Move toward something better

For many years now, I've been living life in such a way that my focus is on what I want instead of what I don't want. This concept came from understanding unschooling. It's not really about unschooling, though, it's about an idea that helps unschooling work well. (I'm not going to delve into unschooling here because it isn't the point of this post. If you want to know more, please read here)

A long time ago someone pointed out that if you want a little kid to do something, it's better to state exactly what you want, instead of what you don't want. An example is this; Your child is running at the pool and you need them to stop. Say, "Please walk" instead of "Stop running". The difference is subtle but profound. When a kid hears "please", they understand it's a request. When a kid hears "walk" they know what they need to do. It's a little bit like telling someone not to imagine a black cat and naturally that's the first thing you think of. When you tell someone to "stop", it's a demand and kids respond to demands in the same ways that every person does, part defiance, and partly questioning why. When you use the word "running" it's just like hearing "black cat", it's automatically what is heard and processed.

When my teen came to the idea that she was transgendered, we had already been living this life of framing things in such a way that we focused on what we wanted rather than what we didn't want. At first, I took it all in stride. It wasn't hurting anyone, and I could see that she was trying on some ways of existing in the world. This is a very natural thing for teens to do, try on attitudes and ideas and personas and styles and ways of being, to see what feels right to them. This felt no different to me, right up until it DID feel different. When demands were being placed on others, my feelings on it shifted. It's one thing to discover yourself and it's quite another to enforce others to join into a discovery you feel is the one right way of being.

In an effort to be supportive, I did go along with a lot of her demands because she's my kid and I like her. In some ways it wasn't so different from demanding socks without seams. The demands didn't cease. They increased. When the demands became about medically transitioning, that is when I did a full stop. Medically transitioning is not trying something on and playing with identity and ways of being in the world. At this point, I knew this was not something I wanted for my kid.

What did I want for my teen?

This is the direction I hope all parents can focus on. I wanted better ideas. I wanted something other than a life beholden to medical procedures and drugs used off label, with little to no data on long term usage. I knew I didn't want my kid to be a test subject for this idea that she was trying on.

I wanted my teen to feel joy and curiosity of life. I wanted her to explore new things and people and ideas. I wanted her to learn to love herself because this transgender identity operates at the cross sections of body hatred that meets the developing mind working to make sense of mind and body connections. I wanted my teen to feel connected to life and herself and the world around her. I wanted my teen to feel supported in her life endeavors. Those life endeavors would exist no matter if she identified as transgender or not. Bingo. That became our focus.

What's bigger than an identity?

The world. The world is vast and diverse and interesting and full of potential. This became our focus. The focus on identity is narrow and inward. The world becomes small and defeating and the rhetoric around transgenderism is that it's hard and something that oppresses people in which they must struggle against. It's an opt in to oppression and the struggle against it. You can see this in every single transgender article ever written. (It's an exaggeration.) It makes the world small and hostile.

It's a difference in how one perceives the world around them. There is so much good in the world, why not focus on it? Yeah, I know, it's a very Polyanna way of looking at things, but seriously, I can't help it. My kids don't necessarily view the world in this way, but it doesn't hurt to point out beauty and goodness when you see it. It creates awe and wonderment and that helps people feel good, even if just for a moment. The very act of knowing that feeling and recognizing it, can help you achieve it should you choose to.

What about suicide of transgender people?

I don't presume to know the struggles of those with suicidal ideation. I only bring this up because it gets thrown around all over the place in discussion of trans issues. If a parent has opted to not medically transition their kid, they will be accused of placing their child in danger of killing themselves.

First, let's just call it what it is, emotional blackmail. Second, there is no firm data of how many transgender people kill themselves, at what ages and stages in transitioning, or what else could have contributed to their suicide. Third, unsupported people, young and old, are all susceptible to ill mental health that could lead to suicide. Fourth, if the options really are medical transition or suicide, that isn't much of a choice at all. Without more options, how can anyone make any choice at all? That would be a hard pass, thanks, but no. I'm far more interested in what's behind door number 3, 4, or 5. In other words, I already know what's behind doors number 1 and 2 and have decided that's not what I want, so I'll turn towards another direction, even if I don't know what's behind those doors.

How do you support a transgender teen?

Assume it's a passing thing. I don't mean that to be glib. Statistics show that 80% of kids do actually grow out of this. That means that only a small portion of kids persist beyond puberty. Your child is statistically more likely to grow out of it if given the option to do so. If you've decided that medical transition is the best option, you've decided that your child is a statistical anomaly. I'd argue with you, but you've already proven you don't think logically because you ignore statistical reality. You be you and it's probably better for you to not be around questioners like me that seek something different because you'll need the love bubble of "all things trans all the time" to help your child that you've deemed too fragile to move past puberty and move past suicidal ideation. That may seem cruel but there's a whole community of rainbows and glitter awaiting you, so go join them and live your life and ignore me.

If you've decided that your child deserves a bigger and better life than that of medical intervention forever and all the co-morbidities that come with it like anxiety and depression, then let's discuss how to support a transgender teen while they are identifying as such.

Get out and focus on what you DO want. Do you enjoy laughing? Go do things that induce laughter. Do you enjoy music? Go listen to music or get together with others to play music, or pick up an instrument and figure out how to make it do something other than collect dust in the corner. If you enjoy beauty, go look at art and nature and take photos of things of interest. Do you enjoy athletics? Like Nike suggests, "Just do it", get out there and try things. If you want these experiences to be expansive, go be outside of the LGBT bubble and support systems. Most people live in the real world. To bring this back to the first paragraph above, this is something that unschoolers are susceptible to also, living in a bubble of only other unschoolers. Don't do that. If people you enjoy happen to also be those things, great, but no need to make it your life focus. Think bigger. That's all.

The world is a big and interesting place and until we leave it, may as well make it a pleasant experience!


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