Saturday, September 24, 2011

Playing the hand that's dealt you

So, I've learned a couple of things this afternoon about myself, my daughter and the world. Wow-what a productive day, and it's just nearing dinnertime.

DJ and I started the day with college discussions.  She's set her sights pretty darn high and is thinking of shooting for Juilliard, of all places.  I told her we support her if she can get a scholarship, because otherwise, it may be out of our budget.  That led, in due course, to analyzing what would make her competitive with other applicants.  Her grades, standardized test scores and talent all seem pretty phenomenal to us, but we're her parents.  DJ and I talked about the advisability of mentioning her status as a transgender person, how it's affected, and even enhanced her talents, and how it makes her a unique person.  We figured, right or wrong, that it might serve as a clincher in an application process.

Fast forward a number of hours, and I'm preparing to make a phone call to the driver's ed folks (see post earlier this day) to discuss the birth certificate, legal name change paperwork that we would have to provide to enroll her in class.  The conversation went well enough:  I adopted the "breezy" tone cited in the earlier blog and told some tiny white lies meant to make him think that DJ's birth certificate was incorrect because of a medical condition that I painted to look physical (which technically it is) and mentioned that the surgery required to correct the condition would be the only way to change the birth certificate by Virginia law (which is also true).  If he wants to draw the conclusion that she was born with a congenital genital defect, strictly speaking, like some of those folks who are born with incongruous genitals, so be it.  Some people can understand that more than gender dysphoria.  I mean, after all, if a person is born with genitals that cannot be readily identified, and then is accidentally raised as the wrong gender, folks get that because the genitals gave a mixed message.  What they don't get is when the genitals give a clear, but incorrect, message.  So, I played on what I (likely correctly) assumed would be his ignorance about my kid's condition.

But, just to be sure, I decided (shamefully, mostly, but not completely) to play the MILF card.  If you don't know what a MILF is, Google it.  Now, I do not think of myself as a MILF, but a few people have convinced me that if I put plenty of time, effort and cosmetics into it, I might could be a MILF candidate, if the planets are aligned and the moon is in the seventh hour.  So, I figured if the card is in the deck, and it may help the situation, why not play it.  How would it help? Because (most straight) men are hormonally affected goobers.  If they see a woman who made a point of blow drying her hair, actually putting on make-up and high heels to make her legs look longer (and hopefully thinner) in her jeans, they are likely to do whatever the woman asks because that surge of testosterone temporarily renders them unable to think, which, at times, can be a very good thing for those people who can parlay it to their advantage.

OK-that whole, superficial, rigamorol turned out to be totally unnecessary.  Why?  Because, in the end, sometimes the almighty dollar dictates the course of action a person takes.  I don't want to steal Mr. Driver's Ed guy's thunder-maybe he just didn't care what the birth certificate said regarding gender, as long as he could prove that DJ was legally DJ.  Truthfully, he was very nonchalant about the whole affair in person, after my preparatory phone call.  Almost too nonchalant, but so what?  Maybe he's more accepting than I thought, or maybe he's a savvy enough businessman to know that $275 is $275 even if it's paid by a "one eyed episcopalion kangaroo, if that happens to be (its) kinky inclination" (stole that from the movie "Goodbye Girl").  So, kudos to the almighty dollar, in this instance.  Anyone who knows me well knows that that statement would normally never emit from my verbose mouth.  But sometimes you just gotta accept another person's motivation to do the right thing, even if it might be, technically, for the wrong reasons.  It's still the right thing.  After all, this guy is running a business in a tight economy.  He can't be choosy about his customers and whether or not they meet his idea of "normal" or "acceptable." He, too, must play the hand he's given.

And, as long as nobody gets hurt, and no laws are broken, what the hell is wrong with that?  We are not born equal.  Let me explain-we are all born equally deserving of our civil rights, but no way in hell are we born equal.  Otherwise,  why would there be people who are born smart and beautiful, while the rest of us are kind of mediocre, or worse, in one or both areas.  For instance, I was born with a decent enough figure until my 3 children ruined me, but I have godawful huge feet.  One of my sisters is  slender, with no chest whatsoever, but has cute little feet, and my other sister has a cute figure and cute feet.  Now, try to convince me we were born equal, because it ain't gonna happen.  No one told my sisters their feet were "gunboats."  So, if someone were looking for a foot model, my sisters would have the advantage, and would be smart to play their "feet" card, because, let's face it, none of us is gonna get any other modeling contract until we grow at least 6 inches in height, and even that might not convince Vogue that we would look stunning on the cover of their magazine.  I, however, would be out of luck.  But, let's say some company was looking for a person who could express every single opinion about the world, and it didn't matter how she looked or how big her feet were?  Well, naturally, I would shamelessly optimize that quality and play that card.

