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Next Stage: Humanizing Gender Complexity

April 28, 2017

“The complexity of gender has always been there, we’ve just long ignored that it’s much more complex than we want it to be.” -- Christia Spears Brown, author “Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes.”

 

I certainly ignored gender complexity.  I only became aware of the transgender men and women I saw or had casual contact twenty-five or thirty years ago, when I moved to my richly diverse and urban environment.  At first I thought the only reason a woman would want to become a man was because of the advantages given to men in our society.  I certainly didn’t understand why a man would want to be a woman.  

Since I have learned more about gender complexity.  Recently conversations, news articles, stories and documentaries offer us more in-depth exploration of the issues and challenges of transgender students and discrimination.  The National Geographic recently published an issue with a young transgender woman on the front and also aired a documentary “Gender Revolution: A Journey With Katie Couric,”on the National Geographic channel.  

Susan Goldberg, editorial director of National Geographic Partners and the first female editor in chief of the magazine said, “Families are grappling with these issues, schools are, the courts are, and legislators at all levels of government are — and science is looking more at it too,” Ms. Goldberg said.

The use of bathroom facilities according to student’s chosen gender has generated many fierce arguments and court battles.  The New York Times reports court cases filed on both sides of the bathroom issue.  For parents in some school districts grappling with this issue believe,  “we have a lifestyle that we want to live, a modest lifestyle, a wholesome lifestyle,” and transgender rights violate  that lifestyle and belief system.  Yet, for some trans students who report no one is getting naked, it is the “fear that trans people exist and should not have the right to exist. That’s the driving force here.”  Other students find they have an easier experience, “When you humanize the issue, it becomes a nonissue.” Most people, one student reported, “forget I’m even trans.”  

Recently I attended a theater production titled “Everything That’s Beautiful” which portrays the emotional struggle of each member of a family as they cope with the challenges of supporting the youngest son who believes she is a girl. Theatre offers a venue that enables us to experience vicariously the drama, poignancy, conflict and desire as each family member struggles with how to support and interact with the youngest child, Morgan as a girl.

My own liberal views support the rights of transgender youth to use a bathroom that fits his or her identity.  And I believe that children should not be bullied under any circumstance.  But when I could identify with the emotional pain of the father in the play I saw, who says he “has lost his son”, gender identity becomes more complicated than what bathroom to use.  

The issue can no longer be ignored.  Families, schools, courts, employers and many of us as individuals are finding our assumptions confronted and challenged.   Will we hold on to our beliefs limiting gender to the physical gender at birth or can we find acceptance and understanding when a child states clearly “Mom, I’m not a boy; I’m a girl in my heart and my brain,”  as reported the New York Times.  
 

Bev Scott specialized in serving executives and managers as a leadership coach and organizational consultant for over thirty-five years. She taught organization psychology and founded The 3rd Act, a program whose mission supports positive aging. As she grew into her own third act, she started a genealogical journey to uncover the details of her grandparents’ lives. She concluded that the story needed to be told as fiction using the known facts as her framework. “Sarah’s Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness,” Bev’s debut novel, is the culmination of her long-held desire tell the family story and confirm the whispered story about her grandfather. For more information, visit www.bevscott.com.