This blog post was started a few days before the latest hate rampage by the US president against transgender people. While I am encouraged by the massive public support for the trans community, we still have a long way to go before discrimination ends. Now feels like a good time to complete and post it.
Well, it happened again. A friend recently asked me, “Are you okay? How are you doing?” Then, “It must be tough. You’re so brave!” as if I were suffering some ghastly disease or grievous loss. In fact, this heartfelt concern is because I happen to be parenting a transgender teen. Since my second born informed us that he identifies as a boy just over two years ago, I have received so much sympathy and awe, as if I’ve done something more remarkable than loving my own flesh and blood. This latest outburst of concern made me realize just how common it is for people to struggle with accepting trans people who are living their gender identity. In spite of the recent progress in transgender awareness, we, as a society, are far from freely accepting that not everyone identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. We, as a society, still put far too much importance on the eons old binary boy/girl understanding of humanity. I am hoping that by sharing some of my own experience with parenting a transgender child, others will find their path a bit smoother. That’s all.
I’m the first to admit that, on that morning I read the “dear Mom & Dad” letter where my brave child announced his true identity I did not instantly nor automatically start regarding my bling queen as a boy. I did not easily drop the beautiful girl name I’d chosen for him for the boy name he chose for himself. It was awkward and I stumbled and got things wrong. A lot. I wrote to an old friend who had told me about her daughter identifying as male. I wrote to her to ask advice on how to be a good parent. Sadly, unbeknownst to me, she had died, but her trans child wrote back with loads of advice. The one piece of wisdom that has stuck with me most throughout these past few years is to show my kid enough respect to refer to him as he views himself and not according to my own perceptions. Basically, it’s not about me, it’s about him. It doesn’t matter if I still have memories of my little girl. If he views himself as male, then I need to respect his self-image and address him accordingly. This advice has been invaluable in helping me relate respectfully to my now son.
The first six months after my son came out I would inform people demurely that my kid was trans, with a weird sense that I would be judged harshly. I was quite reticent about stating the fact. As time passed, it became easier for me, and now I say it loud and proud. It helps that we live in a town where no one really bats an eye about gender and sexuality. I am unbelievably grateful to be raising my trans son in a safe and open environment. I am even more grateful for the gifts that come with parenting a trans child. My kid has taught me about my own limited perceptions and how to look closely at how I regard others. My kid has taught me about what is and isn’t important when relating to my fellow humans. (Is that a man or a woman? Oh yeah, it doesn’t matter!).
Do I understand what it’s like to be in the wrong body? Nope. Do I have any inkling as to what it’s like to solidly know that I am not the gender I was assigned at birth? Can’t even fathom. What I do know is that, even though my kid is experiencing something I just can’t grasp, he is still my kid and he is still an awesome person. That’s enough for me. The way I see it these days is like this – how would I react if my kid announced to me that he thought he was an accountant rather than an artist? You know what? That’s okay. Accountant, artist, boy, girl, whatever, as long as he is kind to himself and others. In the end, that is all that really matters.
At this point, you are probably wondering what the heck does any of this have to do with granola or running a business. As an entrepreneur, everything I do in my life always relates on one level or another to my business. Every day I check in with myself to review the ethos behind Singing Bowl Granola, and every day, I am reminded that this business was built as a way of caring for others and the planet. My number one job (even above granola!) is that of a parent, and my number one parental responsibility is to care for my kids. Caring for my kids means respecting and loving them for who they are regardless of my own perceptions and expectations. Caring for my kids helps them develop into solid human beings who will go out into the world and help others and help the planet. It’s all related.
Is this a man or a woman? Oh wait, it doesn't matter.
The important thing is they are eating granola!
There are so many schools of business. There is the Arlene Dickinson approach where she genuinely tries to help others with her own successes, then, there is the Donald Trump approach which is based on greed, deceit, and malice. Business is power and it is so important to use this power generously and responsibly. Today I am choosing to use my entrepreneurial influences to reach out to the friends and family of trans people who may be wondering how to be the best ally they can. I am using whatever influence I have to say that, even though it may be confusing or uncomfortable, there is no shame. We live in a time and place where more and more transgender people are feeling safe enough to live their lives according to who they really are. It is our job to move beyond any of our preconceived ideas and applaud their courage and respect their identities and love them unconditionally, because, love is really the most important thing of all.