Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's a small world

The older I get, the more I hear my peers complaining about the future generation and how they're going to screw up managing the world.  Admittedly, I've joined in this kvetching myself, from time to time.  This younger generation is lazy, has entitlement issues, and doesn't understand the work ethic, having been raised on computers, or so say us aging folk.  All of that may, or may not, be true, especially when any of our generations is compared to folks 50 years older than us.  We all paint the long-dead as saints, and subsequently, the recently dead and the living can never measure up.  But, in this person's opinion, that's horse hockey, in many, many respects.

When my grandparents came to this country, their futures seemed bright, until they faced the Great Depression.  They survived, only to hoard McDonald's napkins and condiments in their senior years.  In the event they ever faced poverty again, at least their faces would be tidy and they could enjoy their gruel with ketchup.  I seem to mock this, and perhaps I do just for a cheap laugh;  hell, I'll take a momentary smirk.  These folks comprised the Great Generation and they were great in ways generations since will never know.  But then again, this generation also barred the Irish and the "Negroes" from work.  My father tells of a story of seeing a neighborhood child chained to a dog collar in his front yard.  I am not kidding.  Like THAT would ever be allowed to continue today.  My intent is NOT to slam that generation as a whole, or any generation as a whole, merely to point out that greatness is often accompanied by instances of shame.  No generation is uniformly great.

I have a cousin who is constantly lamenting the turn this country is taking.  He is about 20 years older than I am, which constitutes a generation.  Because he's my cousin, however, I still think of him as a peer.  He is routinely commenting about how fearful he is for the future of our country.  Usually, his concerns are related to whatever crap is going on in Washington D.C. I understand his frustration, but I just can't throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Yes, the politics is utter bull$---.  And for some folks, usually the poor,  politics has a direct, negative impact on their lives.  But I cannot get all worked up thinking our future is in the toilet because the stock market is down;  I think there are much more relevant and personal issues taking place that will determine our future as a nation, and perhaps as a species.

I am biased as all hell because my daughter is transgender.  Acceptance, as I've mentioned ad infinitum, has become my focal point.  The reason why is obvious.  When DJ first came out, I sat at the computer and researched diligently.  I wanted to find all the information I could dig up so as to be properly prepared for anything that came down the pike. The news was disheartening.  The statistics varied, so I will sum up, as if anyone will be surprised by my summation:  transgender folks experience more harassment, attempts at suicide,  and violence than most other groups of people.  Bulldog and I were beside ourselves.  We had this mental idea that perhaps we needed to barricade our child from harm.  So much so, that one evening, shortly after DJ came out, we were watching TV when this horrific sound came from the deck and sounded as if someone had hurled something at our sliding glass door.  Bulldog told me to get DJ into a safer place while he investigated.  I literally grabbed her and shoved her to the floor and we scurried into an interior hallway where I attempted to bodily shield her with my embrace.  It turned out the wind had taken one of our deck umbrellas and hurled it against the door.  But that just illustrates the hunkered down posture we felt we had to take after educating ourselves.

Being prepared is smart. No question about it.  Doing your legwork with school or work is of the utmost importance.  Educating yourself about the resources available to you is your best weapon against the challenges you and your transgendered loved one may face.  At the bottom of this entry, I will be posting multiple websites that can help.  And now that I've cast a dark light on this, let me share some instances that may inspire hope.

DJ came out at the end of her freshman year.  We opted to have her home-schooled for the first semester of her sophomore year for a number of reasons. Our primary reason was her safety.  We wanted to keep her safe until we had an idea of how she would, or would not, be accepted, or harassed, at school. That first semester, she attended only one class in person, the rest she took online.  That class was drama. We reasoned that in the theatre world, there are folks of all different walks of life and thereby more acceptance.  We reasoned that the theatre teacher would likely be the most open-minded person we would be likely to find.  We were wrong.  She ridiculed our daughter to the class on days she was absent, and had inappropriate conversations with her when she was in attendance.  We raised a holy stink; she retired at the end of the school year.

But here's the flip side:  most everyone else has been accepting.  Granted, I'm sure there are kids who gawk and gossip.  As long as they keep it amongst themselves, I can't complain.  And while DJ's original circle of friends don't socialize with her anymore, they are still friendly and cordial when she crosses paths with them in the halls.  But DJ has made a whole new circle of friends who adore her.  And the vice principal and guidance counselor have been steadfast in their support.  Our friends, and parents of DJ's friends have been so open minded, that she has been invited to more than one friend's home for a sleepover.  And most recently, a young man at DJ's school not only invited her to lunch at a local restaurant, but danced with her at a school dance.

I do not believe this would have happened, with anywhere near the same frequency, if at all, during the lifetime of the Greatest Generation.  Not to slight them or diminish their bravery, but bravery and greatness, like gender and sexuality, cannot be adequately defined.  But we sure recognize it when we see it, even if we can't explain it.  Wars and the brutality of this world are usually the result of non-acceptance on a horrific scale.  If we can recognize that acceptance may be the word that describes the next generations more than entitlement, or laziness, then we can feel more hopeful for our future, not less.  Maybe I'm just seeing the cup as half full, rather than half empty, but I'm ok with that because I sleep better at night.  But it's not just my perception-it's been DJ's and our reality.  Even our son's friends have shrugged it off and invited her to hang out by the bonfire.

Some say the Internet is responsible for many of our woes. That may be true, but it's also a handy tool to spread acceptance.  We can pull up almost anything on the net now.  Our kids see folks of all different walks of life on their computers, not just the middle of the road, and commonplace, that they may run into in their everyday lives.  KNOWLEDGE is indeed power.  Knowledge of academics and knowledge of people-their experiences, their world, their struggles.  The more we know about each other, when willingly shared, the better off we all will be.  It's pretty difficult to even pretend to walk in someone else's moccasins if you don't even know other tribes exist.  So, this generation acknowledges the other tribes, and oftentimes even celebrates their differences.  Aside from 12/21/12 when the aliens are supposed to come back because the Inca calendar ends, I'm not too worried about the future.    These kids will figure something out.  Accepting each other is more than half the battle, especially as our world gets smaller and smaller.

For further information, please consider the following links: