I just passed a interested bit of time reading a blog written by a person I worked for from about 1999-2006. I knew him as Michael.
A few months back, my manager wrapped up a meeting with me by telling me that Michael was going to take some time off towards the end of the year, and return as Megan. I like to think of myself as progressive and open-minded, but it definitely threw me for a loop. Gender transition is simply outside the realm of my experience.
But it’s important to observe that there’s a lot to smile about here.
First- Megan’s taken a very courageous step. Not simply coming out, but having the generosity to share lots of her journey with anyone interested in reading her blog. This honesty can only help others struggling to come to terms with their gender identity.
Second – she’s walking this path with her family – her wife, and her children from her first marriage. Every family has their problems and complexities. It’s inspiring to see Megan and her family deal with all of this together.
Third – and this is speculation – I’m proud to work for an employer with a progressive culture. I don’t know whether Megan’s been well-supported through her transition, but would like to think so. People tend to say the right things. I hope they’re doing the right things too. Since Megan’s returning to work in the new year, I’m hopeful this is the case.
So after reading Megan’s blog for a while, I had a conversation with my eldest daughter about it – all in the interest of opening up those lines of communication with your pre-teen. I explained that I didn’t really understand much about gender transition, and that the issue made me feel a bit uncomfortable (her too – judging by the expression on her face!).
We talked about how important it is to accept people for who they are, and that gender and sexual identity is very much a part of who someone is. I told her that coming out takes lots of courage, people tend to feel shame about these things, that shame is never healthy, so we need to be supportive.
When we talked about how my brother probably struggled with some similar feelings before coming out as a gay man, my daughter observed that he seemed pretty happy now. Neither of my kids thinks twice about accepting my brother’s partner as another uncle – a member of our family. That made us both feel good. We talked a little more about how we should work to change unfair laws about marriage. Then, having been patient with her father for a while, she demanded the bedtime story, so we shifted gears.
This confirmed what many experts tell us. Kids are smarter about these things. They take things at face value, accept it, and then move on. I wish all of us were this wise.