In my sophomore year of college, I took a Human Sexuality course at the University of Minnesota. The credits counted toward my major in Psychology, and learning about sexuality seemed like a pleasant way for me to spend my Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
The course was most of what you’d expect. Freud, Kinsey, stereotypes in the world today (2005), etc. Then came the day that we discussed sexual orientation and gender identity.
I confess that, at the time, my understanding of gender identity was inadequate and small-minded. Growing up in rural Minnesota limited my exposure to people outside of straight, cisgender, conservative-leaning people.
The professor had split that day’s class into two sections. The first half was a lecture, and the second half split the class into small groups with discussion items.
When the professor reached the point in their lecture regarding the difference between sexuality and gender identity, the hand of a cisgender male shot up. If you’re picturing a stereotypical early 2000s frat boy, you’re on the right page.
“Why would a guy change to a girl if he’s into girls? That doesn’t make sense,” he said when the professor took his question.
Before the professor could answer, another hand shot up. There was another student in the class that was transgender. She was in the process of transitioning to a female. She had recently begun receiving hormone therapy.
The professor allowed her to respond to the question—a professional move.
I cannot remember precisely what she said, so I’ll paraphrase. She explained how she had been attracted to females as far back as she can remember. She also explained how as far back as she can remember, she felt as though she was trapped inside a body that she didn’t belong in.
Her explanation was far more in-depth, and I remember feeling like a moron when she finished. I felt this way because she spoke for a few minutes in a calm, concise manner. She was thoughtful and understanding of the lack of understanding the vast majority of the class had. I think about her often and admire how she knew exactly who she was at twenty, while I am still trying to figure that out as a thirty-eight-year-old father.
Up to that point, my general idea was that I didn’t have an opinion about transgender people. I didn’t understand identifying as another gender and figured I never would. However, it didn’t bother me, so I kept to myself.
I find this matter of thinking to be that of a coward. It’s why I felt the need to write this.
As fate would have it, that same student was in my small group for the discussion. I learned more in the second half of that single class than any other class I took in college. I walked out feeling like I had grown as a person. It felt fantastic.
Do you know what I didn’t do?
I didn’t walk out questioning my gender. I didn’t walk out questioning my sexuality. I wasn’t confused about who I was all of a sudden.
The same way that growing up in Brainerd, MN, didn’t turn me into a hunting, fishing, country music-loving conservative.
Those things were never interesting because that’s not who I am. I don’t fault the people I grew up with that enjoy those things. I don’t think they need to be changed. They are/were my friends. People I spent a lot of time with, and I am a better person for it. I’m not confident they view me in that light these days, which is fine.
Despite what people want you to believe, nature almost always wins in the battle of nature vs. nurture.
I came across a video of Dr. Russel A. Barkley speaking about ADHD, and I believe this quote to be one of the most poignant views on parenting that I have come across.
“You are a shepherd, not an engineer. You do not get to design your child. Most of the things that will affect your child and help him turn into the person he will be are out of your control, so stop trying to control them, for you will only fail.”Dr. Russell A. Barkley – ADHD-30 Essential Ideas everyone needs to know
For years, politicians have used things to rile up their base—abortion, same-sex marriage, vaccines, etc. I’d guess that privately, some politicians do not believe in the agenda they are pushing. Instead, they think that it will earn them votes. They are always prepared with the next hot-button issue that will fire up their constituents.
All they need is an opportunity.
This is where Dr. Barkley’s quote is pertinent. We are in the middle of a parenting generation convinced that they are the engineers of their children.
These parents believe they are the way they are because of something their parents did or didn’t do. This leads them to think outside factors can determine who their kids will become at a base level. Music, books, video games, movies, and drag shows will change nothing regarding their child’s sexuality or gender identity.
Preparedness met opportunity as it often does, resulting in a mass of ignorant and fearful parents who think these outside forces will somehow burrow into their children’s genetics and start changing things. The result is dangerous legislation that will harm people who need help, understanding, and compassion.
You couldn’t affect your child’s sexuality or gender identity any more than you could make them the first chair cellist for the New York Philharmonic.
If you look inward, you’ll realize that no one can change your gender identity. If you trace it back on the timeline of your life, you’ll realize that no one could have changed it in your twenties, teens, or prior. Now imagine that people forced you to be something other than the wonderful person you have always been. Imagine the torture of going to middle school and being forced to dress and behave as something you are not at the most self-conscious time of your life. Those days are hard enough, even when you’re allowed to express yourself freely.
Here’s a thought experiment: If you’re best friend came out to you as transgender, how would you react? What would you say to them? Would it change the future of your relationship?
If that would be the end of your relationship, you are the problem.
It’s okay to be confused or fearful of something we don’t understand.
What is not okay is trying to exterminate the things we don’t understand simply because we do not understand them.
Those who refer to Disney World as the happiest place on Earth have yet to go to a drag show.
Try it. Be a brave American, google Drag Brunch, pick a day, and go. Worst case? You’ll have breakfast. In the best case, you’ll have breakfast, cocktails, and a fantastic time and leave more open-minded than when you walked in. Then maybe you’ll start to educate yourself, find out that there is nothing to be scared of, and you’ll be happier without the unnecessary anger inside you.
Oh, the humanity!
Or, you can live and let live. You can buy more guns and pretend you’re John Wick ignoring the fact that one of the more dangerous things we do today is drop our kids off at school while the rest of us drink mimosas at a drag brunch having a great time.
Be a shepherd. Provide a safe place for the flock. It feels much better to love and tend to others than to hate and neglect them.