Tidy Your Room, Kai

Yes, it’s real.


I just had someone point out this book Prinsesa: The Boy Who Dreamed of Being a Princess to me. I don’t know it, haven’t read it, but was wondering if anyone out there has. Here’s the blurb:

After a small earthquake, 6-year old Jojo and his 8-year old sister Malaya are enjoying listening to Daddy’s story about the Singkil princess of the Philippines. The princess was brave and unafraid as she and the prince dance together to find their way around the falling trees of a tremor. But Daddy seems uncomfortable when Jojo says he dreams of being a princess too. How should Daddy respond? In an age of hateful bullying and advances for LGBT and gender nonconforming people, there’s no easy way to understand what these struggles mean unless you put a face to them. What better face is there to look at than that of an innocent child who is full of wonder at the world?” In the end, the story shows that whatever issues children need to deal with, they’ll be okay as long as they have loving and supportive adults in their corner. A portion of the proceeds will be used to fund and distribute the companion short film.

There are so few children’s books about gender variance and diversity so it’s nice to see a new one.

If anyone out there reads it and wants to write a brief review, I’d be happy to post it here.

“Making Trans Parents Visible” – co-authored by me

So this is cool: the article I co-authored with a colleague (Beth Haines) and a former student (Alex Ajayi) has been published in Feminism & Psychology, and is now available online.

Here’s the abstract:

This article explores the self-reported parenting challenges of 50 transgender parents based on an online survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans parents in the United States. Many trans parents transitioned after forming a family, whereas others had children after or even during transition. They coordinated their transition with parenting responsibilities, and carefully managed their visibility in parenting settings to protect their children. This analysis focuses on the challenges that trans parents faced at the intersection of their parenting and trans identities. Although trans parents share many of the concerns of cisgender parents, they also face unique challenges that must often be navigated without extensive support. Revealing these challenges increases trans parents’ visibility in society, and could help therapists and school administrators become more sensitive to the intersectional identities of trans people and the stressors unique to trans parenting.

Some of the other articles from the same special issue on trans include:

  • What makes a man? Thomas Beatie, embodiment, and ‘mundane transphobia’
  • Trans men and friendships: A Foucauldian discourse analysis
  • Who watches the watchmen? A critical perspective on the theorization of trans people and clinicians


Um, Wow. Pat Robertson Says Love Your Transgender Child.

PlanetTransgender has transcribed some of his comments:

“I don’t think if somebody is a true transgender, we should condemn them. I mean, that’s just the way it is.”


“The guy’s 30 years old. I mean, he’s an adult. So, what can you do except love him. Alright,” Robertson added.

I hope Christian parents listen.

(h/t to Naomi, who blogs here.)

Another Example of Cool Masculinity

A father of a ‘gender creative’ son – a boy who is feminine – defends his parenting and his wife’s.

My wife also gets a load of emails from people asking where our son’s father is, as though I couldn’t possibly be around and still allow a male son to display female behavior. To those people I say, I’m right here fathering my son. I want to love him, not change him. My son skipping and twirling in a dress isn’t a sign that a strong male figure is missing from his life, to me it’s a sign that a strong male figure is fully vested in his life and committed to protecting him and allowing him to grow into the person who he was created to be.

A parent behaving like a parent. Amazing. What isn’t so amazing is how long these pernicious ideas about the lack of a strong male role model somehow “creates” feminine boys, when in fact, the lack of a strong male role model, in my opinion, tends to create bullies, not their victims.

The Love of Parents

I went to a breakfast to kick off a campaign here in the Fox Valley yesterday: the idea is to make sure LGBTQ people know they’re welcome. There have been too many suicides of these kids over the past few years just in this area, & I sat at the same table with one of the moms who lost her son yesterday.

You just don’t know what to say. There really isn’t anything to say. You keep doing, instead, in hopes that no other mom ever has to go through that.

So when I saw this piece by Rachel Maddow, about how PFLAG parents at pride parades *always* make her cry, I felt some kind of relief: me too. Who knows why. Maybe you can tell on some of their faces that it’s not what they’ve chosen. Or that it’s still hard for them. Or that they’re not convinced gayness isn’t a sin. Who knows? But they’re there, and they’re proud of their love.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Which is, yeah: more of what the world needs.

