Just recently my middle daughter and I were reminiscing about the first time we ever met a transgender person. She was fourteen years old, and we won’t discuss how old I was, but this was a person she had met in school. My girls were always bringing home anyone who seemed to be getting bullied or picked on, and this person was being persecuted. Not only were they having a hard time at school, but also no one at home seemed to understand what they were trying to say. There were no words for what this person was experiencing, but they just knew that they were male. My girls knew that I was an accepting open-minded person and that I would welcome any of their friends into my home.
“THIS FRIEND WAS ASSIGNED FEMALE AT BIRTH BUT ALWAYS KNEW THAT HE WAS NOT A GIRL.”
So she sat me down and told me about her new friend. He was being viciously bullied at school, and he was the one who kept getting in trouble for standing up for himself. My daughter had no regard for what others thought of him. He was a sweet, and loving kid and she was going to be his friend no matter what her peers had to say about it. This friend was assigned female at birth but always knew that he was not a girl. My daughter did not provide me with any kind of definitions or scientific facts; she truly didn’t have the verbiage back then. The word transgender was never even mentioned. Just that he called himself J and that she thought he was great. Looking back at that conversation I think that my daughter was trying to educate me to the best of her ability, so that I wouldn’t misgender her friend when he came over.
So we welcomed J into our home with open arms and gave him a safe place to be himself. As much as he knew his own truth, you could see the turmoil that churned inside of him. Just navigating your teenage years is a difficult enough task, and J had all this other baggage to deal with. I could see from the beginning that he was longing for love and acceptance and my daughter gave him plenty of that. He needed to know that he was ok and that life would one day be better. With all the drama that he was dealing with, his spirit was bright and his determination was strong. He had a big loving personality wrapped up in a cute little package, and he enjoyed making everyone smile. My daughter and J became fast friends, and he became part of our wacky family. That was almost nine years ago.
“WHY IS IT THAT INTOLERANCE AND IGNORANCE WINS OVER LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE?”
We live in such a self-centered society where everyone’s main concern goes no further than themselves. How very sad for those rotten kids who gave J such a hard time. They missed out on having a true, loving, and loyal friend. All because J did not fit into the mold that their small minds created for their peers. Children learn what they live, and sometimes actions speak louder than words. They are not born with prejudice, they learned it from the way the adults in their lives behaved. Why is it that intolerance and ignorance wins over love and acceptance? It infuriates me to see “grown ups” turn a loving child into a hateful young adult, simply by spewing homophobic, transphobic, bigoted bullshit. It doesn’t cost a cent to be nice to someone else, and it’s really not a difficult task.
We moved away from the town where my daughter met J almost five years ago. The distance has not affected the relationship at all. He is still very much a part of our family, and I worry about him as if he was one of my own. Without any real knowledge of what it meant to be transgender, my family and I welcomed J into our home and then into our hearts. He has taught us all that no matter what life throws at you, tomorrow is a new day, and with each new day comes a new beginning. Yesterday J and his larger than life personality came over for a visit. We had dinner, looked at old pictures, reminisced about their teenage escapades, and laughed a ton. As I write this, J, my daughter, and the weenie dogs are all sleeping on the couch in the living room. If only we could teach the world to open their hearts and their minds, they might find a friend like J.