That’s not supportive…

Jeremy had his parent teacher interview on Tuesday. He was at the tail end of another two day suspension so I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about going. But I went anyways because it’s important and because his teacher really does care about Jeremy. She’s genuinely trying to help.

One thing I haven’t mentioned before is that Jeremy’s autistic. I’m never sure how much to share; what information will be the tipping point for someone to say “hey, I know who that is”. Jeremy has what’s known as high functioning autism, which is very similar to Aspergers. There are two issues with autism that relate to school. One is he can get angry very easily and the other is he will perseverate on certain things. Which is why, when his teacher commented he got angry over a discussion on opposites, I groaned. I knew exactly what was coming.

The very first question the educational assistant asked him was, “What’s the opposite of boy?” and then she couldn’t understand why he got upset with this question. Instead of acknowledging that was not a good example, they tried to argue with him that boy and girl were opposites when it comes to words and they didn’t want to get into gender issues during a language class. Then they couldn’t understand why he kept coming back to that line on the page, insisting that boy and girl weren’t opposites; that you could feel like both a boy and a girl.

“Umm… that is something you’re better off just not discussing with Jeremy,” I commented tactfully. “I wouldn’t bring it up at all.”

And yet his teacher is trying. During a class discussion on personal hygiene, Jeremy told everyone that he likes to shave his legs. The teacher promptly informed the class that one of the male teachers in the school does body building and he shaves his arms and legs to show off his muscles. And Jeremy felt comfortable enough in the class to have one of the educational assistants paint his nails and to ask for “gay stuff” during sex ed. Obviously in some ways she is being supportive.

Then came a discussion on Facebook.

Yesterday I posted the same link on Facebook about Vancouver as I did here. I got several positive comments then a relative of mine (Amy) jumped into the thread early this afternoon. One of the first things she posted, right in the middle of a ‘rah-rah if you’re transgender go proudly into the washroom of the gender you identify with’ speech, was that “a person who is transgendered isn’t seeking to be gender-neutral or gender-free – they are seeking to become the opposite gender from which they were born”.

I politely disagreed with her, explaining trans* includes people who don’t identify as either gender. I even included a link explaining neutrois to her. This was fairly pointless as I don’t think she even read it. She simply posted a chiding message that anyone can put anything online and not to believe everything I read.

Then Lenny posted, explaining zie is transgender and doesn’t identify with either binary gender. Amy proceeded to thank zir for sharing “personal stories” then explained that she was confident in her knowledge and profession. In essence, she told Lenny that zie was wrong and didn’t know what being transgender was. My jaw dropped.

Amy also considered changing the signs on washrooms to be no more than a bandaid solution, ignoring the other steps they were suggesting in the article. All the while arguing that she didn’t want to use the same washroom as a man, which wasn’t in any of the steps I read.

Then it got worse. A friend of mine didn’t feel comfortable posting in the thread and messaged me instead, asking me to share this. “Can you tell her that as an actual trans person, I don’t see this as a band-aid. I see this as a step toward being regarded as a human being.”

Amy, while claiming to be supportive, went on to say my friend was part of the problem. That the thread was non-threatening and, even though the thread is visible to everyone on my friends list (which is just over 200 people), if “he or she” didn’t feel comfortable posting as trans* to all those people, that made her “question the legitimacy of that person’s fear to pee in a public bathroom”. My jaw dropped even further. The “he or she” comments made it obvious my sister was ignoring everything Lenny and I said. And the friend doesn’t identify with either gender.

A couple of other people tried to point out to her the irony of telling actual trans* people that they don’t know what transgender is. She claimed we were all bullying her then stormed off the thread while dropping expletives and proclaiming that she’s a professional.

The sad part is, she is a professional. She works with vulnerable, mentally ill teenagers and some of them do identify as transgender. And I’m sure she is supportive… to a point. If she has a teenager there who is biologically male and identifies as female, she’ll be supportive. Or vice versa. The thing is, real life isn’t that neat and tidy.

While she was posting her goodbye rant, I was brushing Jeremy’s hair (which is almost long enough for a pony tail) and making sure he had everything he needed for a trip to the movies with his LGBTQ group. And I was talking with another friend of mine who was in the process of coming out to me as being closer to gender neutral than cisgender.

And she’s right. She has actual university education and is a professional. My only information comes from talking and listening to trans* people. And there is a lot for me to learn. The difference is I’m willing to learn.

4 thoughts on “That’s not supportive…

  1. As a cisgender individual who certainly does not want to speak on behalf of trans* people, I think your sister’s original comment that “a person who is transgendered isn’t seeking to be gender-neutral or gender-free – they are seeking to become the opposite gender from which they were born” is problematic in itself, even outside of the flaw you pointed out that not all trans* people identify as one gender or another. From what I understand, trans* people were NEVER born “the opposite gender.” A trans* woman was BORN a woman, but the gender she was assigned at birth did not align with that. Trans* people are not seeking to BECOME anything. They already ARE that gender. The issue is getting society to recognize them as the gender they truly are.

    Once again, I don’t mean to speak on behalf of trans* individuals, so if anything I have said is incorrect, anyone can feel free to let me know. This is just what I have come to understand after hearing about trans* people’s experiences.

    Also, it’s interesting that your sister thinks that being a professional means she knows more about a population than the people in that population themselves. I believe that she has good intentions, but I think she needs to step back and actually listen to the experiences of trans* people, rather than trying to force her own perceived “knowledge” upon them.

    -C

    • Well, I can’t speak for all trans people either, since I’m only one of them, but your description sounds exactly right to me! :)

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