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Julie Ross

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Why (and for Whom) I Am Defensive

Posted: 09/06/2012 1:51 pm

Over the past several months I have been venturesome (or perhaps stupid?) enough to publicly share my interpretation and personal feelings from my front row seat as the parent of a child who has identified as transgender. (You can find them here on HuffPost... they may be helpful in grasping the back story.) I have been equally supported and vilified by readers far and wide. I have been told that I am an "incredible parent" only to be corrected by a different reader that I am actually a horrible parent and that G-d does not make mistakes, just I do. Compliments for my honesty and style of writing are usurped by bashing for "rambling" and being a "horrible writer." I have been called "wonderful" and "self-centered" in the same thread written (sometimes viciously) from the comfort of computers around the world that I will neither find nor seek to find. And it all makes me wonder.

My child's decision (yes, it was her decision) to socially transition from male to female is not one which my family and I approached lightly or with nonchalance. It was years in the making and included working closely with therapists, teachers and school administrators. Once she was finally able to "share her secret" with us, my husband and I did what came naturally and seemed right; we would support her in any way she needed. That is what parents are supposed to do. The look of indisputable relief on her face spoke volumes as to just how tortured she had been. Who am I to deny another living person the opportunity to seek out a situation that feels more tenable just because it is going to be hard on me, her father, brother and extended family? And to those who argue that I am being bamboozled by a 10-year-old, perhaps you can explain why said child would opt to "bully" me (yes, that has been suggested, too) into submission over something so socially and emotionally difficult? Believe me; there are plenty of other things that the average kid will choose to badger their parents over that are a hell of a lot easier for everyone involved. All that said, I avow to be equally supportive should she decide at any point that living as a girl is not the solution to her fundamental discomfort; it could happen and it won't be easy, either.

In (foolishly) reading the extensive commentary (note: written mostly anonymously) I am amazed at the breadth of readers who made the decision to read my story but then, consciously (or not) opted to not dig further in an attempt to ascertain what might have led to our decision to allow her (yes, I refer to my male born child as "her") to live as she saw fit and how she felt comfortable in this world. It begs the question: Why on earth would a child do this unless she felt like she absolutely had to? And, further, why does anyone object to her decision? I am not so naïve as to think that there are not grand implications in this world to presenting oneself as a gender other than that for which you are ascribed particular body parts, but I am equally cognizant of the power of one's feelings.

Do you think this has been easy for her or, for that matter, the rest of our family which includes my older son, grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins, who all live in the immediate vicinity? Imagine the strength it took to share her deepest secret with us and then to present herself to her peers in the sex opposite of the one they had known for nearly five years. Can you think of anything in your life that propelled you to undertake such a frightening endeavor? I cannot. The stalwartness with which she dove into this shallow pool is staggering and deserving of commendation, not judgment or opinion, particularly by people -- myself included -- who are unqualified to even begin to know how she feels.

I know this sounds defensive. That is my intention. I do not, however, feel compelled to defend myself in any way; I know that I am doing right by my child. I hope that I am doing right by both my children, actually. No, this is about defending and protecting my child from the big bad world out there that simply does not understand, or, I'd be so bold as to suggest, doesn't want to understand, an identification that is different from their own. And, yes, despite what you may think, being vocal and writing about it is indeed protecting my child from those who are unwilling to educate themselves and appreciate that the fact that someone feels and presents differently from them is not a threat against them, rather it is an assertion of great import to someone else. It is not an easy lesson even for the most evolved, but perhaps this can start a discussion that doesn't disintegrate into name calling, finger pointing and criticizing one solitary person who is only trying to feel less alone in the world.

All the best,

Jessie's mom

 
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