Caitlyn Jenner: A Mother's Perspective

Photo from Vanity Fair. View the original article and photo here.
At EG, we try to stay politically neutral - It's just good business, but there are times where it just doesn't seem possible and Caitlyn Jenner seemed like one of those times for me. I know I'm late to the party, the news outlets have moved on from Caitlyn to SCOTUS's multiple decisions, but I needed time to think, process, and respond.  Hopefully, you will still find a new perspective or something to mull over as I spend some time discussing how Caitlyn Jenner has effected me as a mom. Please note that in the post, you will find out much more about me from my religious, political, and social points of view - it took many weeks for me to agree (with myself) to write this, and A2-D2 can attest the the amount of time this post spent in draft limbo.  So, with that in mind, let's discuss Caitlyn.  The photo above is how you've probably seen her, but I want to talk about her and the transgender community from a different perspective.


Have you ever taken a survey that ask you to narrow down your favorite book, tv show, or superhero to just one?  Have you ever struggled with which box to check?  Maybe you've felt this struggle in a political election? But imagine if this struggle was felt to answer what many consider a simple question:

Image from deque
For those individuals that do not subscribe to the gender binary of our society, this box is quite daunting.  Trying to fit your entire identity in one box can be quite overwhelming.  My entire life, yes even my childhood, was surrounded by gay men and women who acted  more "feminine" or "manly" than their straight counterparts; however, our society allows for an explanation for this type of behavior.

When The Captain and I discussed having children, we didn't just discuss finances and names, we discussed religion and even sexual orientation.  We discussed how we would handle a child who was gay.  How could we encourage them to not be afraid of coming out of the closet? How could we encourage them to be themselves - no matter what that meant? We both agreed that we would love our child and whoever they loved, regardless of gender.  And, we moved on.  It seemed like a fairly easy discussion. Of course our child could love whomever they wanted!  It didn't actually seem like a question to us.  But then Caitlyn happened...

I started thinking about my baby girl.  The girl who I was excited to watch play soccer in a few years, explore STEM, play with LEGO with The Captain, and explore the art of Degas with Auntie A2-D2! How would I feel if that little girl came to me and said that she thought she should have been a boy? It really tore at my heart, but I was ashamed that this was my reaction! I've always thought of myself as a progressive individual when it came to human rights, but I knew that this feeling was one of hypocrisy. It was fine for Caitlyn to feel like herself, finally, and I applauded her, but my Amelia was another story! I couldn't handle my own hypocrisy so I started researching and listening to podcasts on transgendered individuals, bisexual erasure, and the discrimination and marginalization that exist for transgendered individuals even within the gay community.  What I discovered is that, for a parent, the feelings I had were completely normal.

It is natural for the parent of a transgendered individual to go through a stage of mourning.  For parents, it is much like losing one child while gaining a different one.  There are a number of articles, essays, and blogs that discuss transgender from multiple perspectives, and I'm so happy that Caitlyn's extremely public reveal has created a dialogue and a need for information that can potentially support the transgendered community if utilized correctly by allies and family. I truly encourage you to seek those resources out. I've listed some at the bottom of this blog. In my research, here's what caught my attention:

Image from Fenway Focus


The above statistics scared me - as the the statistic that 57% of parents refuse to speak with/spend time with their transgender child after the child comes out.  I couldn't be a statistic and I couldn't bear to let Amelia be a statistic either.  I know that we're quite far away from having to potentially deal with Amelia wanting to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity, but I do feel better knowing that there are a number of resources out there should this be a topic that must be approached at a later date rather for Amelia or simply for her education of the community around her.

What about Caitlyn, how does she fit into all of this? Well, I thought about discussing the memes that floated around about bravery.  I thought about discussing how she is using her celebrity status to advance the transgender community by bringing light to the number of transgendered women who have been murdered this year alone (14 when you do not include suicide, natural, or accidental causes). Instead, I will let your own research into the subject determine your opinion of Caitlyn and how she is effecting the conversation.  What I will say is "thank you" to Caitlyn Jenner for beginning a discussion in my family and in myself that I do not believe we would have had otherwise.  Thank you for using your celebrity status to open that dialogue in my home and in homes across the country.  I think the dialogue is important for everyone. Determine where you stand. Use the resources that you have at your disposal. Make your own educated decision.  Remember, if your child identifies as a transgender, you are welcome to mourn, but do not put that mourning on your child.  Show love, support, and seek help in understanding.  Don't let them become a statistic.

Resources (these are items I used to help form my own opinion for this piece.  There are numerous other resources, but these are the ones that were most helpful in my own search): The Transgender Life (CNN); Trans Bodies, Trans Selves (NPR); Jenner, Gender, and Us (All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church Sermon); Bisexual Erasure (Stuff Mom Never Told You) ; Caitlyn Jenner: The Full Story (Vanity Fair)

   



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6 comments:

  1. This post is amazing. My husband and I haven't discussed how we would react if we have a child who came out to us as transgender. I guess we feel like you did...that we're progressive and would be accepting of our child no matter what. After reading this though, I can definitely understand why it might be difficult to come to terms with your own child being transgender, despite supporting the LGBTQ community in general. Very well-written and eye-opening post, thanks for writing it!

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  2. Wow. Great article. You guys sound like thoughtful, considerate parents.

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  3. Baby Amelia is lucky to have you and Captain as parents. :) Hopefully this will inspire other parents struggling with their own feelings about their child's gender identity.

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    1. Thanks, Katherine! It was an interesting discussion and process, but I hope that it helps others begin that discussion in their own homes!

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  4. Thanks for putting in the time to educate yourself when you realized you needed more information. That's a step I wish more people would take about lots of issues.

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