A Question of Gender


As an almost sixty-year-old heterosexual man with a wife and three kids,  I am really not in a very good position to pontificate on the North Carolina transgender bathroom controversy.  I play with dolls and stuffed animals (though in my defense, it is more of a collector and wannabe toy-maker style of thing).  A couple of my children may actually decide to consider themselves bisexuals (though in their defense, almost all teenagers go through this sexual-identity angst and it is fluid, not carved in stone).  The religion I professed for most of last twenty years says that we should hate gender problems and treat them as a wicked lifestyle choice, not a genetically determined spot on the flexible continuum between male and female.

But I have known transgender people as a school teacher who was always approachable and who students often trusted with their deepest, darkest secrets.  And teachers, by the very definition of the profession, care about students.  The insensitivity of this stupid controversy breaks my old teacher-heart.

The truth is, transgender people in this country inhabit a bear pit full of angry bears that wish to rend them with claw-like condemnations and bullying treatment all because their preachers and opinion leaders tell them that they should be angry about this.  But whose business is it really?  And all the transgender people I have ever known, all two of them, were incredibly damaged people.  Suicide is the most likely result of the depression and self-loathing that most transgender teens experience.  I pray that such a thing doesn’t happen to children whom I have taught and tried to love for who they are.  But it happens.

(I need to warn you… the next part is not funny at all… nor is it intended to be.)

My example story does not have any names attached.  I will not tell you what happened in the end because transgender people are entitled to privacy.    But I am using a concrete example because I want to share with you things I know to be true.  The boy I am telling you about was really born a girl.  He was a boy on his birth certificate because an accident caused by hormonal imbalances during gestation gave him a penis on the outside even though he had internal girl parts, including ovaries.  He was not a hermaphrodite, though he was closer to being that than he was to being normal.  His culture forced him to be raised as a boy, even though his thoughts and actions revealed him to be a girl.  The people around him had decided he was gay by the time he was old enough to be in my classes.  He was bullied, insulted, and abused in very Catholic and homophobic community.  Things got even worse as he began to develop breasts.  It was no wonder he acted out in school.  The image burned into my memory was the day he threw a fit in the school hallway and had to be restrained so he would not continue to smash his forehead against the doorpost.  He was screaming and crying and ended up having to be hospitalized on a protracted suicide watch.  I never found out what set off the meltdown, but I can imagine based on the things I saw people do and say to him.  I believe he eventually had a sex-change operation in his twenties.  I pray that was a true rumor and not just wishful thinking on the part of some of his former friends.  That would’ve solved much of his problem, if only it had been an option before so much damage was done.  It might’ve been better if he had been allowed to dress and act like a girl from early childhood on… like the other one I know about but can’t say any more about.  They deserve to keep whatever dignity and respect they still have.  We don’t have the right to take it from them.

This has been a very difficult thing to write about.  I hope, if you read this far, that I haven’t made you cry as much I as I did myself.  But crying is good, because it means there is caring in a place where more caring and understanding are desperately needed.  There are places to gain more knowledge about this issue, and I hope that you can see that more knowledge is what is most critical to resolving it.  Let me offer a link from a right-hearted clergyman to help you know a little bit more.

A Baptist Pastor Tells You What He’s Learned About Transgender People.

Cool School Blue


Filed under angry rant, compassion, Depression, education, empathy, insight, medical issues, mental health, politics, red States, teaching

13 responses to “A Question of Gender

  1. Well said. Thank you for also providing the link to the learnings of the Baptist minister. That was genuine and made me applaud his efforts to know.

  2. As another outsider looking in, it seems to me that we [as in humanity] have a fundamental need to create symbols we can hate. A few decades back it might have been gay people. These days it’s trans people. Part of the reason seems to be that trans people are becoming more ‘visible’, at least in the media, but the core reason seems to be just …’because’.
    The naked ape will always be scared of the other. 😦

  3. Thank you for writing another honest post about the reality of life today. It is heartbreaking. I wish I could expand to one thousand times my normal size, swoop down upon those policy makers who are encouraging hate mongering, and find some way to compassionately knock some sense into them, to get them to open their eyes and minds and hearts to the human beings that are different from them. Of course, would that make me just another power hungry fool? I wish there were a way to help everyone wake up to the beauty of the myriad expressions of individuality that make up our crazy chaotic planet. I wish that Coexistence 101 could be taught in schools everywhere. All I can do is take deep breaths and live the love that I want to see in the world. And I can teach my young children how to celebrate our differences so that their peers might feel safe around them. Thank you for being a kind, loving, accepting, caring teacher. You have made a difference in many lives.

    • Your response was something that made me weep a bit more. I feel like I should’ve done something more to help in this situation. But other than being a confidant willing to keep secrets, what more could’ve been done? It is a tricky issue in Texas with Governor Abbot roaring at the President over Abbot’s ignorant prejudices.

      • Life is tricky, isn’t it? And we’re all doing a funny little dance right on the edge of oblivion, just trying to stay on that fine line, the precarious perch. You are one of the ones who has helped others to keep dancing their dance, holding their hand so that they don’t fall right off the edge. You are blessed, and so are those whose lives you’ve touched. Thank you again.

  4. Thank you…..simply, thank you……

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