Transforming Transgender Ignorance Into a Teachable Moment
The coming out process is anything but fun and easy. Everyone you talk to has their own opinion on how they would like to proceed with the process. For my wife, it was the family first, close friends second, and then she came out on social media (all of which took about a year). My thought was to do the same. After she wrote an eloquent post that included her pronouns and chosen name, I followed with a similar post and added how proud I was of her strength and courage. My post was not only to show love and support for my wife, but also to let everyone in my life know what was happening without having a conversation with each and every person I know.
“WELL, YES. SHE IS A WOMAN AND SHE IS MY WIFE.”
Here we are a year and a half later, being very public about my wife’s transition. I was out and bumped into an old friend last weekend. I haven’t seen her in maybe ten years. We are friends on social media where I am very vocal about my wife, her transition, and our children. We do a quick catch up about what our kids are up to. Then, she asks me how my husband/wife is. My being who I am, tried not to be offended. Besides, what good would it have done if I got angry and walked away? So I took a deep breath and said, “do you mean my wife?” She responded with “is that what you call her?” I said, “Well, yes. She is a woman and she is my wife.”
I went on and tried to explain to her what the word transgender meant. I gave her some simple examples that I thought anyone could understand and broke it down the best way I knew how. I told her of the emotional turmoil, bigotry, and discrimination that transgender people face on a daily basis. She seemed fascinated by what I was telling her and had lots of questions for me. I was happy to be replacing the inaccurate information she thought she knew, with actual facts. We parted, and I felt good about our conversation and bumping into her. I felt as if I gave her the knowledge she needed to go out into the world and be able to speak intelligently about transgender people.
“..IF EVERY PARTNER OR FAMILY MEMBER OF A TRANSGENDER PERSON TOOK THOSE LITTLE OPPORTUNITIES AS AN EDUCATIONAL MOMENT, SO MUCH MORE OF THE POPULATION WOULD HAVE A CLUE.”
It wasn’t until a few days later when it hit me in a different way. I was speaking with someone about my support group for transgender families and partners. I had mentioned a non-binary friend and the person I was speaking to said “what is that?” Again, I gave the best definition I possibly could and walked away feeling as if I educated another person. Then driving home later that night I kept thinking about how amazing it is in the year 2017 for so many people to be so mislead about the transgender and gender non-conforming community. It made me think that if every partner or family member of a transgender person took those little opportunities as an educational moment, so much more of the population would have a clue. Even if your partner lives stealth you can say, “I know someone who…”
My wife and I live out and proud. So for me talking about my experience or what I know about the transgender community is fairly easy. I understand that is not possible for everyone. However, take the opportunity whenever you can to spread your knowledge about these beautiful people. You don’t ever have to out anyone. You can always say that it’s an old friend from grade school, but our population needs to hear from us. People fear what they don’t understand. Who better to educate them and help them to understand transgender folks but us? They need to know that we are all just humans trying to find our way in the world. Education is enlightenment.