Friday, September 9, 2011

Labels and why they suck

Thank goodness I tend to blather on, out loud.  I'm very opinionated (as poor, poor Bulldog knows) AND I assume that everyone in hearing distance wants to hear about all my opinions-ALL THE TIME.  And have  I mentioned that I am sarcastic?  I think that I'm witty when I'm sarcastic.  Perhaps I am merely annoying as hell.

Anyway,  I've been ruminating on how our "binary-ness" (DJ's word) regarding gender caused a delay in DJ's coming out.  When I watched a special on "Nightline" about transgender children, I wondered why DJ didn't come out sooner.  And so I asked her, with a sinking feeling in my gut because I knew her answer would have something to do with fear of non-acceptance from us.

Sure enough, random comments I've made (she didn't quote Bulldog, so maybe I'm the only one who had the hangups) served to stall her for at least a couple of years.  OUCH.  And that is a major understatement. I hurt my kid.  I HURT MY KID.

For someone who is so opinionated AND is sure her opinions are always right, I can be pretty full of     $ - - -.  And for someone who is pretty damn certain that she is accepting of everyone, I am full up to my eyebrows of that same matter.

Case in point:  when JD started growing his hair out, I stated that he looked like a girl.  This might have been exactly what DJ, still in hiding, wanted to hear except that I had a sneering tone to my voice.  And I apparently made a similar comment with similar tone when JD started shaving his legs.  Clearly, boys appearing to look like girls was a no-no to mama.  And why did I care?  Why do any of us care?

Because we need to label people for our own comfort.  I think we do it because it helps bring order to a vast, complex, non-orderly world and our equally confusing lives.  It's why we label our files in our file cabinets and why some of us anal-retentive people label the insides of our kitchen cabinets. (Hey-in my defense, the other people in this house never put things away in the right places!!)  In one way, our need to label people makes sense, but really, we're doing it for our comfort level at someone else's expense, so it really doesn't make sense.

When one of DJ's brothers was a toddler, his grandpa brought him a Barbie from the lost and found at work.  (WHY? We had enough toys...but I will only deal with one of my issues at a time here.)  This Barbie was wearing a particularly frilly gown of fuschia.  My son loved playing with this Barbie and it drove me nuts.  So much so, that I hid the Barbie until he forgot about it, at which point my conscience allowed me to throw it away.  The question is-why did it drive me nuts?  If I saw a little girl playing with a firetruck, I would applaud her.

OMG-I am seriously screwed up!!! For someone who is so AGAINST gender bias, I have a gender bias issue myself.  I think I'm getting over it because of DJ, thank goodness.  But why was I ever under it?  Partly because I thought any of my kids' potential gender queer traits (the term "gender queer" is not disparaging-it's an accepted term.  It means that a person does not subscribe to one or the other, or either genders.  This is a term that such folks use to describe themselves.) reflected poorly on me as a parent, somehow.  Because, really, it's ALL about me, right?

Knowing this, it's a wonder DJ was ever able to come out at all.  Well, thank goodness for the Discovery channel and one of my nicer qualities: empathy. That, and my propensity to share all my opinions, the exclusive ones and the inclusive, because I made an understanding comment about a transgendered person in India.  I commented how difficult it must be to feel like you're in the wrong body.  And THAT helped to open the door.  Certainly, for DJ, there were other, more important, events that led to her feeling safe that she could come out, but for me, I breathe a sigh of relief.  Luckily, I grabbed at that brass ring of redemption because at least I can rest a little more easily knowing that, at least in that instance, I was finally part of the solution instead of part of the problem.