“Tomboy”

In response to:  My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy. – The New York Time

“She is not gender nonconforming. She is gender role nonconforming.”

I know I am not in the headspace to write eloquently or even patiently about anything right now, let alone about this issue.  The issue of gender.  I am buffeted by grief and anger and belly-deep intolerance and frustration that makes me want to shake senseless the next person I encounter that doesn’t get it.  That doesn’t get that we need to let people the f*ck alone and keep our judgements and assumptions to ourselves, and let people live their authentic selves however they are called to do so.

I find nothing objectionable to the author’s point in this piece.  My anger flares because the responses she and her daughter face are just the flipside of the same unexamined prejudices that transgender people confront.   The teacher, the doctor, the adults who inquire whether the author’s daughter isn’t actually transgender probably think they are being sensitive, welcoming, tolerant, and current.  But actually they reveal themselves as biased and bound by traditional gender norms as the transphobic individual.  The author’s “tomboy” daughter isn’t looking to fit herself into anyone’s boxes — no matter how progressive. She is just living her truth and should not have to explain it or make it work for anyone else.  The point is, gender isn’t anyone else’s damn business.  The point is that even transgender people remain trapped by these same onerous gender roles.

My transgender daughter is not a “girly-girl.”  She does not wear makeup and does not wear skirts.  And why should she have to?  I am a cisgender woman who doesn’t wear makeup, rarely wears skirts, and has a life-long aversion to heels.   No one questions my essential woman-ness, and yet my transgender daughter and I often feel intense pressure for her to “conform” to expected gender roles.   To make it easier, more palatable, less confronting for others to accept her as a woman.  And not because either of us are conformists, or timid to buck a trend or expectation.  But because her ability to be successful in society, and in fact her ability to be physically SAFE in this world, might require it.

Her SAFETY might require it.  Because our socially programmed responses around gender [and sexuality] are so volatile that when they are threatened, some people actually become violent.  And those “some people” are so often cisgender men.

Her SAFETY might require it.  Because our socially programmed responses around gender [and sexuality] are so volatile that when they are threatened, or upended, the discomfort, the pain, the isolation is so great, that some people do harm to themselves.

So, forgive me my anger to the well meaning and “open-minded” adults that the author’s daughter encounters who want to make sure she isn’t actually a transgender boy.  What I want to say to them is, “F*ck you and your outdated, unexamined assumptions about who people need to be in order to make your comfortable.  In order that you can put them into a box you can understand — even if it is a new box, you are just learning about.”  These assumptions are no less harmful, no less potentially deadly, than the older ones.

 

 

Edited to add:  as I have decided to publicly promote this response via Twitter and Facebook I thought I would explain the depth and heat of my current anger level.  A family very dear to us just lost their transgender teen son on Monday.  The social toxicity around gender norms is lethal

Passover 2017 [aka 5778]

passoverpic.jpg

We did not have a Passover Seder yesterday. Because Jayla spent the weekend visiting our oldest in NY, it was better for family logistics to host tonight.  So today we are busy preparing and tonight we look forward to hosting over a dozen friends.

Passover is probably the most important holiday in the whole year for me personally. Its themes and messages resonate so powerfully with things I care deeply about; I have decades of warm memories related to the food and traditions and the people I have been able to celebrate with over the years.

It is the one time of year I personally am committed to a formal dinner: matching tableware, fancy embossed white table cloths [which I actually ironed today], little vases of flowers on the table[s].

Having chosen a life partner who is not Jewish, I feel extraordinarily lucky that John has embraced the Jewish traditions that are important to me so wholeheartedly. It is truly a family affair: the cleaning, the cooking [which he does so much of], etc.

Perhaps my most significant personal joy is the years I have spent reading and collecting haggadot. 17 years ago I spent months reading dozens of them, and compiled my own haggadah that I thought reflected the values of our extended family.  We are still using that one mostly, though I often supplement with other readings I find each year.  Changing it up, depending on the age of the kids and how many actual Jews there are at our table.  For over a decade, non-Jews outnumber Jews at our Passover table – a reflection of our choice to move to a rural community, not join a synagogue, and the fact that much of my extended family has chosen not to continue the tradition.

It does make me sad that there are few Jewish folks who were raised Jewish celebrating the Passover Seder at our table.  There certainly is less singing than I would like.  And less Hebrew.  But my heart is also warmed by the fact that we have friends who care about us, and who find the themes of Passover compelling such that they want to share this very special holiday with us.  And rare tears of happiness come to my eyes when I look across the long table and see my atheist, Catholic-raised husband recite most of the prayers in Hebrew along with me, without even referring to the text.

Our home is not kosher, not for Passover, nor year round.  We did not cleanse our house of chametz, and tomorrow I won’t bat an eyelash if my daughters have toast for breakfast.  But today all 3 that live under this roof worked with me to make the delicious and addictive chocolate covered matzah toffee that we look forward to all year.  Leah can’t wait for the gefilte fish.  And Jona decided at the last minute to invite one of her closest friends from school.

We will tell the story of Passover tonight; we will reflect on how its message is relevant to us all today.  And, in our own way we will, authentically, carry on a thousand-plus year old tradition.  Dayenu.

“I just found the goat standing on the table eating Skittles,” is not a sentence I ever expected to write, let alone accurately reflect a moment in my life.

Well, hello again.

I’ve been on-line practically since the dawn of cyberspace, back when the internet looked like a DOS prompt.  I have had all kinds of websites, blogs, social media identities, gaming profiles scattered throughout the cybersphere over the last twenty plus years that I am sure I have lost track of more than a few.  And yet, here I am starting anew. After almost twenty years with parenting being my primary preoccupation, I am beginning to sense something new coalescing on my horizon – the faint shimmer of what will one day come to be known as my “third act.”  What that will entail, I am not yet certain.  But I feel that it will require me to formulate a more public and coherent presence, a voice that reflects me authentically and powerfully, but also with some restraint and and not always characteristic adherence to polite social norms. For, example, I will try to limit my use of profanity here. 😉   And emojis.  🙂

In any case, that is what this blog is for.  Another incarnation of my on-line persona.  One more suited for my current vocations and interests and the people I hope to collaborate with

United we stand…

If there’s no such thing as facts or data; if nothing can be known and we’re all just groping in the dark, each living in our own private manufactured planet operating by our own particular flavor of physics, why on Earth would one choose greed over generosity, fear over hope, anger over love ? If we’re all just making this shit up anyway, why don’t we make it beautiful and glorious? If we’re all going to make mistakes, why don’t we err on the side of peace and love and justice for all?

The dark side (and it is indeed that whether it is evil or just fear) would have you believe that life is a zero-sum game. That for someone’s stomach to be full, someone else’s needs to be empty. That for you to breathe a sigh of contentment someone else somewhere else must moan in despair.

I vow to reject this thesis. I ask you to join me in imagining and creating through sheer force of will a world of sufficiency. There must be enough love for us all. There is in fact enough food and oxygen and water for everyone. We are not captive in a sinking lifeboat with insufficient rations. We don’t have to cannibalize each other’s bodies and souls to ensure our survival. Rather we are interdependent stewards of all that is alive. Your pain is my pain; my joy is yours. Do not let voices of fear separate us.

United we stand. Divided we fall. True of these United States; true of what we can best be in our truest expression of humankind’s potential.

Do not cede your dreams. Do not cede our language.

#indivisible

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