "Becoming Chaz," or the YouTube video of the beating of a transwoman in a Burger King. I'm there to be the righteous and PROUD parent of "that transgender person." I'm there to see the passage from misunderstanding, misguidance, judgement, and ignorance to understanding, tolerance, and if all goes well, ultimately acceptance and support.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the lucid, coherent, and meaningful conversations with people that I would have never thought would give me the time of day. I’ve grown to actually enjoy the company of some people who are--politically-speaking--the polar opposite of me. I’ve shared funny and heartwarming stories of my kids and my pride in them. I’ve talked about Alex in ways that every parent talks about their kids: teeth lost, book reports completed, piano recitals performed… In other words, I’ve given people a chance to get to know my gender queer child.
I have to admit, there is something wildly rewarding about winning over the staunch Conservatives who “disagree” with homosexuality and transgenderism. Typically, it’s usually not until after a very open, frank, and honest discussion of feelings and beliefs. I make a point of acknowledging and hearing them.
When I hear “I don’t understand how parents who let their boys wear skirts can do that. It’s the parents who know what’s best for the kids. Sometimes kids need direction and guidance and it’s the parent’s job to do that. To protect them from themselves!” … I listen patiently and attentively. I imagine what it would be like to not have a pink boy in my life. What would I think about those parents? How would I react at seeing a boy in a dress? Admittedly, as open and free-thinking as I am, I know that it would at least give me pause to think.
“You mean to tell me that the most basic thing we know about ourselves as humans—our sex—isn’t what it seems?”
It is as if red is really yellow and sweet is really sour. To challenge our carnal understanding of our most basic human trait might just be enough to make your head explode unless you're the one in that body. Can you imagine being in that body and trying to explain that to the entire world?
And then the sweet moment of payback when, after a time—maybe hours or days or weeks—I hear words that are music to my ears.
“Well, what is pink anyway? It’s just a color.”
“What’s the big deal if a boy plays with barbies? It’s a plastic toy. Big deal.”
And (my personal favorite)
“What an adorable boy and girl Alex is!”
These comments reaffirm to me that, beyond politics, religion, lifestyles and beliefs, at the end of the day, we’re all human beings who feel the need love and be loved.
I know that this is just the beginning of a long and bumpy-at-times, smooth-at-other-times road ahead, but I realize now that my duty in this tiny sliver of time is to start the discussion of what gender nonconformity is all about to those who are otherwise removed from it but are willing to learn. As odd as this may seem, I am truly and deeply grateful for those people who trust me enough to share their opinions with me, even when such opinions fly in the face of my own. In a sense, it helps me understand what people don’t understand. It gives me a starting point from which to engage the conversation.
I'm learning that, ultimately, it’s up to me to help make gender nonconformity personal to anyone and everyone I meet in the hopes that one day we won’t even need to be talking about it like it's an affliction or disease.