So, if my daughter decides to play up the fact that she was born in the wrong body, overcame that terribly unfair inequity through her own strength and perseverance and managed to still do exceedingly well in spite of, and in some ways, because of that inequity, I support her.  She's taking a risk-and when the stakes are this high, that's what card playing is all about.

Don't make it complicated

So, we are at an exceedingly awkward spot today.  This evening DJ begins her driver's education, the classroom portion.  When I spoke with the instructor he asked about her having a photo ID, or in lieu of that, a birth certificate.  Great....another conversation where I get to "educate" someone.

Don't get me wrong, I will do anything at all for DJ, but, man, do I hate these conversations.  So far, every time I've had one, it's gone well, but I still don't like it.  Part of it is my make-up as a person-I intensely dislike awkward conversations of any kind because it puts me in the driver's seat (no pun intended) for managing the conversation.  Why is that?  Well, because I tend to have the lower threshold for awkwardness, I suppose, and so I work incredibly hard to have all my feelers at the ready so that I can manipulate or guide the conversation so that it remains civil, upbeat, positive, etc.  Maybe I'm just neurotic, over-reactionary and plain old trying too hard.  But there you have it, another idiosyncratic obstacle of mine that I have to heave myself over.  But since it's for DJ, I'll do it.  Thank goodness she provides me with inspiration because otherwise I might remain in any number of my innumerable ruts forever.

When I've had these conversations, I've found what works is for me to adopt a certain tone, if you will.  I have to come across as absolutely confidant and convey to the person with whom I'm speaking that I naturally assume he or she will completely understand the situation and do his or her best to accommodate us.  It's kind of a breezy quality that I don't have in my regular, everyday life.  Maybe if I did, I'd be the president of something by now.  But, in the spirit of remaining positive, at least I can say I'm able to fake it when necessary.

I've had this talk with her primary care physician, the office manager at the dental office, her guitar instructor, the principal of her school, other health care specialists who, believe it or not, are not necessarily well versed in the transgender condition in spite of it being a disorder that is recognized by the American Medical Association.  I have a family member who is very, very educated, and even she had a thing or two to learn, by her own reckoning, not mine.  Anyway, this "breezy" quality actually works.

I didn't come up with it.  I'm neither that brilliant, nor that confidant.  However, I do like to read a lot and that was a tip I picked up from somewhere (wish I could remember where).  Oftentimes, the people with whom we share this information will subconsciously and inadvertently look to us, the speaker, the de facto educator, if you will, for cues on how to respond to our news, pronouncement, call it what you want.  If we act like it's a big hairy deal, or something to be ashamed of, or embarrassed about, they will respond accordingly.  We all tend to sort of mirror each other like that, which is one of humanity's finer qualities, in my opinion, since it is a form of empathy.  So, if I were to say, "Look, I'm really sorry, but my son is now a daughter," with a tone of exasperation, the listener may be likely to respond with a supportive-of-my-exasperation comment of, "I'm so sorry Mrs. ----.  Of course we will try to make this easier for both of you."  Which might mean that they'll be nice to me, but continue to treat her like a him.

But, when I say something like, "I know our child has been coming to guitar lessons as "JD" but he is actually a she.  She has a gender identity disorder called Gender Dysphoria-the classic girl stuck in a boy's body scenario.  So, we are supporting her and just wanted to let you know that she goes by "DJ" now and will be presenting as DJ. We don't expect people to understand her condition, only to treat her respectfully by calling her by her name and using the correct pronoun. But please don't worry if you slip up, because what DJ, or we, care about is that you try."  And the trick is to sound as if you assume they will have no problem with accommodating your request.  Either they will be happy to do so because they think of themselves as cooperative, caring and educated people and want to convey that to you, or they will react completely inappropriately, at which point you sever the relationship.

Man, I made that sound so simple.  Well, it's not easy to do, but it is truly that simple.  Now, I just need to remember that because I've got a phone call to make to the driver's ed people.  Wish me luck :)