4/27/15

You Are Who You "Are" . . .

DISCLAIMER - I am not entirely sure if all the pronouns, terms, and words I use in this post are reflective of the transgendered community. If I am errant and/or offend, I apologize. 

Much like when Magic Johnson ,on November of 1991 (you feel older now than you did three seconds ago, don't you?), announced he was HIV positive many people believe that the popularity of Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black and beyond) and the recent success of the Amazon Prime show "Transparent" (for the record HBO made a wonderful movie called "Normal" with the eternally-great Jessica Lange and the always-wonderful Tom Wilkinson in 2003 that I might also suggest) and the recent decision, by Olympic hero, thrice married, and now (tragically) perhaps best known as the former husband/father/step-father to the vapid, miserable Kardashian clan Bruce Jenner to "come out" (I don't know if that is the term - but one article I read used it so . . . we'll go with it) as transgendered seems to be making the notion of what your mind tells you about sex/gender and what your body shows about sex/gender are not always aligned. 

I don't know a lot about the idea of having a man's body with the mindset of a woman but I do know, on a much, much smaller scale, what it is like to not feel at home with your own body. There are two times that I've felt this way in my adult life. At my heaviest (over 535 pounds) and my lightest (196 pounds). I can also, honestly, tell you that I felt like my mind and "self" didn't match my oversized body for most of my childhood/adolescence.

Now I know that there is a big difference between feeling like you are not your body (you are not, for the record - it is just a casing) but I do know that I can't imagine how frustrating it would be to go through life (Bruce Jenner first told his first wife he wanted to live as a woman in 1972 - 43 YEARS AGO) wanting to be something that culture, society, and conventional wisdom was opposed to accepting.

So while everyone is noting what a "hero" Jenner is (I disagree with the masses on this one - a guy who doesn't have to go to work every day, is financially comfortable, and lives a life of relative (self-chosen) reclusiveness telling the world he is not who they presumed him to be is very different than Don the plumber telling his client with the backed-up-toilet he wants to be Donna) I was far, far more touched by something that happened to me on a plane the other day.

There was a young person (14 or 15) on the plane who had the physical features of a boy but was wearing a dress and a cardigan sweater and had hair and makeup similar to what you might expect on a girl. Here is the BEST part - here is where the bravery in the world can be found - the kid was completely comfortable in their own skin. Just sitting there, reading a book and eating Combos while (nearly) every person who shuffled like so-much-cattle to the rows behind them took casual glances and, in a few cases, long stares at them. Kudos to you kid . . . and more kudos to the father of said teen who sat, arms crossed, just glaring back at all those who saw his child as spectacle (for the record there were parents letting their annoying toddlers and tweens fly back in friggin' Disney Princess Dresses, light-up mouse ears, and Harry Potter regalia so this kid was far from the most attention-worthy young person in the fuselage) with a look that implied "I dare you to turn to look at your travel companion or to cast a look of aspersion." 

I thought about what that juxtaposition meant within the teen and their family (Do they have siblings? What do they think? Was there a formal moment when they announced to the family they were not going to live life by the proverbial cookie cutter design? What was the initial reaction?) and then I thought about what Bruce Jenner's wives, kids, and family thought. Or what Magic Johnson's family thought when he announced he had contracted HIV. Then I realized that those opinions are probably the only ones that really matter. That we should, as a society, be "aware" of this phenomenon (if that is the right word) but not so quick to presume we have any right to an opinion (good or bad) until it his home for us. 

I don't know much about anything but I know that whatever happens with my child and whomever she turns out to be - I've got her back . . . unless she wants to fly in Harry Potter gear.