(This clip is also a nice piece of gay history, & so worth watching. Obama’s retelling of Morty’s arrest at the Stonewall is priceless, too.)

Childfree, Not Childless

In this article by a 55 year old woman about being childfree, this was the part that landed most squarely with me.

At one of many going-away parties, the wife of one of my colleagues in the philosophy department, after asking if I had children or planned to, blurted out a version of what my mother had said years before, telling me that having children was essential because it opened one up to a world of opportunities one would otherwise not have. What stands out in my mind from this conversation was this woman’s anger. At the time, I couldn’t figure out why my decision not to have kids made her so angry, why she insisted so stridently that I was wrong not to want them. I wasn’t angry with her for wanting and having them, after all. What I learned, from this and other conversations on the subject with women who are parents, is that it is usually quite difficult to explain your decision not to have children to those who have chosen to do so without offending them in some unspoken but very deep and palpable way. I believe this is partly because many of them are secretly envious of the child-free and also—perhaps more importantly—see the child-free person as a repudiation of their own life choice and, worse, as a sign of “non-envy.” Imitation is the highest form of flattery and the surest sign of envy. My child-free state was like a mirror that did not reflect their image. I gradually learned to provide nonanswers to questions pertaining to children and parenthood. (It is interesting to note, from my own experience, that men rarely if ever asked me about children and my lack of them.)

Because, well, YES. I was recently told by someone that I probably didn’t understand “their world” and I bit my tongue to keep from saying “oh yes I do – that’s why I didn’t choose it.”

I’ve often taught that one of the things that happens in trans communities – as well as in others, no doubt – that many people want you to do what they did in order to validate their own choices. There is tremendous pressure about a lot of life decisions, but for me, the feminist option is to respect women who decide to have children, no matter what they give up to do so. Me? I couldn’t. Didn’t want to. Needed to write, adventure, love broadly. I find so much maternal expression in so many other things I do; I am both loyal and protective, demanding and comforting. That is, I don’t think you need to be a mother in order to be one, so to speak. Continue reading “Childfree, Not Childless”

First Father’s Day Without

This is for him.

He must have been shopping for my mother’s Christmas present, except that I don’t remember that it was Christmas. But that is the only thing that might explain why my father was shopping with me only, and why it was so crowded at TSS that night. There was a rush of human beings around us, and I was the kind of small that I saw humanity as an army of knees and legs and belts and hands. I was double stepping to keep up with him. I clung to his hand like a prehensile kite, light as nothing and skipping and running because he was in a hurry, which meant he wasn’t as happy as he could be. When he was happy, he moved at a leisurely pace, and when he was really happy, he didn’t move much at all.

In the whoosh of people, I lost his hand for a second and then reattached myself like a homo sapien grasping instinctually. But I picked the wrong hand, or the hand of the wrong man, a man who wasn’t my father. I didn’t notice. I just kept up my skipping and walking, until I saw my father approaching me. Only then did I wonder whose hand I was holding, and now, why he held my hand for so long. Maybe he saw my father looking for me before I did and brought me to him. I don’t know. But I was transferred from the strange man’s hand to his. It took all of my hand to grasp only two of his fingers.

I have no idea if we bought anything at all that night, and I still don’t think it was Christmas, but I can’t think of any other reason we would have been shopping, just the two of us, in a department store past dusk.

Trans Woman’s Dad

And another, this one a dad’s story about his daughter’s transition. I like this one, mostly because it’s actually about the experience of being a father, and about the relationship, then it is about the transness per se.

Trans + Dads

Here are two stories concerning fathers and transness: one, the story of a woman who is only meeting her dad at age 30 after her mother’s death – and after her father abandoned the family when she was still an infant (declared male at birth).

The other is a big mess, to be honest: the story of a woman whose father had a lot of issues, like being an abusive asshole, on top of the trans stuff. For the record, these things don’t have anything to do with each other. While I certainly sympathize at her loss and confusion, the story gets mired in her father’s anger and illegal activities. But I don’t think it’s hard to imagine, either, why a 6’7″ blue collar guy struggling with the need to transition might be a ball of rage. The writing is pretty horrendous as well, but there you go.

