My daughter has something to say to Keith Ablow, but since Fox news never asks her opinion, she'll have to speak through me.
She hasn't actually met Ablow, nor have I, but he and I have a lot in common. Both in our 40s, we each got married in 1995, are proud dads, live in suburbs of Boston, and wear our hearts on our sleeves as family men who care about the world in which our kids will grow up. One difference between Dr. Ablow and me is that we fear different things in our culture: He's afraid of the social toll of people paying attention to Chaz Bono, while I'm afraid of people paying attention to him.
As you have likely heard by now, Ablow is on the record as saying that parents should not to let their children watch the new season of Dancing with the Stars because it might lead to gender dysphoria. He claims, in essence, that seeing Bono in tap shoes will make teenage girls want to cut off their breasts. Ablow's comments have since been so widely mocked that I didn't feel a need to join the chorus at first. But as he continues to talk about the controversy on FOX and elsewhere, his comments add fuel to the existing transphobia already responsible for the murder of a transgender person every three to four weeks in America, though that kind of violence does not seem to trouble Ablow in the way that elective surgery does.
You won't see Bono's post-op scars on the show, nor will you hear details of the process. But there's no doubt that Bono was chosen because of his transformation. This puts him in line with the average contestant on the show, which often features people moving on to the next chapter of their lives after the end of a particular era (in sports, politics, acting, or, in Bristol Palin's case, teen pregnancy). Bono, like many of his dancing predecessors, was only cast after putting a painful period behind him, when he was ready to show the world a happier face in a better time.
That's Ablow's real problem and what he doesn't want our kids to see: that Bono is happy. That you can feel trapped and wounded by your life for decades, and still find a path to wholeness, to emerge on the other side smiling, laughing, and, yes, dancing. Ablow is afraid of Bono's joy more than anything else and he wants us to be fearful, too, for the sake of our children. But he doesn't know the first thing about my child and what she can or cannot understand.
One of my best friends from college is transgender, news which came as a surprise to me just this past year. Having missed all clues to her unhappiness along the way, I am relieved that the collective blindness around her did not cost her her life. This summer she came for a visit, still in transition, which occasioned a chat between me and my daughter. I explained that my friend had always known she was a girl but that everyone else had told her she was a boy, so she had acted as a boy for most of her life, which had made her sad for a very long time. Now that my friend was a grown-up, I said, she realized she could be the girl on the outside that she had always been on the inside.
A few days later, my daughter said that she had always been sure she was a girl on the inside and on the outside. Then she furrowed her brow in concern for my friend. "It would be hard to be one thing inside and one thing outside and not get to be the one you say you are." In less than 25 words, my six-year-old displayed a more firm command of the subject than Ablow with all his years of experience. Maybe it would help us all if she sat him down for a talk.
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