With embarrassment I admit that I used to be prejudiced. I had preconceived notions about people based on where they lived, their political party, religious denomination, and age group, that fit neatly into the boxes I had placed them within.
You’re from the South? You must be close-minded. Over the age of 75? We’ll just avoid certain subjects. You voted for McCain in the last election? I doubt we have anything in common. And I am sure you can imagine how these prejudices were perpetuated once we realized our child was transgender. I was certain all Republicans would deny my child his rights, our religious friends would shun us, and the senior citizens in our life would never be able to understand the disconnect between Sam’s mind and body. We would also, I assumed, never again be able to travel south of the Mason-Dixon line. Suffice to say, I was confident with my assumptions and quickly built a psychological wall of armor between my family and those people in our lives.
Tisk. Tisk. What a hypocrite I was.
Hyp•o•crite (noun) \hi-pə-ˌkrit\: 1) a person who engages in the same behaviors she condemns others for 2) a person who fails to practice what they preach 3) someone who complains about something but finds themselves doing exactly the same thing 4) Me.
Here I was expecting our friends, family and acquaintances (not to mention society at large) to accept our child for who he was on the inside. Demanding they not be swayed by the stigma surrounding transgender people, nor judge him for something they probably knew very little about. Yes, I had very high expectations for them, while at the same time my prejudices were in high gear as I was already making assumptions about how they would treat Sam based on the stereotypes of a category I had lumped them into. Do as I say, not as I do.
You learn a lot of life lessons as a parent – it comes with the job. But if you are a parent of a child who is not ‘normal’ (as defined by society) then those lessons seem to come at a much faster pace, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have learned to view these lessons in a positive light, for our life path has shown us the absolute best of humankind, as well as some of the worst, and it turns out you can learn a lot from both.
As word spread about Sam my lesson in pride and prejudice began.
When a colleague from the deep south heard, he called to offer his unconditional support. I had to confirm whom I was speaking with.
One of the most religious people I know came forward with this simple yet heartfelt statement, “…if you run into the ‘other kind’ of Christian that gives those of us who embrace the message of love a really bad name let me know, I can help.”
When my 75 year-old mother told her friends, some well into their 80’s, that Sam was being bullied and why, they offered to go to his school to ‘teach those kids a lesson,’ which was grandma-speak for roughing them up. I had to hold them back.
And those Republicans, perhaps the group I feared the most even made me set aside my pride as I admitted to myself that they too were not all out to prevent my child’s happiness. Some of the most right-wing, Fox News-watching, conservatives I know have begun to advocate for Sam and people like him because they know our family.
It is not to say that some people still perpetuate the stereotypes I may have assigned to them, but that is who they are on the inside; who they are as an individual. I get that now. Pride swallowed and prejudices put aside I go forward hopefully a better person for learning this important life lesson … a lesson learned because I have this beautiful child.