Friday, March 31, 2017
My Trans Daughter's Resistance
Last month, our transgender daughter’s picture went viral and our family discovered a whole new level of visibility as we continued to advocate for trans young people. It’s been exciting, encouraging, overwhelming, and more than a little scary. We discovered a small taste of what many other public families of transgender young people know. There is an enormous heartwarming community supporting and loving our kids. There are also far too many people filled with hate, anger, and, seemingly, a lack of meaningful hobbies as they go out of their way to vilify transgender kids and their families. We know the rule, “don’t read the comments”, but sometimes the comments find you via private messages, email and beyond.
As our newsfeed filled with my kid’s face, family and friends were generally supportive but some wondered. They said things like “We love and support Rebekah, but why did you have to do all this? Why couldn’t you go about your daily lives and just let her be a girl? Why did you have to go so public? With all the hate in the world, don’t you worry about her privacy and her safety?”
That right there seems to be the question of Transgender Day of Visibility for me this year. Why visibility? Isn’t it safer/easier to just lay low? Day to day, her trans identity doesn’t have much of an impact on her. She’s fits into society’s expectations for girls. You don’t know she’s transgender when you meet her. She has a supportive school that protects her rights and identity. She has a supportive family. We know that being so public will impact her for the rest of her life. We’re not naive about any of this.
We could tell Rebekah to keep her identity quiet. We could hide our family’s story. We would absolutely be safer. We wouldn’t be receiving hateful messages calling us sick and horrible criminals, accusing us of abuse and threatening to have our kids taken away, or suggesting the world would be a better a place if our family died of cancer. We wouldn’t be trying to walk these fine lines of preserving the normalcy of everyday life, ensuring the safety of our family to the best of our ability, and carefully, intentionally trying to use this voice we’ve been given, not knowing what Rebekah will think of any of it ten or twenty years from now. Life might be a lot more calmer, quieter, easier.
The rights of the transgender community are under attack, and those who are not as fortunate as Rebekah are the ones most impacted — those youth who don’t have supportive families, communities, or schools, those youth who don’t fit so neatly into the gender binary, those who already face discrimination based on their color, culture, creed, ability, income, and/or immigration status.
We are called not to hide behind our privilege, but to boldly tell our story and fight for those who aren’t in a position to do so publicly. And in that visibility, there is joy and hope. There are the messages we receive of love, support, and encouragement. Messages from people in the trans community telling us we’re in this together. Parents reaching out for support and resources. Young people thanking us for seeing them, valuing them when maybe their families or their schools don’t. The allies stepping forward, finding their voices, and taking action to support the trans community.
None of that is because our family is so special, or even because Rebekah is special, although we do think she’s pretty great. It’s because the trans community is strong, determined, brave, and resilient. They show us that every day just by existing and living out their lives when society tells them they don’t have a place here. The very act of being visible as a transgender person is an act of revolution.
We have watched Rebekah become more confident in herself and her identity as she uses her voice to stand up for her rights and the rights of all transgender kids. Being boldly, proudly, and joyfully visible sends a message to the community and the world, that this is not a secret, this is not a source of shame. My daughter’s identity is one to be seen and celebrated. As parents, as allies, we will continue to raise up trans voices, to see and celebrate trans identities, and to mobilize for transgender justice.