I am the neice of a trans man. My new uncle has given me permission to share his story with whom ever I choose, he is not ashamed of his life or decisions. Quite frankly, neither am I. I could not be more happy, and have felt this way from the moment I was informed that this change would be going on. I was excited because I had seen some of the stuggles this person had gone through in their life and things sort of made sense now. I was instantly overwhelmed with the feeling that things would go much better for them now.
My uncle had books and pictures for the family to check out if they were interested, some were a bit graphic for my grandmother but nothing really shocked me. At the time, I was a student in a feminist/anti-oppression college program and I had also been spending a fair amount of time in the LGBTQ community. I was a bit concerned for how my uncle would be accepted by others as he lives with his two children in a small town and is also a long-time member of the Canadian military.
At the time when he told me of his decision, the process had not really started. There was no binding of the chest, merely the person I had grown up knowing as my aunt, dressed as per usual in stereotypically male clothing with a short hair style. Since then, he has started taking hormones and binding as well as changing the spelling of his name to a more masculine or gender-neutral spelling. This has made it easier for most of the family, who are not always so open-minded, to accept some of the changes. Overall, I like the new spelling of the name and the expression that a name can in fact be gender-neutral.
Side Note: Originally, he had intended on changing his name to something entirely different, something very male. I am not sure for the exact reasoning of sticking with the same name, but I know there was some resistance from my mother as well as other family members at various points along this journey. I however, do not feel that someone elses discomfort should be a reason to give into their wishes, to appease them while ignoring yourself, but this may not have been the only reason for the decision in the end.
I must admit, sometimes, I screw up with pronouns. I seriously never do this when making a comment about the larger trans community. For example, during a workshop on feminism where the topic comes up, I answer a few questions about the process and correct people who use the wrong pronouns in discussions. But for some reason, when it comes to this person who is in my family, I often screw it up. Part of this is because it is still new. The name and pronoun change has only been official for about a year, maybe not even that long. Another part of it is because I had always called him, Aunt … , thus gendering him even before the use of he vs she. I can say though, that when I screw up, I always correct myself. I can only imagine how difficult it was for my uncle’s youngish children to remember to call him dad instead of mom as they always had.
So my first question is, why do we do this? Teach children with the most basic words used to describe family relations that there is a concrete difference between boys and girls. Mom/Dad, Aunt/Uncle, Grandpa/Grandma, Niece/Nephew and so on….
My second question is, how do you explain physical differences between male and female bodies to young children, say for sex-ed type purposes, without ignoring the fact that some people may have physical appearances that do not match their gender identity?
I am reminded of a story out of the states last year where a teacher returned from summer vacation a different gender than the one they left for summer vacation as. However, I have been unable to find a link to the story. I think it is important that children take that opportunity to learn to love and be open-minded as opposed to learning hate.
Related: The Elementary Teacher’s Foundation of Ontario has recently released a press release calling for the teaching of LGBTQ issues in elementary school.
*** Cross-Posted at the Feministing Community ***