The Governor and Me

GovBakerAndMe

Tonight I met Governor Charlie Baker of my home state, Massachusetts at a fundraiser.  My very limited goal was to get across to the Governor that the transgender public accommodations bill currently sitting in the Joint Judiciary Committee in the Legislature is important to families like ours in Massachusetts that are raising transgender children.  By that measure, I believe I succeeded.

A little background.  Massachusetts has had a Transgender Rights bill in force since 2012.  Transgender people have equal rights in housing, employment, education, medicine, and credit.  This bill was hard-fought in the Legislature and took 5 years of painstaking effort to get it to a vote on the floor.  It passed with an important provision stripped out: equal rights for transgender people in public accommodations, e.g., stores, restaurants, and the like.  This means that a person cannot be fired from a job in a store due to being transgender, but that person can be denied service in that store solely because that person is transgender.

A little more background.  Despite my political leanings, I am an enthusiastic supporter of Governor Baker.  He is a leader who is unafraid to buck his party on certain principles.  Some of those principles involve his support of the LGBT community.  Like many allies, he has a family connection through his gay brother.

However, Governor Baker, despite supporting the current Transgender Rights law, does not currently support the transgender public accommodations bill in its current form.  When I learned about the fundraiser, I decided to take the opportunity to tell the Governor why the bill is so important to families like ours.

So today, I did just that.  I was given the opportunity to meet the Governor and tell him a little about my family and why the bill is so important to us and other families like ours.  The Governor is obviously a very busy man so I had to get to the point quickly and keep him engaged.

I am happy to say that I did just that.  The Governor made this easy because he is warm and approachable.  I told him that, despite being quite liberal, I am a vocal and enthusiastic supporter – this is 100% true.  I told him that I admire his stance on social issues, and that that has become very important to my family over the past year.  I told him about Eli, about how wonderful his life in school is, and how fantastic it is to live in MA.  I then explained that the transgender gap is a real problem for families like ours.

Gov. Baker explained that, while he fully supports the current laws, and that the laws in MA are as wide-ranging and forceful as anywhere in the country, he is nervous about a “one-size-fits-all” law.  He explained that there are towns in MA like mine that are quite ready for such laws, but there are others that are not.  He fears lawsuits from towns not ready to adopt a public accommodations bill.

I of course disagree, but then again, I am not privy to what Gov. Baker sees.  However, I do see 17 other states that have a transgender public accommodations law in force without incident.  I mentioned this to the Governor.  I got the impression that he has higher expectations of such a law than in other states – just because a state has protections, they may not have force behind them.

Of course, I did not expect to change Gov. Baker’s mind with a four-minute conversation.  The victory lay in having the conversation with both of us listening to each other.  I have a better understanding of Gov. Baker’s reluctance to endorse the current bill.  And I think I got across that this bill is important to families with transgender kids.

This is not the end, but the beginning.  The current law took five years of hard work from dedicated activists and lawmakers.  There are loads of people right now, e.g., MassTPC, GLAD, and many others working to educate lawmakers and move the legislative process along.  I am confident that with that hard work as well as engagement with lawmakers, the people who need this law to pass can make it happen.

A Message from Our Son

Eli asked that we post the following.

Hi, I’m Eli. You’ve probably heard a lot about me, but only from my transition. I want you to know more about me.

I’m a pretty average kid. I like some sports, some video games. I’m into books and fantasy. I love animals a lot. My favorite color is green, my favorite number is three. I love music – especially Fall Out Boy and Twenty One Pilots. I love to write and learn. I have my best friends, and some people I don’t like as much. I just happen to be transgender. That’s one thing about me.

It doesn’t decide whether I’m ‘mentally ill’, or ‘going to hell’. It decides nothing about me. Being trans just means I don’t have the right body parts. I’ve spent the first 13 1/2 years of my life, confused and feeling broken. I’m who I am now, and I could never be happier.

If this is a mental disorder, it’s sure a good one if it makes me feel like I belong.

Dear Mike Huckabee: My transgender son wishes he were cis

Mike Huckabee has made the news for the umpteenth time because he made comments that rankled those fighting for equality in any context. In this latest brouhaha, Huckabee joked that he wished that he were a transgender female when he was in high school so he could shower with the girls.

Huckabee was of course feeding his supporters the red meat they crave.  The red meat in this case is the defamatory contention that transgender females are just male pervs in drag.  To Huckabee and his audience, transgender people are just trying to get special rights to legalize their perversions.

However, let’s look beyond the justified outrage shared by the many allies of transgender people at this joke.  In making this joke, Huckabee has unwittingly made a valuable point.  Of course he doesn’t realize this because his belief system demands ignorance about that which he opposes.

The point is this: My transgender son wishes he were cisgender**.  I know this because he has told me, repeatedly.  In fact, Eli is not very different from most transgender kids I have met.  Nobody wishes this on themselves.

