Tuesday, June 14, 2011

America's Identity Issues -- Tracy Morgan, Wanda Sykes, The NYTimes, & Us.

This week, The New York Times ran a story about the new challenges facing parents raising kids who don't fit gender molds -- Boys will be boys, Not in these Families -- it was groundbreaking in some very essential ways that I'll get to -- and at the same time Tracy Morgan told audiences in Tennessee his threat to stab to death his son if he were gay. Chris Rock and Roland Martin defended. Wanda Sykes struck them down.

Where does this leave a family like ours quietly living our lives, trying to figure out day-by-day how to nurture, celebrate and protect a child who doesn't fit gender norms and trying to figure out what world we're preparing this child for? Where does this nation stand -- that's one thing. Where will it stand when my four year old is twenty? That's another. (I'm putting my money on Wanda Sykes and The New York Times -- optimistically.)

All I know is that we need to talk. All of us. Tracy Morgan is a hideous id. How many people does his hatred represent? I don't know. Does anyone else remember the news story about the toddler killed by his father for acting effeminate? Wanda Sykes is acting as conscience. She wrote, "...We used to picnic to watch public hangings, but WE figured out, that was some sick sh*t.”

Does Tracy Morgan even deserve my breath on this subject? He shouldn't and yet he's loud. And what's important now isn't what he says, but how hard the push-back is, how loud the uproar. Yes, there's Freedom of Speech -- but it works both ways. And the tide turns only when the backlash is louder than the original lashing out.

Still, we're talking about this. We are. The New York Times worked the story from the stance of acceptance. Their story this week takes on the massive new terrain of talking directly to parents who want to support their kids. The story looks very different than the NPR piece from 2008 -- which was incredible at the time (and still a great read for anyone entering into the discussion). They were debating acceptance versus therapies to force the child into their assigned gender.

This is a huge step forward. It means there are enough families like ours -- accepting and supporting -- that we are an audience. We have enough to discuss along the spectrum of acceptance -- how to negotiate our support for our children -- that we deserve our own ink. Those who want to strip their kids of who they are on the inside and talk of suppression and aversion -- they didn't have a place in the piece. They're becoming the fringe.

Every time I write about gender variance -- boys who are girls inside or girls who are boys inside -- or when I run a post in THE LETTER SERIES (see below). Something good happens.

I get an email from someone who has a child who doesn't fit gender molds and they've never heard it discussed so openly, so -- dare I say it -- happily. We talk.

Someone sends me a recommendation which is exactly what I need.

My own parents call me up and say how much they needed to hear what Nick Krieger had to say about wishing people hadn't told me how hard life was going to be -- but instead how rich.

One friend told me she'd invited her gay nephew for a couple weeks this summer -- to get him out of a less tolerant home life. I said, "Funny, that was a suggestion in one of the letters." She said, "I know. I read the piece. I made the call."

So, in that spirit, I'm putting out some info.

1. Edgardo Menvielle is quoted in The New York Times piece. Here is the web site with all of the info on resources that he's helped build for this community of parents and children. The listserv, the camp, reading materials. If you have a child who doesn't fit gender molds and you want more info, this is a great place to start.

And 2. This little picture book by Jennifer Carr -- Be Who You Are.

To read more letters from The Letter Series, click on the names below.

Letter #1 -- Jacob Newberry

Letter #2 -- Marian Crotty

Letter #3 -- Nick Krieger

This week proved that we're radically split on this issue -- as a nation. Let's keep talking. We've got a long way to go.