More from me later about my own father, who took the trans in our lives with grace and humor. This is my family’s first father’s day without him, and thanks to all of you who remembered that & send me a short note letting me know you were thinking of me.

In the Life: Parents of Trans Kids

What a cool video: an “It Gets Better” with the parents of trans kids. They’re part of the T-NET part of PFLAG, which focuses on those with trans children.

I wish I could communicate how amazing it is to see things like this happen, to see its prominence even on PFLAG’s website. When I first started working on trans advocacy – long before these kids in the video were born – you really had to hunt to find information on anything trans, but especially so on any family-related issues.

& While there is still a dearth of information on parents who are trans themselves, we have come a long way, baby.

Trans Nanny

I liked this piece about a woman’s experience when her nanny transitioned from female to male.

Y’s transition changed me too. Watching Y’s struggle with weekly hormone therapy, decide when to come out to his family, friends, and employers, and select the appropriate public restroom, transformed my beliefs on gender identity. Even though I always supported the notion that people could be born into the wrong gender, I now view gender as more fluid — if there is a spectrum for sexuality, maybe there is also one with gender. I started making sure that I approach gender more sensitively with my own girls, allowing them to tell me who they are.

Because of Y’s influence in our lives, I made the conscious effort to choose gender-neutral toys and clothing. When the decisions were still mine to make, I purchased balls and blocks, in lieu of Barbies and Hello Kitty, and opted for brown and green shirts, instead of pink and purple. Once the girls began to exert their own unique fashion sense, I encouraged them to select their own clothing, making sure that they had a variety of colors and styles to pick from.

That any parent would need a trans person in their lives to make these kinds of choices surprises me, but so much of gender is a default, an assumed and not examined role, that I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at all.

Bad Advice to Trans Student?

The mom of a trans young adult wrote to Cary Tennis of Salon’s “Since You Asked” column because her daughter is

away at college and underachieving in a major way. She says that she can’t motivate herself to attend her less-than-full load of classes, can’t think of what she wants to do with herself, even in a short-term way.

The mom clarifies that the family has been supportive of her transition, etc.

Cary responds with: do nothing. Really? Her parents are paying for college and she’s doing so little she may fail all her classes and the advice columnest says “do nothing”? I think that’s ridiculous, but I’m not a parent.

I’d have her withdraw and get a job, pay her own rent for a while, & then when she was ready for someone to spend a ton of money on her education, I’d send her back to college.

As far as I can tell, this doesn’t have much to do with her daughter being trans, except that the mother seems to think that’s an important piece of information. It may be, but it may not have anything to do with it.

Coontz on Mothers

For Mother’s Day, a cool piece by Stephanie Coontz about moms. Coontz’s Marriage, A History is a great introduction into how our cultural memory of marriage is more wishful thinking than fact. So is her NYT article:

For their part, stay-at-home mothers complained of constant exhaustion. According to the most reliable study of all data available in the 1960s, full-time homemakers spent 55 hours a week on domestic chores, much more than they do today. Women with young children averaged even longer workweeks than that, and almost every woman I’ve interviewed who raised children in that era recalled that she rarely got any help from her husband, even on weekends.

In the 1946 edition of his perennial best seller, “Baby and Child Care,” Dr. Benjamin Spock suggested that Dad might “occasionally” change a diaper, give the baby a bottle or even “make the formula on Sunday.” But a leading sociologist of the day warned that a helpful father might be suspected of “having a little too much fat on the inner thigh.”

I’m not even sure what exactly that’s supposed to mean: can any of you explain that expression? I’m guessing it’s a bit of gender baiting, in the sense of more fat = less muscle and less muscle = not sufficient masculine, but it’s not familiar to me.

Happy Mother’s Day, moms and non-moms and dads. For me, to be honest, this day is a very pleasant reminder of why I’m child-free.

To the Tomboys!

Oh, if mass media and marketing to girls has its way, there won’t be any tomboys left at all. Check out this interview with Peggy Orenstein on The Diane Rehm Show about her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter

Coach Still Fired

The NYT did get around to covering the firing of that lesbian/pregnant coach in Nashville I reported last week. Here’s the part that baffles me:

Asked if having openly gay faculty and staff members could create a conflict with the university’s Christian character, Mr. Dickens said, “there could be.”