The by-now-well-known and gruesome suicide statistics for transgender kids backs this up: 41% attempt suicide; of those, 25% succeed.  Having a loving and supportive family lowers the risk, but the numbers are still plain scary.  Most trans parents I run into speak of hospitalizations and injuries caused by dysphoria.  This stuff ain’t easy.

Given that, I have a question for Mr. Huckabee: did you ever attempt suicide because you were stuck being cisgender?  Did being stuck in a male body cause you depression and anxiety so bad that you wanted to slice yourself open?  Did you ever get beat up for being a cis man?  Did you ever get taunted for being a cis man?  Did your parents ever have to take work off to meet with school officials about how you are being treated because you are “cis”?

I somehow doubt it.  And that’s exactly why transgender kids need help.  Kids that are fighting a real battle for their identity really wish they didn’t have to.  Comments like Mike Huckabee’s make this point perfectly clear.

 

**The likes of Huckabee would not likely know the word “cisgender,” but who cares.

Call her Caitlyn, please.

Calling her Caitlyn is the most natural thing to do.  Why?  Because it is her name and when we talk to people, we use their names.  As a matter of simply dignity and respect we address both close confidantes and casual acquaintances by name.  It is done automatically and no one seems to ever have to justify this practice.  But for Caitlyn Jenner, using her name isn’t automatic for many people.  Some people don’t think Caitlyn is her name.  They think her name is Bruce, and they are wrong.  Caitlyn Jenner has to justify to people that her name is indeed Caitlyn.

 

I don’t have to justify to anyone that my name is Laura.  I never have and I suspect I never will. It just is. Caitlyn Jenner and I are both women.  We are both parents. We both like the beach.  We both like manicures.  And while there are many things that set us apart as women, the one thing that really has invaded my thoughts is that only one of us has to justify our name.

 

Calling Caitlyn anything but her name is disrespectful because it denies the basic truth that she is a woman.  A woman named Caitlyn.  I agree that for 65 years, her name was Bruce.  But just because her name was Bruce, that doesn’t mean she was a man.  She was never a man.  Clearly, Caitlyn was defined male at birth but that doesn’t make her a man and it never did.

 

Caitlyn is a transgender woman and is a shining example of how gender identity is in the brain and not the body parts.  Just because Caitlyn had an incredible hair and make-up team, exquisite dresses, and lighting and photography done by the incomparable Annie Leibovitz, it doesn’t make these photographs inaccurate.  Caitlyn Jenner exuded female beauty, wisdom, and sexuality in ways that I am sure she will continue to do in her everyday life, away from photo shoots.  When the cameras were put away, and the gowns returned to the designers, Caitlyn remained a woman.

 

I honestly believe that Caitlyn Jenner and I are equal women.  We both worry about our children.  We both want to make sure the people in our lives are happy.  We both hate disappointing people.  We both enjoy girl time with friends sipping wine and laughing.

 

Call her Caitlyn.  Just as you call me Laura.

My Family is Anti-Family

Does that sound weird? I mean, on first listen it makes no sense. Yet according to the fine, pro-family folks at MassResistance, my family is anti-family.

How is this possible? Simple: my family has a transgender child that they love and accept.

My family is so anti-family…

  • they decided to believe in and work with their child as who he is,
  • they have invested in gender counseling and medical treatment that has helped give their child hope for a happy life in his gender,
  • they have worked to be open and honest with other family, friends, and members of their community, and
  • they insist on advocating for their child to participate in life openly as himself.

Further, my family supports anti-family bills in the MA House and the Senate such as H1577 and S735: An Act relative to gender identity and nondiscrimination.  Let’s see what MassResistance says about these anti-family bills:

This bill is a major goal of the LGBT lobby this year. It extends the infamous transgender rights and hate crimes law passed a few years ago to also cover public accommodations – including restrooms, locker rooms, gyms, and anything used by the public. If this passes, men dressed as women can use all womens’ restrooms and locker rooms, and vice versa. This is also being pushed across the country.

Wow, that sounds horrible. Let’s parse this a bit.

  • “…a major goal of the LGBT lobby.”

Eek!  A lobby group!  Much like, you know, MassResistance.

  • “…the infamous transgender rights and hate crimes law…”

Of course.  I mean, when some poor soul gets extra time tacked on to their sentence for savagely beating up a transgender kid trying to use the bathroom, we are all going to H-E-double-hockey-sticks.

  • “…men dressed as women…and vice versa.”

This is the pro-family definition of transgender.  And, hey, they have a picture:

tranny_0251_220

The caption reads “This man came to the public hearing for bill H1589…”   Being pro-family means seeing the transgender woman in this picture as a “man dressed as a woman.”  And isn’t he scary?  I mean, he so wants to use the women’s room, the perv.

