Years ago, I was walking along the shore with my preschool son when we crossed paths with a one-armed man. I did the typical avert your eyes! thing, but my son smiled at him and pointed, saying, “How come you have one arm?”
Before I could even crawl under a rock, the kind man chuckled and said, “I was born like this.”
“Oh!” said my son, whose curiosity had been sated, and he proceeded to pet the man’s dog, named Peanut. The three of us chatted a moment about the glorious day and Peanut, and we were on our way.
See? We are born innocent, like my son, with no judgment. A four-year-old still sees new things every day. Slowly but surely, life conditions us to judge. When my son was born, I held him in my arms under the moonlight and we stared at each other. I had never seen his sweet face before that day, but he had never seen a human before that day! He was a brand new little sponge, and his perception of me had not yet been imprinted. He didn’t cry in terror at this big strange body cradling him. He had, perhaps even then, curiosity.
If we could all retain that innocent curiosity for the unknown, perhaps there would be peace in this world.
The first time I met a transgender person, I was at a restaurant, and the host had breasts, eyeliner and a five o’clock shadow. I was a bit shocked and confused—I had never even heard of such a thing. I was polite and didn’t stare, but after I left with my group of friends, we talked about it. I remember thinking it was “weird.” To be honest, I thought the person was weird. I had been conditioned to consider a person “Normal” if they fit the standard, textbook criteria for human.
The guy at the beach didn’t fit the standard, textbook criteria either, he was missing an arm, and it made me feel uncomfortable, until my young son enlightened me.
So when I learned the word Transgender, I remembered to attempt enlightenment. I read some articles, watched some documentaries and tried to open my mind a crack. I have learned that gender association happens in the womb. A person may have the genetic attributes of a male, for example, but have the brain wiring for a female. Its biology.
I came out of the womb a “standard textbook human.” What the hell is that, anyway? I have all kinds of problems and issues, just like everybody else. Mine aren’t as visible as a missing arm or male and female attributes. I suffer from mood swings, and at times, depression. Should I be hated, shunned or stared at for that?
I was a Catholic for years. I walked the walk, talked the talk, gave back to the community and all that. Catholics don’t believe in divorce. I didn’t believe in divorce. But when my marriage fell apart, I became just that—a divorcee. Everything changed after that. My relationship with God, (“How could you let this happen? I am a good person!”) my relationship with the community (“Everyone is whispering behind my back!”) and my relationship with myself (“What a hypocrite! You don’t even believe in divorce!”) I felt like I was torn in two—that the person I was, no longer existed. I also wanted to remarry eventually. Again, not the Catholic way.
It occurred to me, that God cannot love less than I can. That I am in a new skin, a skin called divorcee, and I cannot take it off. It is who I am now. I have to accept that, and I need to accept that God wants me to be happy. That is my religion now, simple and pure. God loves us and wants us to be happy. I do not believe in a cruel god. I believe in a benevolent one. The one who loves us when we find ourselves in new skin—one without an arm, or one with breasts and a five o’clock shadow, or one housing a divorced woman.
Transgender in the military? Do they belong there? I guess it depends. Are we in the military to stare at each other’s skin, or to train to protect and fight for freedom? I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d like to think of America as the land of the free and home of the brave. Feeling driven all your life to alter your gender, and following through against all judging, hateful bias—now that’s brave. Jumping into the fire, feeling like a pariah, pushing ahead anyway with what your conscience tells you to do, now that’s brave. Having the choice to follow through with such a difficult, life altering action—now that’s freedom. God bless America. And God bless Americans—all of them. Let’s each bless the Transgenders too, by supporting their journey and career choice and making them feel loved and welcome, especially if they are willing to lay down their lives for us.
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