This article was brought to my attention on Facebook some months ago:

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/a43702/transgender-child-kimberly-shappley/

There’s so much to respond to in this article. I wrote this response to it, but sat on it without publishing until till now. It’s no longer timely, but I think the issues are still relevant.

First of all, this story is a very clear example of hereditary belief. The author was raised as a religious conservative and presented all the typical ideologies of her progenitors, including the anti-diversity mindset (this is even more directly addressed in the article on Huffington Post; see below). We see just how artificial those ideologies ultimately are because they’re (luckily!) overcome… but only when this religious conservative mother has a personal experience to shock her out of being anti LGBTQ+.

When it is one’s own kin, suddenly the tragedies of other people seem more personally relevant and meaningful. I understand this is how people function. I wouldn’t be nearly as empathetic a person if I hadn’t been through various types of misery myself, but I also didn’t start out from a position of “conservative religious”. I was given a head start on empathy by not being nearly as conditioned as the author of the above article.

Luckily for this parent’s comfort, she found other, more flexible and less dogmatic religious people to provide advice and paths other than just abandoning her religion. What of the parents who cannot find such alternative religious persons? Do they keep fighting against their children’s innate needs just because of an irrational adherence to mythology?

Look how important her daughter’s religious beliefs are to her in this article. Where’s the freedom for her child to choose those beliefs? There are thousands of adults who regularly become angry and bitter atheists (as opposed to comfortable atheists) because of being subjected to hereditary religion. Why can’t we protect children from that while we (finally start to) protect them from gender coercion? But wait, won’t this child still face gender coercion? Won’t it simply be feminine stereotypes instead?

I hope that this parent dramatically shifts presentation on gender in regard to the rest of her kids, too. Because:

Everything was fishing and spitting and boy stuff.”

This is entirely cultural, not biological. The mother, father, and peers of these boys created those traits. If left to their own devices, what might these boys be otherwise? Only one child had the audacity to resist acculturation, and she was lucky to be eventually freed from it by a parent coming out of a parenting crisis with a more reasonable and humble mindset.

I’m cis male, but I can still identify with “boys are gross” (per her child’s statement); more so with each passing decade. But I’m male and heterosexual, so I’m otherwise “perfectly normal” and everything should be good, right? No, my lack of interest in the conventions of maleness resulted in bullying and abuse, being called out as gay. Why do you think I care about this stuff? Personal experiences.

There are plenty of cis men who aren’t interested in following every prescribed notion of maleness. Why should anyone suffer from this arbitrary cultural nonsense? That irrational pressure to conform makes some men angry, hostile, insecure… you know, typical internet dating site assholes who obsess over pickup artist bullshit to make themselves “real men” and can’t handle the slightest, most polite rejection. We do the society a disservice by breeding these men, and acculturation of what’s “manly” is a major facet of that breeding.

Maybe we, as a civilization, ought to stop telling anyone how to “correctly” do gender. It will be good for EVERYONE, including the half of the population (guys) that’s typically more averse to gender fluidity. Why more men can’t get behind this… I can only assume it’s because of insecurity, instilled in them by this very acculturation of “correct maleness”. When they’re comfortably embedded in communities and surrounded by peers who believe the same, especially alongside women also so acculturated (like the author of the transgender child article used to be, forcing her child to wear stereotypical boy clothes), it’s simple for them to presume their ideologies are universal.

This story is a clear example of why it’s bad to declare what is and is not acceptable for one’s gender. Hopefully this story ultimately turns out far better than it would have had the parent refused to support her child’s preferences. In that, I praise this mother’s ultimate choice to free her child of this one type of social coercion. I would hope for more, but it’s better than creating an adult that hates herself/himself because of being forced to be one or the other. Hopefully this child will not be presented with other reasons to self-hate along the way (such as all the religious dogma around sex).

The following article has more information surrounding the religious and social conflicts:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kimberly-and-kai-shappley-transgender-child-bathroom-rights_us_58b5b5b6e4b060480e0c4393

I want to note that, as critical as I am here about this mother’s religious indoctrination of her children, I have to give her credit for her reasons on why she hasn’t relocated:

I think about moving somewhere more accepting all the time, but what I will tell you is if marginalized people continue to move to places that are safe and welcoming, then this country is going to continue to win elections based on gerrymandering. The majority will never be represented again.

 

We change more people’s opinions of what it means to be transgender just by being visible. We’re saying, ‘Look here I am, I’m sitting right next to you at church.’ And, ‘Look, here I am I’m in the cubicle next to you at work.’ ‘Here I am. I’m at school. I can’t use the bathroom with you, because you’re still being a discriminatory person, but I’m here.

Good stuff, Ms. Shappley. Those words apply to much more than transgender people. They apply to all LGBTQ+ people, atheists, ethically non-monogamous people, immigrants, vegans…