I am disappointed that such gutter tactics exist in Massachusetts.  I am worse than distressed that “pro-family” legislation exists – with many sponsors – that seeks to block any progress toward transgender rights and, worse, reverse all the wonderful progress we have made toward reducing the bullying and suicides that have plagued transgender kids.  Apparently, it is “pro-family” to subject non-conforming kids to emotional and physical abuse, to make the only acceptable counseling that which drives them further down the road to self-harm and suicide, to encourage other pro-family people to harass and intimidate vulnerable kids.

Please support the “anti-family” transgender public accommodations bills in the MA House and Senate.  The “pro-family” tactics involve fear of the other.  The people most in need of these bills passing are families with kids.  Walk a mile in their shoes and understand why it is important for MA to complete the picture and make public accommodations safe for transgender kids.

 

The best birthday present of all

It is birthday season here at the Gordon house. Both boys have May birthdays**, so it takes some effort to separate the celebrations.

Our older son, Josh, turned 16 last week. He is threatening to get his permit to drive. I fear the return of insomnia once he gets his license.

Our younger, Eli, turns 14 next week. As Eli says about being 14, “meh.” But he begins high school in the autumn, so there’s that.

The birthday season is marked by the arrival of birthday cards from family and friends. The kids especially love getting cards from their grandparents containing checks and saying “get yourself something you want.”

This year is no different. The kids’ grandparents are still in Florida and sent them their birthday cards as usual. But this time, Eli got a gift worth way more than any check the grandparents enclosed.

The card simply said, “Happy birthday, Grandson.”

The look on Eli’s face was incredible. I have never seen him so happy with anything. We can sit here and talk about how this friend or that family member pledges support and acceptance, but will they come through when it counts?

It had to be really strange for my father and stepmother to pick out a grandson card for Eli, after years of “our granddaughter.” By making the decision to pick out the grandson card, they acknowledged the acceptance. It is real to them and Eli (and us). (I also know that Eli’s Bubbe and Zayde have also gotten a grandson card.)

Eli is smart enough to get this. Words are nice, but actual actions are everything. I salute my father and stepmother, and my mother- and father-in-law, for practicing that level of support. The tiniest things sometimes matter the most.

**No coincidence. We lived in Texas when both pregnancies were planned. Believe me, you don’t want to be pregnant during a Texas summer.

Scouting, Part III: A Scout Is A Scout

See Scouting, Part I and Part II if you haven’t already.

To update our previous posts, we met last night with the Scoutmaster and the senior adult leadership of the Boy Scout Troop to which Eli wishes to belong. While the meeting lasted over an hour, the time we spent talking about Eli’s transgender identity was less than 5 minutes. I continue to register my complete awe and joy at this turn of events.

Essentially, the Scoutmaster reviewed for us the Boy Scout’s recent history with gay Scouts and how the acceptance of gay youth within the ranks last year was a bottom-up process – meaning that there is broad support from the rank-and-file, rather than “acceptance” being imposed from the top down. Although transgender boys are not explicitly mentioned, nobody seems to think that there will be any major, or even minor, hurdles.

The most important support we needed was to come from the District level, which in our case in Northborough is the Knox Trail Council. The topic of Eli was brought up and discussed, and the answer that the Council delivered to our Scoutmaster was, “A Scout is a Scout.”

With those five words, both a radical change and simple common decency have taken over events. Yes, having a transgender boy among the ranks is radical to the Council. It appears this has not been done before, and everyone is stepping into heretofore unknown territory. But…it’s just common decency. Eli is a boy, despite his past. If he values scouting, and wants to work toward its goals, then why not?

Now that the Council is behind us, the rest should fall into place, albeit not automatically. The sponsoring organization, which is a local church, needs to be in the loop. In Northborough, the Protestant churches are generally very liberal in outlook and welcoming of LGBT people. I can’t imagine there is any problem there.

(In a funny salvo, the Scoutmaster mentioned that if there is any problem at all, they could always move meetings to the Unitarian Universalist congregation about 500 feet away. It turns out that the UU congregation had earlier sent a letter to the Troop stating that they would welcome the Troop back – after having kicked it out some years ago – now that the Boy Scouts have become acceptable to them again. I highly doubt there will be any need for this.)

The only thing to worry about in reality is the potential for a few parents who may misunderstand transgenderism to protest initially. Fortunately, though not coincidentally, Eli knows a number of older boys in senior leadership positions in the Troop, as they are close friends of his brother’s. The boys parents know Eli and have expressed support for Eli all along. Still, to counter any surprises, we plan to meet with the senior leadership prior to Eli attending his first meeting as a Scout. Once the leaders stand with Eli, the younger kids and their parents should have no problem. If any do, we will make ourselves available to answer questions. Hopefully, none will act on pure ignorance.

The bulk of the time was spent discussing far more important matters: the upcoming hiking trips, the merit badges, the gear we need to get, the uniform, the ranks – and the fact that Eli still has time to go for Eagle if he works hard enough. Wow. My head is still spinning with all of this. What an adventure!