Here’s the bit I can never work out: what about the other sinners? Homosexuality is not the only sin in Christianity. Are they going to start firing people for greed or gluttony? For not attending church services? The bullshit of targeting homosexuals – and not other “sinners” – seems obvious to me, and I don’t understand why no one seems to understand that singling out one kind of sinner – amongst so many choices! – is where the discrimination becomes apparent.

One Parent’s Path

It’s rare to see an article by a parent about a child’s transition, much less one that openly struggles with the issues a religious faith brings into the mix.

Inwardly I wrestled with the changes in my child: shoulders broadening, cheek fuzz turning into beard, voice deepening. In a way it was fascinating: Who could imagine that a body would respond so dramatically to hormone treatment? And yet…where was my daughter? I couldn’t bear the thought of her disappearing before my eyes.

Outwardly, with the exception of my mother and one or two other people, I kept what was happening private. Talking about the situation felt too uncomfortable. I was embarrassed and ashamed that such a shande (shameful thing) could have happened in my family.

That year I met with a therapist several times. I also prayed. Psalm 118 was my daily focus: “I called on God from a narrow place; God answered from a wide expanse.” I hoped that God would help me open my heart in acceptance and love.

I thought of the story of the heartbroken father who came to the Baal Shem Tov for advice: “My son has turned his back on Judaism. What should I do?” The great Chasidic master replied, “Love him even more.”

I’m happy to add that I gave someone who knew this parent a few resources a couple of years ago when she was first struggling with her child’s transition. I hadn’t heard an update, & this one is about the best I could have hoped for.

His Son’s Dress

I don’t know why these stories depress me so much, and really, it’s the ones with the cheerfully liberal dad who really is trying his hardest not to be a dick.
And yet, he is.

Sigh. And we didn’t even have to wait until Halloween this year.

Breeding Out Tomboys

So what do you call it when a female doctor walks into a gene lab & doses all the pregnant mothers with a drug to prevent their daughters from wanting to work in “masculine” careers? Hypocrisy? Insanity? Female chauvinism? Pulling up the ladder under you?

I call it bullshit, but it’s happening. Dr. Maria New, an endocrinologist, is trying to prevent CAH in female infants, but as it turns out, the drug that prevents this masculinizing intersex condition in XX infants seems also seems to decrease incidents of lesbianism and bisexuality while simultaneously decreasing girls’ other “natural” impulses like playing with dolls and fantasizing about pregnancy and childbirth.

(Do little girls fantasize about pregnancy & childbirth? I had no idea. I never did, and I did play with dolls.)

From an article by Alice Dreger and two colleagues:

And it isn’t just that many women with CAH have a lower interest, compared to other women, in having sex with men. In another paper entitled “What Causes Low Rates of Child-Bearing in Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia?” Meyer-Bahlburg writes that “CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role. As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups.”

In the same article, Meyer-Bahlburg suggests that treatments with prenatal dexamethasone might cause these girls’ behavior to be closer to the expectation of heterosexual norms: “Long term follow-up studies of the behavioral outcome will show whether dexamethasone treatment also prevents the effects of prenatal androgens on brain and behavior.”

In a paper published just this year in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, New and her colleague, pediatric endocrinologist Saroj Nimkarn of Weill Cornell Medical College, go further, constructing low interest in babies and men – and even interest in what they consider to be men’s occupations and games – as “abnormal,” and potentially preventable with prenatal dex:

So dex might have prevented Dr. Maria New, which right about now looks like it would have been a good idea.

I’d also like to point out right about here that, for the record, for all the people who pooh-pooh non-trans, gender variant women when we talk about being “third sexed” along with trans women, that it looks like us dykey, tomboy, uppity types are the first on the chopping block.

Still & all, Dan Savage asks an important question:

Gay people have been stressing out about the day arriving when scientists developed treatments to prevent homosexuality . . . Well, here we are—the day appears to have arrived. Now what are we going to do about it?

So what are we going to do about it?