Posts Tagged ‘gender reassignment’

Back on my birthday, I posted a special message on Facebook, because I wanted to start with friends and family, but after talking with my husband and daughter, I’m going to post it here as well, because I have a bit more to say on the matter and if I’m going to be an advocate, I can’t limit it to my own circle of friends.

The Post:

On my birthday, what I want most is love and understanding…for my daughter. Some of you are scratching your heads because you’ve known Ty, perhaps since he was born, perhaps through pictures or stories—and there have been a lot, because my child is a sweet, smart, funny, amazing person who I love bragging on. That is not going to change with her form.

Yes, I said her.

For the past few years, Ty (who now goes by Abby, so that’s the name I’ll be using going forward) has been working through issues of identity in counseling and in her day to day life. It’s become clear that Abby is not in the form with which she identifies. She’s been so much happier since she’s made it clear that she wants to transition and since she’s begun telling people and living externally as she feels internally.

Some of you will think it’s a phase. We thought this for a long time—or maybe hoped, not because we’re not supportive, but because we know what a difficult road this will be for her, in terms of the bias and hate she’s likely to encounter and in terms of the actual process—but we’re past that point.

We hope that we’ll have your love and support. We’ll all understand if this takes some adjustment and if you sometimes slip up on the name or pronoun; we still do, though we’re getting better.

If you have negative thoughts on this whole thing, we hope you’ll keep them to yourselves. Please feel free to unfriend. I will feel free to do the same.

Now:

As a comment on that post, a long-time friend asked if I had suggestions for how to talk with her kids about Abby’s transition. I liked the comment at the time, but I didn’t respond, because I didn’t really have an answer then. I think everyone’s approach will be different based on kids’ ages and references. But today we went to see the stage show of The Little Mermaid, and it occurred to me that in many ways it references the transgendered experience. (Disney’s mileage may vary.)

Think about it. The heroine, Ariel, is a mermaid who is obsessed with all things human. She’s never felt like she belongs swimming under the sea; she’s not happy there to the point of self-sabotage—missing practices and ultimately the concert at which she’s the featured performer, etc. She’s not happy with her body or the place in the world she was born into (ex. “Part of Your World”). She wants legs. She wants another life than the one she has. Her father and sisters don’t understand her. No one understands her. She has to sacrifice things to achieve her dreams. In the movie and play, it’s her voice (and her freedom if she can’t get the prince to kiss her within the three day time frame). Ultimately, she achieves her dream form and finds love despite what she’s sacrificed. No, not despite…because of it.

She doesn’t change sex; she changes species—mermaid to human. But for some reason, this is something everyone can accept. Everyone can identify. There’s no problem. Male to female or female to male many people don’t get. Why? We change our hair color and cut without thinking. We wear clothes or make-up or piercings or ink to change our appearance, to say something about ourselves. Yes, gender reassignment is more intensive, but it’s all in line with showing ourselves to the world in the way that makes us happy and valued and that feels true to who we are inside.

That’s what the transformation is about, in Ariel’s case and in Abby’s. It’s about being the way you need to be in order to be happy, and in the end it’s about the family and community’s support for that transformation.

Another friend on that birthday post said something really wonderful to the effect that most major religions agree that the body is just a vessel for the soul, so it shouldn’t matter what form that vessel takes. I thought that was beautiful. It meant a lot to me, as did everyone’s comments that day and everyone’s support since.

Anyway, I wanted to share all of this while it was fresh in my mind. If you’re working to understand gender reassignment or trying to figure out how to talk to your kids about it, maybe watch or rewatch The Little Mermaid and discuss. Ariel was always my favorite Disney princess. Now I get why.