Bringing Understanding

There are many in our lives and our communities who don’t or think they don’t like us. Some of that is based on what their religion preaches, some because of what they see on TV and some based on ignorance and rumor.

If someone is convinced of their view, just walk away. It really is a waste of your time. At best you might get them to begrudging say that “you’re ok but you’re different”, the refrain that bigots the world over have used for “fill in the blank” group for all time. Yet some are open to conversation. For those I have some ideas that might help.

Don’t Yell, Don’t Condescend and Don’t Put Down

It’s so tempting, right? You have this paragon of elitist thought spouting profound nonesense at you and you really want to put him in his place. Well, just don’t. The first rule of getting someone to listen is for them to like and trust you. You won’t accomplish that by making them into a debate opponent. For example:

Gee, all these kids are taking part in this transgender fad thing, and their parents are going along with it! It’s gross! That would never have flown in our day I’ll tell you.”

So what would get this person listening better:

  1. “Don’t you understand? This is no fad you idiot. These kids just weren’t visible before because they were scared” (all true)
  2. “Wow, I can really understand why it might seem like that. I think I could show you another way of looking at it.”

Misunderstandings

Remember that for a lot of the population, they don’t really know what the word transgender  means. When I was coming out I heard some pretty interesting views of the meaning and I still do:

  • It means you’d rather dress in women’s clothing right?
  • (in their head) he’s going to be dressed like a drag queen.
  • (OMG in their head) he’s going to be dressed like a flamboyant crossdresser.
  • You want to pursue things women like to do, why do you need to become a woman to do that?

If you run across somebody who’s agitated and thinks these things explain that being transgender really boils down to a single important fact. Most of the rest depends on how the person is socialized and is pretty variable. For most all transgender people their physical body and what their brain thinks their body ought to be doesn’t match and the result is extreme sickness that’s called gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder.

It’s bad enough that 40% of untreated children treated children attempt suicide and many adults as well. While some people can be calmed to some extent by living in role as a women (for MtF) or a man (for FtM) in more extreme cases hormones are prescribed to induce more anatomical changes and some transgender people opt for reconstructive surgery known as sex reassignment surgery (SRS).

Some also believe that many grow to regret having had SRS. The figures I’ve seen show this to be a very small number, most estimates are below 1%. Lower would be better and of course anyone contemplating this ought to be as sure as possible before undertaking a permanent step like SRS.

The big thing that people need to understand is that nobody does any of this suddenly or frivolously. The therapists won’t approve hormones or surgery if they don’t believe you to be a good candidate. The surgeons require two letters and interview you as well. A “fast” time between starting down the road to SRS might be 3 years.

Liberal Parents

I’ve lost track of the story’s origin. It’s not the only one. A girl is born deaf to parents whose political leanings are very conservative. They love their daughter dearly and get her help for the deafness. Practically the first words she says are “I’m a boy”. You can imagine.

They start researching, and as rational people they learn that if forced to be a girl they have this significant chance that she’ll try or succeed in committing suicide and decide they would rather have a live son than a dead daughter. They support her, proof if you really needed it that this needn’t be a partisan issue.

Why did I label this “liberal parents”? It is because of what the conservatives did to these poor good caring parents. They vilified them in every way possible and in what must have been very painful for such conservative folks claimed they were liberal.

Finally

I’m proud to live in a part of the country where kids are able to be open and be supported if they are LGBT. Unfortunately there are far too many places in the US where that isn’t so, and far too many places in the world where you can be jailed or even executed. We all need to speak out when we are safe to do so, and do our best to convince those in a position to make things better.

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