For The Children

One of the more common over-arching tenants when it comes to polarizing arguments in modern society here in the States revolves around whether it’s good for children. Take any divisive issue currently and there seems to be a strong angle around that. We’ve gotta protect the planet for them. We’ve gotta fix our finances so that we have a country to give them. We’ve gotta figure out what to do about guns for them. I could go on and on. Mind you, these arguments seem to involve people playing both sides equally. Take gay marriage, for example, where it is lauded as good for children and warned against as something that is bad for children. I have to say it’s one of the more tired pillars of arguments. For all of the feelings we have about want to protect our children, it really does have to do with wanting to shape the world for them a little bit. I think wherever you fall on your spectrum of opinions, it’s a bit difficult to avoid.

But when we say we are trying to protect our children from something, are we really trying to protect ourselves? Or truly, the views we are trying to impart on children? Are we trying to protect ourselves from the fact that I children can and will end up with divergent viewpoints and opinions by not introducing certain ideas? I seriously wonder about that. After all, I am the kind of person that many people feel the need to protect their children from, being trans. At least in general. I have not yet had a single time in my life where someone’s told me not to show up because of that. Nor can I think of a moment where I was left out of something that friends put together simply because they don’t want their children around me. It’s not like I see my friends’ kids every day, but I do see them plenty enough, and I think it’s far more common for me to not go to things they do because it’s parents doing things with their kids, and I don’t have any kids, so it’s not exactly something I’m queuing up to do. I’m thinking about this because something a friend posted on Facebook seems to have launched into a whole discussion about that. Admittedly, there’s always going to be some element of controversy when you’ve got drag queens doing pretty much anything since they really occupy gendered space in a way that makes people uncomfortable (anyone with a fluid gender identity does). I’d argue they occupy a space that makes people more uncomfortable than many trans individuals who have a less fluid presentation, but that’s for another time. The point is, I get that there are things about this that make people uncomfortable. I personally think it’s ridiculous, but there are things that make me uncomfortable that other people think are ridiculous, so I have to step back a bit. And I believe imparting a bit of that is natural, and obviously is going to have a lot of bias around it.

But it does seem a bit insulting nonetheless to know that there are many people who feel that way. I don’t know enough about this specific situation to now how tenable it would be for parents to remove children they don’t want to be their for that. That’s their right as a parent, and I respect that solution. But I do wonder why to worry so much. I don’t have a magic wand and go around making other peoples’ kids trans. Hell, I am quite proud of who I am, and it’s certainly a lot better than it used to be (and hopefully continuing to get better), but being trans isn’t exactly something I’d wish on people. A drag queen reading to your kids isn’t going to turn them into drag queens any more than anything else. Perhaps the fear is just that whatever your child is feeling, whatever inchoate istigkeit that is, will find a name. And names are powerful. And while it’s perfectly acceptable to think “a police officer read to my kid and that stoked his/her desire to be a police officer”, I think that’s a bit reductive. We all like to pinpoint these elegant little moments in our lives where we realized who we are, who we love, etc, but memory is a faulty thing, and a lot more goes into who we are than half-remembered and potentially rewritten memories. There are certainly decision points, no one can doubt that, but as we look back, I think it can become obvious that the decision points that we thought were important at the time might not have been so important.

And further, what is it that we as a society are protecting our children from? There are times where drag can be viewed as funny and palatable for modern viewership, and that is okay as long as everyone knows it’s a joke to a lot of people. Which says a lot about how we think about gender because I can’t think of that many instances where women dressing as men are the butt of those kinds of jokes. But again, another time. Yet there are other times where it’s viewed as something that’s deliberately off-putting. What does it say about the sexuality of someone who thinks of himself as totally heterosexual if he sees someone in drag and thinks that she’s attractive? How does that change once the knowledge of gender is re-introduced? Or what if he knew all along? Right, that’s complex and messy and all sorts of things that we don’t normally want to think about because it’s challenging and we’re told that’s not how it goes. But certainly, that level of concern isn’t there when we’re talking about young children. Especially because that’s making the mistake of conflating the intertwined but rather different concepts of sexuality and gender. I don’t think that’s a valid concern when it comes to grade-school children.

In the end, much like obscenity, most people tend to rely on the I know it when I see it line of thinking when it comes to uncomfortable ideas that they are protecting their children from. For some, that’s religion; for others, it’s irreligious life. Continue making paired lists ad nauseum. This isn’t particularly meant as a condemnation of people have those attitudes either. It would be hypocritical of me not think that I hold views about things that children should be protected from that would insult other people because those aspects are strong parts of who they are. But I think it’s important to honestly explore those things, to try and figure out why we think something is wrong, and challenge our own viewpoints on it. And more importantly, I think it’s worth challenging whether we are protecting ourselves or our children? Are our ideas so weak or trivial that they cannot be challenged? If so, what does that say about what we feel about something? It isn’t an issue of right or wrong; it’s something we should always be thinking about as we are introducing ourselves (and others) to new ideas. Then again, I love ideas. And perhaps life truly is simpler for other people. I find myself constantly interrogating my own long held ideas and thoughts, and sometimes I too just throw my hands up in the air because there’s nothing to say. Much like I can never fully explain what being trans is like to you, there are going to be things others can never fully explain to me. That’s called faith. It guides what we all do, even if many individuals only think of it in a religious context. And I think that’s the core concept here. Parents must have a lot of faith that they are making good decisions for their children, and I respect that because I have a hard enough time making what feel like the right decisions for myself. But we are all making the best decisions we can at the time with incomplete information. To some, obviously, the thought of a drag queen reading Dr. Seuss was just too much. But just because I respect peoples’ rights to those thoughts and feelings doesn’t mean I don’t think they should be challenged. They must be challenged.

Perhaps this all rings a bit hollow. I don’t have children of my own, so what would I know? Quite true, I do not. But I take issue with the fact that who I am to my core is something that people need to be protected from. While this example shades differently, it still hits on the gender identity front. It still gives people opportunities to make revealing comments that make me shake my head about what kind of gender variance is acceptable and what kind isn’t. And all the while, no one can say why it is wrong. Of course, I make the base assumption that there’s nothing wrong with gender variance in this regard, which is a different launching point than the predication that gender variance is wrong. Oh sure, we can make intimations about how it confuses children, but I meet just as many confused adults. And I of course understand that parents have all these ideas about where their children are going in life, but your children are their own fully realized people, even at a young age. Their lives are going to go where they But I’ve always been of a mind to make my mind up on my own. And I come from a house where my parents let me do that. So I am reading my own experiences into it. Then again, I’m also coming from a life where I didn’t even truly have the words to even describe who I was until I was 17, and I didn’t put that all together until 9 years later. I don’t think hearing Green Eggs And Ham at a young age from a drag queen would have changed that all that much for me. Of course, it’s impossible to know. Some kids know right away that something is not right about them, that something’s not quite right between their inward and outward gender; some people take years to get there. But we all have the experiences we need to have to get us to where we are going in whatever form or fashion that is. To think that we can shield anyone from those is a bit naive. Obviously people disagree with me. As they should. Just don’t do it for the children, do it for yourself.

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