Thursday, January 10, 2008

My discovery - an addendum

Last year on my web site Coming Out Trans I wrote an article about how my wife first discovered that I was transgendered back in the early 1990's. To make a long story short, I left a bag in a car that had my clothes, and my wife found it. Hilarity ensued.

Recently I came out to my children. I have a teenage son and a daughter in her early twenties, both in college. I came out to my daughter in the car when I was picking her up for the winter break. It was the best discussion I ever had with her - her first questions were "What pronouns should I use?" and "Do I still call you daddy?". I was very happy about this - I was concerned that she would have issues accepting me.

One thing that came out was that when my wife had discovered the bag in the car my daughter was with her. She was very young, maybe kindergarten age at the time. She said that she saw my mother was upset about the bag of women's clothes and asked her how it got into the car. My wife said that she thought someone had put it there by accident. This had unnerved my daughter because we were always good at keeping the car door locked. How could someone break into our car and leave a bag of women's clothes, she thought. She said that she asked several people how that could happen. Nobody had given her an adequate answer. To this day she had been bothered by this.

My coming out answered the question for her - it didn't happen that way. Her sense was one of relief, not of fear or anger. We both couldn't help it - we laughed about this. In essence my wife and I had unwittingly caused some small anxiety in her that could only be resolved by my coming out to her.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

On "Susan Stanton's Lonely Transformation"

The recent article about Susan Stanton (Susan Stanton's Lonely Transformation) has created a bit of a firestorm in the transgender world. For those who don't recall, Susan Stanton was the City Manager of Largo, Florida who was outed by the press and ultimately fired from her job for transitioning. Now, as I am a non-transitioning transgendered person at this point, I tend to stay away from comments about how hard it is to transition; all I can say is that it must be a lot harder to do it as publicly as Ms. Stanton is (including having a CNN crew following her around for an eventual documentary) than doing it in a more private setting.

Anyway, the firestorm erupted because of some quotes attributed to Ms. Stanton in the article. Probably the most heinous was saying that some transsexuals look to her "like I'm seeing a bunch of men in dresses." Needless to say, as soon as this article hit the web and print a lot of people were up in arms about it, including people like Donna Rose, who blogged her disapproval of this (read her entries for January 3 and 4, 2008). Ms. Stanton has since posted a message to her website explaining how she has been misquoted, but the number of people who will find her message is dwarfed by the number of people who will read the original article.

I remember seeing her on Larry King over the summer and watching her and another transitioning woman stumble over some of the thoughtless questions that Larry King was asking and wishing there was some sort of press training that trans people could go through before dealing with the media. I do understand there is a euphoria that comes over you when you finally accept yourself as transgendered and start being freer to express your true gender. I went through something like that for almost a year after I came out. Your judgment is very suspect at that point, and I think that a lot of trans-people have a problem navigating these waters to find the balance in their life. And it's hard for the people around them to just go "Oh, that's the euphoria talking" - they're trying to come to grasps with something that they don't understand. When they hear some of the strange things we might say without thinking it's hard for them to understand that.

Part of the problem is the media and the need for viewers. Unlike when I was growing up, the media these days seems more focused on serving the interests of their corporate taskmasters than the public's need, which means a focus on the corporate bottom line. That usually translates to more viewers and advertising revenue. By catering to the prurient interests of viewers they think they can maximize their viewer ship, hence the "if it bleeds it leads" mentality. For trans people it tends to focus on such great questions as "Do you pee standing up?" and other nonsense (Larry King asked a question like that).

But let's be fair here - part of the issue here is deciding to go public. It is not an easy path to go, but you have to understand the media is not usually going to be your friend here. The people who I know who have successfully dealt with the press came to them after the fact (I'm thinking of people like Donna Rose and Jennifer Finney Boylan). They had time to transition and to digest what they were going through before running the media gauntlet. The best parallel I know for Susan Stanton is Renee Richards, and even Ms. Richards transitioned before the media hit (but they hit her harder because of the timing of her going public and the fact that she was basically outed when she tried to get onto the pro tennis circuit).

I don't want to come across as holier-than-thou or like a know-it-all, but I think that maybe Ms. Stanton should try to turn down the public life for a bit and just focus on herself. I'm sure it is a lonelier place that she's in right now as opposed to before she was outed, and I do think that her heart is in the right place by trying to make her story public, but I'm not sure if it's the best thing for her. But that's my opinion. It's hard to say, and it's easy for us to just sit her and pass down our judgments on her state, but I do think that she's dealing with the law of unexpected consequences, or, as stated in Hosea 8:7, "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." I pray that this storm makes her stronger.